Sick Pay Scheme Reform

Questions (211)

Clare Daly

Question:

211. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) cannot get their pregnancy related sick leave discounted, because they have not got enough sick days yet, although the delay in Medmark assessing their case will mean that by September they will have to revert to half pay in the event of being sick. [24174/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In the case of a teacher who is approaching maximum entitlement to paid sick leave under normal rules any period of pregnancy related sick leave may be discounted. In order to confirm that the absence was indeed pregnancy related, employers should seek the advice of Medmark who are the providers of the Occupational Health Service for teachers.

Sick Pay Scheme Reform

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 209.

Questions (212)

Clare Daly

Question:

212. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the assessment that has taken place of the changes to the sick leave scheme whereby pregnant woman in the public sector are having their pay cut because of pregnancy-related illness being counted as sick leave; and his views that this is an incredibly backward step and discriminatory. [24175/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Following a review of sick leave arrangements, a new Public Service wide sick leave scheme has been introduced across the Public Service. The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Act 2013, provided the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with the power to make regulations that set out the specific details of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme. These regulations are contained in SI 124 of 2014 and set out the terms for the granting of sick leave and come into effect in the education sector on 1 September 2014. The Regulations set out the provisions which relate to the interaction of pregnancy related illness with sick leave limits. The regulations outline how the time on half pay due to pregnancy related illness is protected.

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 209.

Departmental Investigations

Questions (214, 215, 216)

Clare Daly

Question:

214. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the version of the report into corruption in Bus Éireann's running of school transport is the same version that was given to An Garda Síochána. [24210/14]

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Clare Daly

Question:

215. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) who highlighted corruption in 2012 and who is named over 20 times in the report into corruption was interviewed by Bus Éireann in relation to the completion of the report investigating corruption in Bus Éireann that has been passed on to An Garda Síochána by the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. [24211/14]

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Clare Daly

Question:

216. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of different versions of the report written by Bus Éireann investigating corruption in school transport that exist; and if he will confirm that the version on the Bus Éireann website has been altered significantly and is not in fact a true and accurate copy of the original report. [24212/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 to 216, inclusive, together.

Bus Éireann has advised that the Company completed the report entitled 'Report into Allegations of Misconduct of Bus Éireann Employees with respect to the Operation of the School Transport Scheme' on April 28 last. This report was then submitted to me, Minister Varadkar and Minister Kelly, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Chairpersons of the Public Accounts and Transport and Communications Committees. The Transport and Communications Committee, having taken legal advice, took the decision to forward various documents from Bus Éireann, including this report, to the appropriate authority for such issues, namely an Garda Síochána.

The individual named in the details supplied is not an employee of Bus Éireann nor a contracted private operator. Bus Éireann has advised that this individual was therefore not interviewed as part of their investigation.

The Company and I have repeatedly called on any party with evidence of wrongdoing to furnish any evidence in their possession to the appropriate authority for investigation, namely an Garda Síochána.

Given that the report was being published on the company website, the Company considered it necessary to protect the identities of individual employees and contracted private operators. Bus Éireann has acknowledged that an earlier draft version of the report was mistakenly used to complete this work, which was then published on the Company website. This error has since been rectified and the correct version is now available on the website.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that there are two almost identical versions of the report in existence, one given to the Ministers and Committees and the slightly amended version on the Bus Éireann website protecting the identities of individual employees and contracted private operators.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (217)

John Paul Phelan

Question:

217. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a pupil (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who has been receiving the help of a special needs assistant since 2009 has had their special needs assistant hours taken away in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24217/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (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 NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. The criteria by which SNA support is allocated to pupils is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014.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.

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.

School Curriculum

Questions (218)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

218. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the new junior cycle science course is being allocated a total of 200 hours of class contact time over three years, having been reduced from the current junior cycle science syllabus which recommends 240-270 hours class contact time. [24268/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The new specifications for all subjects in the new Junior Cycle will state a minimum time for the delivery of the subject. This will be 200 hours for science and other subjects apart from English, Irish and Maths. This is not a maximum or target time and is intended to give schools flexibility to plan a junior cycle programme that will meet the educational needs of their students. Schools will decide what mix of subjects, short courses and other learning experiences will enable their students to meet the requirements of the 24 Statements of Learning, including those related to science education.

This approach provides an opportunity to enhance provision for Science Education at Junior Cycle. The specification for Science will give schools the freedom to provide more time for Science if they deem it appropriate, or to provide short courses or learning experiences such as involvement in the Young Scientist and Technology competition or SciFest. A greater focus in other subjects on key skills such as managing information and thinking will also support the development of science-related skills and aptitudes. All second year students will also take standardised tests in scientific literacy from spring 2018.

