School Patronage

Questions (209)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

209. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate the percentage of primary schools in the country that will be Educate Together or multidenominational schools by 2016; the number of these schools that currently exist; the number that will be established by the State; the number that will be created as a result of an existing school changing patronage; and if he believes this percentage will be improved after 2016 and how. [15009/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In 2012/13 school year, there were 3,152 primary schools in the country. 82 (2.6%) primary schools have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 52 (1.6%) of these schools. 7 new primary schools opened in 2013. All 7 have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 3 of these schools. One of the schools under Educate Together patronage opened as a result of the patronage divesting process. 4 new primary schools will commence operation in September 2014, all of these schools will have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together will be patron for 2 of these schools.

Apart from the school established in 2013 under the patronage divesting process, the other 10 new primary schools were or are being established to meet a demographic need. The arrangements for determining patronage for such schools were announced by me in June 2011. These arrangements, which are overseen by the New Schools Establishment Group, place a heavy focus on parental choice and they allow for the introduction or widening of diversity of school provision where parents want this.

My Department continues to analyse demographic data to identify where further new primary schools may be required to meet demographic demands from 2015 onwards. It will be open to all patron bodies, including Educate Together, to apply for patronage of any such schools in line with the procedures outlined above. Under the patronage divesting process, it is expected that a further 4 new primary schools will commence operation in 2014. All of these will be under the patronage of Educate Together. As part of this particular process, the Deputy will probably be aware that my Department surveyed 43 areas to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas. The outcome of the survey indicated a viable parental demand for an alternative patron in 28 of the areas – 27 for a multidenominational English medium school and 1 for a multidenominational Irish medium school. Early progress is being made with the expected commencement of 4 new schools under this process in 2014. Active consideration is being given to options for divesting in the other areas concerned. As such it would not be possible to indicate the percentage or number of primary schools in the country that will be Educate Together or multidenominational schools by or after 2016.

School Staff

Questions (210)

Pat Breen

Question:

210. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if assistance will be provided to a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15011/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts for the 2014/2015 school year is set out in the Staffing Schedule (Circular 0007/2014) which is available on the Department website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the 30 September 2013. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The appeal criteria are published in Circular 0007/2014. The school referred to by the Deputy is a 2-teacher school. The enrolment at 30 September, 2013 was 16 pupils which entitles the school to one classroom teacher for the coming school year. The school is projecting an enrolment of 13 pupils for 30 September, 2014. The school submitted an appeal to the February, 2014 meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board under the small school criterion, seeking the retention of its second classroom post for the 2014/15 school year based on the projected enrolment of 13 pupils at 30 September, 2014. A projected enrolment of at least 20 pupils at 30 September 2014 would be required for the school to remain as a 2-teacher school. Given that it projected just 13 pupils the appeal was deemed ineligible for consideration by the board on the basis that the grounds of the appeal did not meet with the appeal criteria. The Board of Management of the school has been notified of this decision. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. If other pupils decide to enrol in the school and its projected enrolment in September 2014 increases to the required 20 pupils then it can submit a new appeal to the Appeals Board.

My Department does not allocate classroom assistants to schools. The Government recognises that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities. They will continue to be a feature of our education landscape. However, in these extremely challenging times, all public servants are being asked to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources and teachers in small schools cannot be immune from this requirement.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions Nos. 212 to 215, inclusive, answered with Question No. 207.

Questions (211)

Pat Breen

Question:

211. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the status of a project (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15012/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The procurement process to appoint a design team for the major building project at the school referred to by the Deputy is underway. Once the appointment of the design team is complete the architectural design phase of the project will commence.

Questions Nos. 212 to 215, inclusive, answered with Question No. 207.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (216)

Clare Daly

Question:

216. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that the number of special needs assistant posts allocated at primary level, numbered at 6,000 plus, will be considered as a majority group out of 10,575, and the number of SNA posts allocated at post-primary, at 2000 plus, will be considered as a minority group out of 10,575; if he will confirm that the 32-hour system that is applied to SNA posts is used primarily as a pay divisor for calculating part-time posts by his Department; and if he will further confirm that circulars M29/95 and PC11/95 are still active and used for calculating the working school week. [15033/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that as at 31 December 2013 there were 8,482 SNAs employed in Primary schools and 2,103 SNAs employed in Post Primary schools. These are whole-time equivalent figures. Furthermore this question raises three matters and I will deal with each in turn. Firstly, all Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), whether at primary or post-primary level, are paid on the SNA salary scale which is set by the Minister for Education and Skills in conjunction with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours. I should point out that this divisor was agreed with both of the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) that represent SNAs.

