School Transport Eligibility

Questions (284)

Dan Neville

Question:

284. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will qualify for the school bus service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23068/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department has confirmed that the family in question are not eligible for transport as they reside less than 3.2 kms from the school referred to by the Deputy.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may avail of transport on a concessionary basis subject to a number of conditions including the availability of spare seats and the payment of the annual charge.

In this regard, the family in question should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office.

State Examinations

Questions (285)

Alan Farrell

Question:

285. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills regarding reform of the junior cycle in secondary schools, the measures he will put in place to ensure impartiality where teachers are correcting the examination work of their own students; his plans to ensure that a proportion of such examination work will be reviewed by the State Examinations Commission on a random basis before results are released; the proportion of papers that will be checked for this once the reformed system is phased in; the form of appeals process that will be established as part of the reformed junior cycle student award system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23093/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The topics identified by the Deputy form part of the discussions that I will ask my officials to continue to have with the partners, particularly through the National Working Group on the Junior Cycle. At present I have received some suggestions, particularly from the management/patron bodies, which will inform the discussions going forward. I continue to await similar written submissions from the teacher unions. It would not be appropriate, however, at this time to provide a definite response when the deliberations are ongoing.

The door is open for such discussions.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 276.

Questions (286)

Clare Daly

Question:

286. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way a student (details supplied) in County Kildare can gain access to an autism spectrum disorder, ASD, unit in a second level school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23096/14]

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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.

The NCSE is currently planning, through its local network of SENOS, for special class settings for children who cannot be educated in a mainstream class setting but who can still attend their local school in a special class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio. SENOs have been working with local schools on a national basis over the past number of months to plan and establish special classes for children with SEN who require such placements for 2014/2015.

I referred your query to the NCSE with particular reference to the establishment of places for the coming school year. I am informed that the local SENOs and the Senior SENO for the area have been in contact with the parents of the child in question. The NCSE has been engaging with the post primary schools in Kildare and Newbridge regarding opening ASD classes. This work is ongoing in Kildare and SENOs continue to liaise and work with schools in order to meet the demand for such placements at local level.

Kildare Town Community School is a new school that arose from an amalgamation of three post Primary schools in the locality. This school has a Special Needs Unit incorporated into the build which provides dedicated space for 2 ASD classes. One class has been established and it was part of local planning by SENOs that the second class would open to meet identified demand. Discussions are ongoing at present with the school in relation to opening the second class.

The need for further special provision at post primary level for 2015 and onwards is being kept under review.

Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 276.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (288)

Brian Walsh

Question:

288. Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the availability of special needs assistants at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23120/14]

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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. Where children have significant care needs whereby they may need additional support to be able to attend school, the NCSE may make an allocation of SNA support to the school to assist that child.

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 has 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.

Although the date for applications has passed, if the school wish to make an application for SNA support for the child referred to by the Deputy, and have not done so to date, they should still submit an application for SNA support to the NCSE and this will be considered by the NCSE.

The NCSE intend to advise all schools of their SNA allocations for the coming school year before the end of the current school year.

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.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (289)

John O'Mahony

Question:

289. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a Student Universal Support Ireland grant application was turned down in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23145/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I have been informed by officials in my Department that an appeal from the student referred to by the Deputy was heard by the independent Student Grants Appeals Board on 29th April 2014 and that the original decision of the SUSI appeals officer was upheld.

In order to be assessed as an independent mature student an applicant must provide sufficient evidence to show that he/she was living independently of his/her parents from October of the year before the first point of entry to higher education. I understand that the student referred to by the Deputy returned to live with her parents in July 2012 and therefore for the academic year 2013/14, must be assessed as a student dependent on parents, in which case the income to be considered in determining eligibility is the income of the applicant and her parents.

State Examinations

Questions (290)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

290. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be allocated a scribe and reader for the leaving certificate; if the decision on appeal will be reviewed; the reason a student should suffer for the failure of the school to put in the application on time; if different criteria apply to the allocation of scribes and readers for the junior certificate and leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23155/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

The State Examinations Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. Full details of the scheme are available for downloading from their website: www.examinations.ie/candidates/reasonableaccommodations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Teacher Training Provision

Questions (291)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

291. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding trainee teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23170/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As part of the Government's budgetary considerations and the Comprehensive Expenditure Review carried out in 2011, a decision was made to abolish payments by this Department towards the cost of attendance at Gaeltacht courses by initial teacher education students with effect from September 2012.The decision to abolish the grants was not taken lightly, and it has to be viewed in the context of the prevailing requirement to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies where possible. In making difficult decisions such as this, priority was given to protecting resources for front line education services as far as possible in the coming years, which is especially challenging with rising numbers of school-going children.