School Curriculum

Questions (219)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

219. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposed total contact hours in the new junior cycle courses; the current number of class contact hours in the versions being used at the moment, set out in tabular form. [24269/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

There are 167 days in the school year at second level, not counting examination days. This works out at a total of 935.2 hours of class contact time per school year.

It is left to the discretion of schools, as far as possible, to devise a junior cycle programme that incorporates different requirements and reflects the priorities of the school and its students. It would not be accurate to compare in tabular form the class contact hours for specific subjects, as very few subjects currently have specified time requirements. For those subjects which do have a time allocation, it is often only a recommended time, rather than a requirement.

It is also important to note that the time allocations which are specified for the new Junior Cycle are only baseline figures, and not specified requirements. Each school has the flexibility to provide many different interpretations of the Framework – the number of subjects, time above the minimum allocated to some or all subjects, the number of short courses and other learning experiences. Options chosen will be unique to each school and, in many instances, will be tailored to meet the educational needs of each student.

Education and Training Provision

Questions (220)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

220. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the security studies FETAC award level 6 in GTI Galway this September; the reasons GTI will not know if it is running the course until August; his views on whether this is the way students should be treated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24290/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

This is an operational matter for Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board. I am informed that to facilitate progression from the Security Studies level 5 course already operating in Galway Technical Institute (GTI), it was decided to offer a level 6 course in Security Studies for the 2014/2015 academic year. Applicants were advised that the running of this course was contingent on the availability of sufficient eligible applicants wishing to avail of the course. I understand from GTI that they do not have sufficient numbers to warrant the operation of this course. All applicants have been informed of this and have been offered their second choice course in the College.

Gaelscoileanna Issues

Questions (221)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

221. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason his Department has not approved funding for a single teaching resource required to allow 29 children in the Sligo region the opportunity to receive the best possible primary education through their first national language of Irish as chosen by their parents; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the school in which these children are enrolled for the school year beginning September 2014 is a school (details supplied) in County Sligo, which is the only Gaelscoil in the county; that there are 59 children in total enrolled for the coming junior infants year, with school enrolment policy giving preference to siblings of existing or past pupils and as the school has presently only one teaching resource for junior infants class, this means that the choice of the parents of these 29 children cannot be catered for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24292/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department recently met with the Gaelscoil in question and conveyed approval for the commencement of a second junior infant class from September next. This decision took into account a detailed examination of existing and projected pupil enrolments in the area and also the demand for diversity of provision. The issue of the teaching resource required will also be dealt with by my Department, in direct consultation with the School Authorities.

School Staffing

Questions (222, 250)

John McGuinness

Question:

222. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the concessionary amalgamation post sanctioned for a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved for retention beyond September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24319/14]

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Paudie Coffey

Question:

250. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there will be a provision of additional teachers at a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24654/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 250 together.

Where schools are amalgamating there is a provision for the allocation of a concessionary mainstream teaching post in cases where the approved number of mainstream teachers serving in the schools at the time the amalgamation takes place exceeds the number of mainstream posts warranted by the total enrolment on the basis of the staffing schedule. The continued allocation of the concessionary post is dependent on the teachers concerned remaining on the staff of the school and the appropriate enrolment figures being maintained.

The school referred to by the Deputies, Bunscoil McAuley Rice, was allocated a concessionary mainstream teaching post upon amalgamation in 2007. This was allocated on the basis of the school operating on a split site and the school was informed that the post would remain in place until the school moved to a new building, on one site. This arrangement remains in place. However as the school is moving to its new building in September 2014 the concessionary post will be removed for the coming 2014/15 school year.

The staffing arrangements for the 2014/15 school year (Circular 0007/2014) were published on 24 January, 2014. The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

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 previous 30 September. The staffing arrangements also include the provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional permanent mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment for September 2014. The school referred to has been provisionally approved for a developing school post for the 14/15 school year pending confirmation of its enrolment at 30 September 2014.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Questions (223)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

223. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will re-examine the application for summer works funding from a school (details supplied) in view of the fact that the windows are a health and safety risk and urgently need replacing; if the school will receive funding for these works immediately under the 2014 SWS scheme or another funding programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24320/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application relating to window replacement under the 2014 Summer Works Scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced details of the schools that will receive Summer Works Scheme funding in 2014 in respect of applications submitted for Categories 1 to 6 i.e. Gas, Electrical, Mechanical, Toilet Facilities and Roof Works projects. In total, I have approved the spending of more than €70 million on the Summer Works Scheme to allow over 770 schools undertake improvement works during the summer months.

