School Transport Eligibility

Questions (79)

Finian McGrath

Question:

79. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding school trransport. [21692/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest recognised: mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs under Department of Education and Skills' criteria. Children who are eligible for transport retain their eligibility while they remain enrolled in the special class/special school or unit, provided there is no change in their circumstances. Eligible children who are enrolled in an autism class/unit attached to a mainstream school and who subsequently mainstream in that school retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their primary education in this school. Children who mainstream in a different school are required to submit a new application for school transport; this application will be processed in accordance with the terms of the relevant scheme.

School Transport Eligibility

Questions (80)

Robert Troy

Question:

80. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if school transport will be made available in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [21701/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Children with special educational needs are eligible for free school transport if they are attending the nearest recognised: mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs under Department of Education and Skills' criteria. Bus Éireann operates the scheme on behalf of my Department and is responsible for the establishing and timetabling of school transport services. Children who are eligible for school transport but for whom no service is available may be offered a Special Transport Grant towards the cost of private transport arrangements. However, my Department has not as yet received an application for school transport for the 2014/15 school year on behalf of the child in question.

School Transport Administration

Questions (81)

Seán Fleming

Question:

81. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department officials are aware of any EU law or Irish regulations that have not been complied with since 18 July 2007 by his Department regarding the administration of the school transport scheme; and if so, if he will specify what they are and the action he will take on the matter. [21703/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Neither I, nor my officials, are aware of any non-compliance with EU law or Irish Regulations in the administration of the school transport scheme.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (82)

Clare Daly

Question:

82. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider his decision to refuse sanction for a second infant class in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21710/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that my Department received an application from the school referred to by the Deputy for funding to facilitate its growth to a second stream i.e. a 16 classroom school. As the Deputy will be aware, 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. A priority therefore for my Department is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. My Department is not in a position to develop one school where this may negatively impact on other schools in the area.

In the case of Sligo. it is projected that whilst overall pupil numbers across the 13 schools in the Sligo catchment area will be relatively stable up to 2019, it is anticipated that overall pupil enrolment numbers will decline thereafter. In terms of school accommodation, there is sufficient capacity available within existing schools to cater for the demand for school places. In that regard, an additional 8 classrooms catering for up to 224 pupils in the case of the school, in question, has the potential to have a significant impact on other schools in the same catchment area. In light of the above, the school authority has been advised that my Department is not in a position to accede to the school's request in respect of an additional class of junior infants in September 2014.

However to assess further the pupil enrolment trends in the Sligo area including information on school pre-enrolments for the 2014/2015 academic year, my Department will be contacting the Patron and school authorities of the 13 primary schools in the Sligo area. When this data has been obtained and reviewed, my Department will communicate further with the Patron and school authority in question.

School Transport Administration

Questions (83)

Seán Fleming

Question:

83. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will correct his press release regarding the FGS Report 2009, which states that the review notes and acknowledges that Bus Éireann has clearly applied the accounting arrangements for the scheme since 1975 in view of the fact that Bus Éireann was unable to give verifiable documentation to validate charges purported to be made under paragraphs 5.1.6 to 5.1.6 showing the time spent each month by its employees specifically provided for and contrary to the 1975 agreement by apportioning the charges as stated on page 99 of FGS Report 2009 from road passenger business and in view of the fact that the report says we are unaware as to how this apportioned mechanism was undertaken in 1975 and if he will seek EU state aid approval before any further payments are made and the action he will take on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21721/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The press release accurately represents the content of the FGS report and does not require correction.

School Transport Administration

Questions (84)

Seán Fleming

Question:

84. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 11 February 2014, regarding the maintenance charge of €23,000 per bus per year which are over five times higher than the equivalent charges for school transport in Northern Ireland, if he will immediately claw back all money paid to Bus Éireann under unlawful state aid rules in view of the fact that the 1975 agreement at paragraph 5.1.2 specifically provides for the expenditure on school buses for maintenance charges incurred and this obviously did not happen according the FGS Report 2009 and that he had no verifiable documentation that payments by him did not in fact cross subsidise maintenance workers maintaining buses that competed with private bus operators, thereby creating an unfair competitive advantage for Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21732/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Bus Éireann has advised, and the Department is satisfied, that all charges for maintenance costs attributable to the school transport scheme have been calculated in line with the 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements.

I am satisfied that no issue of unlawful state aid and/or claw back arises. Furthermore, Bus Éireann has repeatedly confirmed that it does not cross subsidise commercial services from the operation of the School Transport Scheme.

I suggest that the comparisons referred to by the Deputy may not represent "like for like" comparisons. The Deputy might wish to submit to me relevant source material for his comparisons.

Water Charges Exemptions

Questions (85)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

85. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he undertook any consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to seek a free allowance for third level students living in the family home with regard to water charges. [21734/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

No consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has been undertaken to date on this matter. Some discussions have taken place with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to the impact of water charges on students who in receipt of student grants, and who are living outside the family home. Those discussions are continuing.

School Curriculum

Questions (86)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the consultation that has taken place between teacher union representatives and officials from his Department regarding the proposed changes to the junior cycle curriculum; and the number and extent of meetings he has held with senior representatives from the unions to discuss the proposed radical changes in junior cycle education. [21735/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I set up a National Working Group for Junior Cycle last January, as a forum to proactively address identified challenges and opportunities as they arise over the phased implementation time schedule for the Junior Cycle. My officials, through this National Working Group, have engaged in meaningful discussions with the education stakeholders, including the secondary schools teachers unions. Three sub-groups have been established to consider the following issues - Workload and implementation issues for schools and teachers; quality assurance and support for teacher assessment; and the continuing professional development required to support teachers and school leaders to implement the Junior Cycle. In all, there have been 12 meetings:

- National Working Group – this group met on 17 January, 7 February and 7 March

- Workload and Implementation Issues for Schools and Teachers – this sub-group met on 24 January, 3 March and 14 April

- Quality Assurance and Support for Teacher Assessment – this sub-group met on 30 January, 3 March and 14 April

- CPD – this sub-group met on 30 January, 21 February and 21 March.

While school management bodies and others have made written submissions to the Group, the teacher unions have yet to do so but my officials are always available to speak to them.