Secondly, the question deals with the working hours of SNAs. The contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs is as outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (IMPACT and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005. Links to the SNA Contracts of Employment are as follows: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 15/05 (Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Popular-forms/SNA-15-05-Contract-Form.pdf. This contract of employment is augmented by all of the relevant Departmental Circulars governing Special Needs Assistants which detail the standardised terms and conditions of employment for SNAs. These Circulars are amended and new Circulars are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills from time to time. The position regarding the working hours of full-time SNAs is as outlined in these standard SNA contracts of employment. In that context, the standard SNA contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year. Furthermore, the issue of appropriate working hours for all public servants was one of the key aspects of the set of proposals for a public service agreement which were put forward by the Labour Relations Commission and which now form the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement).

The specific text of the Haddington Road Agreement relating to working hours for SNAs is as follows:"SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS Hours. Under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, discussions took place that led to agreement on changed attendance arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) that give schools the option of an additional two hours working time per week from each Special Needs Assistant. Under the terms of this Agreement on increased working hours in the Public Service, the available requirements in schools for additional hours for SNAs is quite limited. Given issues such as the duration of the school day and operation hours, and the specific availability of individual SNAs the details of the utilisation of any additional requirements should be the subject of further discussions. These new attendance arrangements, allied to the provisions outlined in the above paragraph should be the subject of a review by the LRC in advance of the 2013/2014 school year, involving the Department of Education and Skills and IMPACT/SIPTU, in order to assess if the additional hours are being utilised in the most effective and appropriate manner and in order to achieve agreement on any changes deemed necessary in terms of the arrangement agreed for teachers. This will constitute the liability on Special Needs Assistants in respect of working hours for the purposes of this extension to the Public Service Agreement." Thirdly, I can confirm that Circular Letters M29/95 and PC11/95 are still valid circulars, however their purpose is to outline the minimum level of tuition time for students. They do not set out the working hours for school staff.

Schools Amalgamation

Questions (217)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

217. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects the amalgamation of schools (details supplied) to be completed; and the steps that are being taken by his Department to advance that amalgamation. [15069/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that my Department is aware of the proposed amalgamation to which the Deputy refers and has sought clarification from the schools relating to the proposal. This has now been received and is being considered by my Department. My officials will be further contact with the schools when this process has been completed.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (218)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

218. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a school building (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15074/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school building project referred to by the Deputy has been included on the 5 year construction programme for 2015/16. The conveyancing procedures for the proposed site for the new school are underway and pending their conclusion further details cannot be provided owing to commercial sensitivities. My Department will shortly be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of the project.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (219)

Michael McGrath

Question:

219. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of special needs assistant support to a child (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15087/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the allocation of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. The NCSE allocates a quantum of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support. The deployment of SNAs within schools is then a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised. The NCSE invited schools to make applications for SNA support for children who have assessed care needs for the coming 2014/15 school year by 26th March 2014, for their consideration. Details of the NCSE application criteria are available at www.ncse.ie. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Education Grants

Questions (220)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

220. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if and when a higher education grant will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15094/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means. The nationality requirements for the Student Grant Scheme are set out in section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 5 of the Student Support Regulations 2013. Officials in my Department confirmed with SUSI that the applicant referred to by the Deputy was refused grant assistance on nationality grounds as her current permission to remain does not satisfy the nationality requirements of the scheme. However, I understand the applicant is in the advanced stages of the naturalisation process and she has been advised by SUSI to submit her Certificate of Naturalisation when received in order for her eligibility for grant assistance to be reviewed. Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2013 provides for the review of eligibility for the award of grant assistance in the event of changes of circumstances in the academic year, including a change in relation to a student's nationality or immigration status. This means that where a student acquires Irish citizenship by naturalisation, or is granted permission to remain provided for in the Act or Regulations during the course of their studies, he/she may apply to SUSI to have his/her application re-assessed. Any award the applicant may be eligible for as a result of a change in her immigration status will take effect from the date on which the change occurs. If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an appeal is turned down in writing by SUSI and the applicant remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his or her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form is available to download from http://www.studentfinance.ie/downloads/1375344221/2013_SGAB_appeal_form.pdf.