Commensurate with the level of funding set aside for the Scheme, applications were assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the Scheme. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the Scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications including those received for windows. However, in accordance with the Scheme's Circular, the school's application will be retained and will be prioritised for consideration under further rounds of the Summer Works Scheme in the future, subject to availability of funding. I regret that there is no other funding stream available for window replacement.

However, it is open to the school authorities to submit an application for Emergency Works funding should they deem the works required to be of a particularly urgent nature. In regard to the consideration of an Emergency Works application, the school authorities must be advised that the main purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is to ensure the availability of funding for urgent works to those schools that are most in need of resources as a result of an emergency situation.

An emergency is a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment, which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school, if not corrected, would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the Scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

English Language Training Organisations

Questions (224)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

224. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the terms of reference the taskforce designated to look at the issue of the closure of private English language schools has been given; the membership of this taskforce; and the date on which it will deliver a report to him. [24342/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Task Force is charged with assessing the scale of the issue and, in particular the number of genuine students who have not yet been accommodated. It will also determine what capacity is available in the sector to make accommodation for students and will oversee a system that seeks to make such accommodation.

Jointly chaired by officials from the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Justice and Equality, membership also includes stakeholders such as Marketing English in Ireland, the Irish Council for International Students, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, Quality and Qualifications Ireland and the Higher Education Colleges Association. It is anticipated that the Task Force will report to Minister Fitzgerald and I in the coming weeks.

Teacher Recruitment

Questions (225)

Robert Troy

Question:

225. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the widespread practice of hiring retired teacher as substitute teachers. [24350/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The policy of my Department is to ensure, as far as possible, that the Managerial Authorities of schools give priority to unemployed registered teachers who are fully qualified when filling vacant teaching posts. It is schools that employ teachers and not my Department. However my Department has issued a number of Circulars addressing this issue in recent years. Under these Circulars School Principals must maintain a list of unemployed registered teachers who are available for substitute work at short notice and report to the Board of Management on any exceptional occasion where they have to engage a registered teacher who is retired. Circular 31/2011 details a cascade of measures for the recruitment of teachers, prioritising registered teachers over retired registered teachers and unregistered people.

A retired teacher who returns to teaching on or after 1 February 2012 will commence at the first point of the incremental salary scale (i.e. the lowest point or starting salary for teachers). Incremental credit for service prior to 1 February 2012, qualification allowances and certain job role allowances are also not payable. This measure represents a significant financial disincentive for teachers who retired at the top of their salary scale, often with a post of responsibility allowance, to return to teaching.

Health and Safety

Questions (226)

Dara Calleary

Question:

226. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the health and safety supports that are available to teachers in one-teacher schools, in view of the number of schools that will be in position owing to his 2011-2012 budgetary decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24352/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Day to day running of a school, including those with just one full time teacher, is a matter for the Board of Management of each school. Schools are required to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of pupils and to participate in supervising pupils when the pupils are on the school premises, during school time and/or on school activities.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the national statutory body with responsibility for ensuring that health and safety requirements are met by all employers, including schools. The Authority also provides information and advice to organisations to assist them in ensuring that their responsibilities in respect of health and safety in the workplace are met.

The Health and Safety Authority in conjunction with the Kilkenny Education Centre issued guidance to all primary schools in relation to managing safety, health and welfare. These guidelines were developed following consultation with relevant stakeholders and include some specific guidance for a one-teacher setting. This guidance is published on the website of the Health and Safety Authority.

School Equipment

Questions (227)

Noel Coonan

Question:

227. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of equipment for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will be made on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24362/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my officials have approved funding for equipment at the school to which he refers. Notification of this approval recently issued to the school.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (228)

Joe Carey

Question:

228. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the outcome of a meeting in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24368/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department sanctioned a devolved grant to the school in question in March, 2012 to provide 8 permanent mainstream classrooms. The building project, when completed, will replace 4 classrooms which were located in prefabs, replace 2 small classrooms with modern facilities and provide 2 additional classrooms to cater for future growth.

Limerick and Clare ETB are assisting the school in managing the building project and works commenced on site in February, 2014. The school outlined their request for a PE hall to me during my recent visit to the school. I indicated that the request would be considered in the context of the need, initially, to provide essential classroom accommodation to meet demographic need nationally. In the meantime, the building project currently on site will significantly enhance the school's facilities. My Department will retain the school's application for a PE hall on file in the context of any future funding becoming available.