To assist with the costs of the Gaeltacht placement, students who are in receipt of a student grant which includes a 100% fee grant, or who would have qualified for a full fee grant but for the Free Fees Schemes, can apply for funding towards travel and accommodation costs under the field trip element of a fee grant, subject to the normal terms and conditions of the scheme. Apart from the student grant system, in circumstances of particular need students may apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. Information in relation to this fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended.

For the reasons I have outlined, I am not in a position at this time to reinstate funding to this area.

School Funding

Questions (292, 293)

Seán Fleming

Question:

292. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all schools will be subject to the full water charges to be introduced later this year; if schools will be eligible for a concessionary rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23202/14]

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Seán Fleming

Question:

293. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will introduce an increase in the capitation grant for primary and secondary schools to assist such schools to meet the increased costs arising from water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23203/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 292 and 293 together.

Schools have been subject to full water charges imposed by Local Authorities since 1 January 2010. During the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2009 a transition water charge was levied by the Local Authorities on schools. Under these transitional arrangements schools paid a flat fee of €3 per pupil in 2007; €3.50 per pupil in 2008 and €4 per pupil in 2009.

The transitional arrangement afforded schools the opportunity to put in place water conservation arrangements and practices and to undertake works that can help to reduce water usage significantly before full metered charges were introduced from 1 January 2010.

The Department has issued guidance to schools on the most appropriate measures to minimise excess consumption of water and to reduce waste, where it exists and are updated on an ongoing basis on www.energyineducation.ie. Schools are advised to develop a water management plan, in order that they would be familiar with the water distribution systems serving the school and the areas where water is used along with potential areas for wastage and leakage. Practical suggestions for reducing water consumption, along with examples of best practice, are also included.

Since 2008, rainwater harvesting systems are incorporated into the accommodation briefs for all major school building projects, where site conditions and circumstances allow and where economically viable to do so. While fitting the systems in new schools during construction is relatively straightforward, retrofitting them in existing schools is much more difficult and expensive because of the various dedicated pipe work systems both within the building and externally underground and the amount of making good work that is required in each instance.

For existing buildings it is more cost effective to minimise the demand for water firstly through installing push type spray taps, low flushing toilets, urinal controls, repairing leaks etc. To this end, funding of over €10 million was provided as part of Summer Works 2010 in respect of applications from schools for water conservation measures, with the aim of reducing schools' water charges and of contributing to environmental sustainability.

I have no plans to increase capitation grants to schools to meet specific cost items, such as water charges.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems Provision

Questions (294)

Seán Fleming

Question:

294. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the recently announced building projects and summer works schemes for schools will allow for the retrofitting of energy saving and water conservation features such as solar panels or rain collection systems in view of the significant financial burdens faced by schools from energy costs and water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23204/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that rainwater harvesting systems were first introduced for major school building projects in 2008. Since then all major school building projects, where site conditions and circumstances allow and where economically viable to do so, can incorporate a rainwater harvesting system into their accommodation brief.

While fitting the systems in new schools during construction is relatively straightforward, retrofitting them in existing schools is much more difficult and expensive because of the various dedicated pipe work systems both within the building and externally underground and the amount of making good work that is required in each instance.

I also wish to inform the Deputy that for existing buildings it is more cost effective to minimise the demand for water firstly through installing measures to reduce water usage such as push type spray taps, low flushing toilets, urinal controls, repairing leaks etc. To this end schools were invited in 2010 to apply for Water Conservation measures and funding of almost €10m was made available to promote water conservation measures as part of this initiative.

In respect of the provision of solar panels and other energy saving features, there is a dedicated website which is a partnership initiative between the SEAI and my Department www.energyineducation.ie, that provides detailed advice and guidelines. In respect of Solar power for hot water generation, it is not considered an optimum design solution for schools due to the school's operating profile (closed during summer months mid terms etc, short days and closed at weekend), and the minimal and irregular hot water demand.