Special Educational Needs Expenditure

Questions (221)

Dan Neville

Question:

221. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the funding either to build on to the existing premises or to purchase a second site or building in order that the autism-specific Redhill school (details supplied) in County Limerick can expand and each child on the list will then have an appropriate place to receive the education they deserve in a manner they can tolerate and which allows them to grow and reach their potential. [15109/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. I have therefore arranged for the Deputy's question relating to provision at primary and post primary level in County Limerick to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. SENOs are also a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children or on deciding the most appropriate placement for their child. SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie. The NCSE has published a Guide for Parents and Guardians of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs on Choosing a School. This guide is also available on their website. The NCSE works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services of the Child and Family Agency which is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The Educational Welfare Services, Child and Family Agency, can be contacted at 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700. The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools. Where a parent seeks to enrol their child in a school and that school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil. I am aware that the school referred to by the Deputy was established with temporary recognition in 2011 to cater for children with a diagnosis of ASD. I am aware also, that there is no capacity on the existing campus to facilitate any expansion of the school. However, my Department provided grant aid to the school in 2013 to make modifications to some existing ancillary rooms to provide additional pupil places and I understand that the school is currently making arrangements to carry out these modifications.

School Transport Administration

Questions (222)

Pat Breen

Question:

222. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarity if maintenance charges for school transport were reviewed in the Farrell Grant Sparks, FGS, report entitled Review of the overhead costs and indirect costs for the administration of the school transport scheme, October 2009; if so, if these charges were reduced as a result of this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15193/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The maintenance charges for the Bus Eireann school bus fleet were included in the Farrell Grant Sparks report. These charges are direct costs which are included in the School Transport Scheme Statement of Account as 'Running Costs'. This item also includes plant maintenance, fuel costs, tyre costs and vehicle testing and maintenance. These charges have continued to be applied under the 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements.

Schools Refurbishment

Questions (223)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

223. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for capital works in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15200/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has made an application to my Department for capital funding for the provision of a sports hall and other ancillary accommodation. The Deputy will be aware that the over-riding objective of Education capital expenditure is to meet the demographic challenge facing the education system, whereby total pupil enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by around 107,000 additional pupils between 2012 and 2019 - over 70,000 at primary level and over 35,000 at post primary - and will continue to rise at post primary level to the year 2026, at least. The 5 Year Construction Plan prioritises major school projects in areas where future significant demographic changes have been identified. My Department's overriding objective is to prioritise available funding to meet this demographic demand and to provide essential classroom accommodation where additional teachers are approved. The application referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority shortly.

Educational Disadvantage

Questions (224)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

224. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the provision of long-term funding for the Life Centre in Cork and elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15316/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department currently provides support to two Life Centres, Pearse Street in Dublin and Winters Hill in Cork. The current provision includes 2,768 teaching hours, provided under the Co-operation Hours scheme operated by the local ETBs. This is equivalent to four full-time teachers. These hours allow the ETBs to employ tutors to work in the Centres and to deliver tuition in CSPE, Reading, Literacy, Arts and Crafts, Woodwork and Home Economics. In addition a grant of €114,000 per annum is also made to the Centres to help meet the day to day running costs. My Department also provides significant additional targeted resources for the purpose of combating educational disadvantage and early school leaving and to provide assistance to young people at risk. The various educational initiatives funded include intensive literacy programmes, out-of-school, after school and holiday time supports as well as special needs supports for students in schools. It should be noted that there has been a substantial expansion of these initiatives since the establishment of the Life Centres in 1996, by the Christian Brothers. The difficult situation the Life Centres find themselves in arises from the withdrawal of direct funding by the Christian Brothers. The major budgetary pressures within my Department place significant constraints on its capacity to support existing programmes and, consequently, given the significant range of educational disadvantage interventions already supported by my Department, requests for increased funding for the Cork Life Centre simply cannot be considered.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (225)

Dara Murphy

Question:

225. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has give consideration to establishing a third junior infants class, in view of high demand for places in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15322/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has no plans to establish a third junior infant class at the school referred to by the Deputy. The school in question was established on the basis that it would develop naturally over time to become a two stream, 16 mainstream teacher school. It is intended that the school, along with other schools in the area, will cater for demand for primary school places into the future. The Department's position has also been confirmed to the school's Patron.