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Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014

Written Answers Nos. 97-101

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (97)

Gabrielle McFadden

Question:

97. Deputy Gabrielle McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills her views on the fact that Irish primary schools are among the most overcrowded in the EU, with an average of 25 pupils per class; if there will be no increases to mainstream primary class sizes in 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39324/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

At primary level the staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location. The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. The primary staffing schedule currently operates on the basis of a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 28 pupils, with lower thresholds for DEIS Band 1 schools. My Department's guidance to schools is that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.). School authorities are also requested, where possible, to use their autonomy under the staffing schedule to implement smaller class sizes for junior classes. Because of increasing demographics my Department requires additional resources to simply maintain existing levels of service. Between this year and last year this has involved an increase of around 2,300 teachers. This is a very significant investment at a time of scarce resources. There is no funding available for further improvements and it is premature within our budgetary context to be looking for this to be done. It is important to point out that within the schools sector we know from international research that while class sizes is a factor the quality of teaching is a far more significant factor in determining outcomes. In terms of international comparison, the last published statistics by the OECD are for the 2011/12 school year. They show Ireland's PTR at slightly above the OECD average and average class size at primary level at 24.4 compared to an OECD average of 21.3. The Department's most recently published statistics are for the 2013/14 school year. They show an average class size at primary level of 24.8.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

Questions (98)

John McGuinness

Question:

98. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an appeal for a Student Universal Support Ireland grant in respect of a person (details supplied) will be expedited in view of the fact that the first term is now nearly over. [39326/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed that the student referred to by the Deputy has recently submitted an appeal to the Appeals Officer in SUSI and he will be advised directly of the outcome.

School Staffing

Questions (99)

Gabrielle McFadden

Question:

99. Deputy Gabrielle McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills her plans for the reinstatement of dedicated supports for non-English speaking children, in view of the fact that it is proving difficult for teachers to teach a class of 28 or 30 with several non-English speaking children. [39330/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. Reforms introduced in the 2012/13 school year created a single simplified allocation process to cover both learning and language support. At primary level, GAM/EAL (learning/language support) hours are allocated on the basis of mainstream classroom teaching posts in the school. At post-primary level, learning/language support is allocated on the basis of pupil numbers. Schools have autonomy to deploy this resource between learning support and language support depending on the specific needs of the school. The new arrangements also provided for additional permanent teaching posts to be given to schools with high concentration of pupils that require language support. Further additional temporary EAL support is also provided, as necessary, to schools that have high concentrations of pupils (at least 20% of total enrolment) that require language support. These allocations are made on the basis of appeals by any of these schools to the Staffing Appeals Board. The appeal criteria are set out in the published staffing arrangements.

Special Educational Needs Staffing

Questions (100)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

100. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding remedial and special needs teachers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39331/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that class teachers in schools are required to be fully-qualified with a qualification relevant to the sector in which they are teaching.

It has been the policy of my Department for some time that only qualified and registered teachers should be employed by schools. This is set out most recently in Circular Letters 31/2011 and 0025/2013. Current recruitment procedures direct schools to ensure that teachers proposed for appointment to publicly paid posts must be registered with the Teaching Council and have qualifications appropriate to the sector and suitable to the post for which they are proposed.

In respect of Learning Support (LS) and Resource Teaching (RT) positions in primary schools, Boards of Management are obliged to recruit and employ fully recognised and probated primary teachers.

It is a matter for school authorities to employ teachers in accordance with the Department's policy in this regard and the deployment of teaching staff in the school is in the first instance a matter for the school management authorities.

The details of qualifications for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) is set out in Departmental Circular 21/2011.

People appointed to SNA posts from 1 September 2011 are required to have:

1. A FETAC level 3 major qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications, OR

2. A minimum of three grade Ds in the Junior Certificate, OR

3. Equivalent

The above are the minimum qualifications required for appointment as a SNA. The actual requirements for a post will vary depending on the specific needs of the children and the school to which the SNA is to be appointed.

Home Tuition Scheme Provision

Questions (101)

John O'Mahony

Question:

101. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive approval for home tuition; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39357/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The purpose of the Home Tuition Scheme, as set out in Circular 0048/2014, is to provide a compensatory educational service for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme also provides a compensatory educational service for children with special educational needs seeking an educational placement. Provision is also made for early educational intervention for children with autism.

Home tuition was initially sanctioned for the child to which the Deputy refers, on the 17th September 2014 subject to the parent sourcing an appropriately qualified tutor. Documents relating to the proposed tutor were received in my Department on the 25th September.

Home tuition has now been sanctioned for this particular child until the 24th October 2014 at which stage I understand a school placement will be available.

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