School Accommodation

Questions (295)

Alan Farrell

Question:

295. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update of the projected completion timeframe for the new Malahide and Portmarnock Educate Together school; if he will outline the capacity that will be given for students from September in the temporary accommodation of Holywell Educate Together national school, ETNS, in Swords, the planned total capacity for the school upon completion and details of its catchment area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23211/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers is being established in response to the outcome of the parental survey under the patronage divesting process carried out in the Malahide/Portmanock area and the school is intended to serve this area.

The survey showed sufficient parental demand to establish and sustain a 12 classroom-school. The school will also be intended to cater for some additional demand in the area arising from local demographics.

The start-up capacity for the school will be dependent on the enrolment demand this year. My Department is liaising with the Patron, Educate Together, in relation to enrolment numbers and start-up requirements and is satisfied that sufficient accommodation will be available within Holywell ETNS to meet the school's requirements for this September.

Discussions are continuing to take place with the main Catholic patrons in this and in a number of other areas to identify and secure permanent accommodation for new schools under this process where possible and to enable further primary school start-ups in 2015 and beyond. In the case of the Malahide/Portmarnock school, the additional demographic demand for school places in the area needs to be considered in identifying permanent accommodation options for this school.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (296)

Niall Collins

Question:

296. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a tutor in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Waterford. [23224/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

July Provision is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides July Provision for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided. Where a school chooses not to extend their services for July, eligible children in the school will be granted home based July Provision, on application.

As the home based provision takes place outside the usual school structure it is important that home tutors are qualified to provide an educational programme. It is appropriate therefore that the qualification standard in the Home Based July Provision generally reflects that required in a school environment. Home tutors should be fully qualified teachers who are registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland. When it is not possible to recruit a fully qualified teacher then consideration will be given to the engagement of a tutor who is registered with the Teaching Council and has a primary degree (minimum Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications) in a relevant area including e.g. psychology.

The qualification standards for home tutors have not altered. The requirement that all home tutors be registered with the Teaching Council was introduced in September 2013. Tutors with acceptable third level qualifications will be eligible to apply for registration. Accordingly, those whose qualifications were acceptable in the past remain eligible, provided they have applied for registration with the Teaching Council.

Parents with any concerns relating to the scheme can contact my officials at 090 64 84296.

Summer Works Scheme Expenditure

Question No. 298 answered with Question No. 265.

Questions (297)

Michael Ring

Question:

297. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will approve cost option 3 for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo as opposed to cost option 1, under the 2014 summer works scheme, as option 3 would result in a huge improvement in the school’s heating and would result in substantial savings in their oil and electricity bills in the future. [23225/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that commensurate with the level of funding available for the 2014 Summer Works Scheme, applications were assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the scheme. In that regard, I have approved, in total, the spending of more than €70 million on the Summer Works Scheme to allow 772 schools undertake improvement works during the summer months.

In the case of the school referred to by the Deputy, I wish to advise that following assessment of the school's application, cost option 1 as presented by the schools appointed consultant was considered the most cost effective option to provide the improvement works sought and was approved accordingly.

Question No. 298 answered with Question No. 265.

Psychological Assessments

Questions (299)

Robert Troy

Question:

299. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will receive National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, testing without further delay; and if he will confirm that no special needs assistants will be lost in Streamstown NS. [23298/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are on the Department's website.

Where a NEPS psychologist is not assigned to a school, authorities therein may access psychological assessments through SCPA. Under this scheme schools can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

It should also be noted that in common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for a pupil's initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment.

It is the responsibility of the school Principal in the first instance to identify and prioritise pupils for assessment under the process described above. I have made enquiries in relation to the student referred to in the Deputy's question and understand that no request has been made by the school to the NEPS psychologist assigned to the school.

I would advise that the parents contact the School Principal in relation to their son's situation and can assure that the services of the NEPS Psychologist are available to him if appropriate. The local NEPS regional office at Friars Mill Road, Mullingar can be contacted by phone at 0761-108573.

In relation to the provision of SNA support at the school referred to by the Deputy, I wish to advise 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. Where children have significant care needs whereby they may need additional support to be able to attend school, the NCSE may make an allocation of SNA support to the school to assist that child.

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 has 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.

Although the date for applications has passed, if the school wish to make an application for SNA support for the child referred to by the Deputy, and have not done so to date, they should still submit an application for SNA support to the NCSE and this will be considered by the NCSE.

The NCSE intend to advise all schools of their SNA allocations for the coming school year before the end of the current school year.

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.