Public Sector Pensions

Questions (73)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

73. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding pension reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41008/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The question relates to pension appeals lodged under the internal dispute resolution process of the Civil Service Pension Schemes.

First, I should advise the Deputy that appeals relating to the application of pension scheme rules are, of their nature, complex and not capable of easy resolution. In order for them to arrive at the appeal stage, decisions will already have been made on how those cases should be dealt with, but for one reason or another the individual is dissatisfied with the outcome and wishes to invoke their right to call for independent appeal.

In the appeal process on any individual case, my officials often have to engage with the employing Department or body, and sometimes with the applicant themselves or their legal advisor or union, to ensure that all the relevant facts have been obtained, before a formal submission can be prepared. In addition, complex pension scheme rules have to be carefully considered to ascertain whether they have been interpreted correctly or, in cases of ambiguity in the rules, to establish how a fair and just outcome can be obtained. On occasion, it is necessary to examine policy files relating to the pension term or condition at issue and to check for any precedent cases that might have relevance to the appeal case under review. In some cases, specific legal advice may be needed. Of its nature, this process is particularly time-consuming.

In relation to the year 2017, I can inform the Deputy that six appeals were lodged to my Department in that year under the Civil Service Pension Schemes Internal Dispute Mechanism.

Of the six appeals, the decision was issued to the appellant in four cases during 2017 (average time to process the appeal, eight months) while two cases remain outstanding.

Apart from appeals lodged during 2017, my Department also processed and issued decisions in respect of a number of other appeal cases which had been lodged prior to 2017.

I can assure the Deputy that my officials and I take very seriously our role in the processing and managing of appeal cases under the internal disputes resolution mechanism and, notwithstanding the constraints inherent in the process I have described, endeavour to ensure that decisions in appeal cases are issued in as timely a fashion as possible.

Public Sector Pay

Questions (74)

Michael McGrath

Question:

74. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if public sector employees that are to be allowed to work beyond 65 years of age in certain circumstances will continue to be paid at the point on the increment scale they were at when they reached 65 years of age; the position in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41025/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018, which was published on 9 July, provides for an increase in the compulsory retirement age to 70, for public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004. These public servants currently have a compulsory retirement age of 65. The Bill passed all stages in the Seanad on 17 July and is being treated as a priority with the intention to secure enactment of the legislation as early as possible in the current term.

Once the Bill is enacted and commenced, the majority of public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004 will have a new compulsory retirement age of 70. For the most part, these public servants currently have a compulsory retirement age of 65

Until the commencement of the Bill, the current compulsory retirement age will continue to apply and public servants reaching the age of 65 will be required to retire. The interim arrangements will, however, continue to apply until the Bill is commenced. The interim arrangements, which have to respect the current statutory position of the compulsory retirement age of 65, allow pre 2004 public servants to retire and be rehired for one year, until they reach the age of 66. Payment under the interim arrangements is generally at the minimum point of the relevant pay scale in line with current retire and rehire arrangements.

The practice of payment at the minimum point will not apply to public servants who choose to remain beyond the age of 65 once the legislation is commenced. Public servants who reach the age of 65 after the commencement of the Bill will be able to remain at work past the age of 65 on current terms and conditions, including pay, up to the age of 70.

Office of Public Works

Questions (75)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

75. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if assistance can be provided by the OPW to a person (details supplied) adjacent to a national monument. [41098/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Lisnaran Fort in Annasgassan, Co. Louth is a National Monument in the guardianship of the State, not the ownership of the State, and is in the care of the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works has no role or responsibility to carry out works on third party property.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (76)

Alan Kelly

Question:

76. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there is a policy on ministerial use of private email for Government business in his Department; and if so, if it will be published. [41528/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

My Department has an ICT Acceptable Usage Policy in place to ensure all users of the ICT facilities and services are fully aware of their obligations in terms of access to and use of these facilities and services. This policy states that my Department’s e-mail system and authorised internet services are the only methods approved for the issue or publication of official Department information in electronic format. This Acceptable Usage Policy is part of the framework of the policies and procedures which the management of my Department has adopted to implement an information security management system. It is important to note that this policy also sits within an overarching framework that includes the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour, Civil Service Disciplinary Code, Ethics in Public Office, the Official Secrets Act and other such relevant codes of conduct and behavior.

The Deputy may wish to know that my Department has plans to issue a circular to Heads of Departments/Offices on the use of private email and other messaging services in the Civil and Public Service which will be published on www.circulars.gov.ie in due course.

Official Engagements

Questions (77)

Alan Kelly

Question:

77. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he and-or officials in his Department attended the 2018 Ryder Cup; if so, the reason they attended; the days on which they attended; the officials they met from the Ryder Cup organisation or the European Tour; and the cost for each individual's attendance. [41540/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Neither I nor any officials from my Department attended the 2018 Ryder Cup in an official capacity.

Literacy Levels

Questions (78, 94, 95, 96)

Micheál Martin

Question:

78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the fact that over 500,000 people do not have above level four reading ability; his further views on the fact that half of these persons are in employment; if he has met Solas to discuss the matter; if he has considered increasing the resources to the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, in order to assist adults with their literacy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40694/18]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

94. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the involvement of his Department in tackling adult literacy; if a financial allocation is provided for same; if so, the way in which it is utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40680/18]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

95. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the level of adult literacy above level four; his further views on whether 2030 targets will be met; the improvements required in order to meet these targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40691/18]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

96. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of adults that sign up to National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, reading courses; the average number of hours of tuition they receive; the length of time it takes to be able to read proficiently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40692/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 94 to 96, inclusive, together.

The delivery and enhancement of adult literacy and numeracy provision is being driven through the implementation of the Further Education and Training (FET) Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which is contained in the FET Strategy 2014-19. My Department, along with SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and partner agencies, are collaborating on the ongoing development and enhancement of the structures required to progress its implementation. The strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population. Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, Take the First Step, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes. This year SOLAS has commissioned NALA to progress the evidence base to inform best practice in relation to family learning. It is envisaged that Family Learning Best Practice Guidelines will be available in early 2019.

The SOLAS allocation to Education and Training Boards (ETBs) for 2018 for adult literacy and basic skills provision is over €35m. Funding for further education and training (FET) is allocated to SOLAS, who then allocate to the ETBs through a strategic planning process. There is some discretion for SOLAS and the ETBs in relation to how funding is allocated across all of the FET programmes, including adult literacy.

The ETB Adult Literacy Service provides programmes with accreditation at levels NQF levels 1-4. Provision for adult literacy is delivered through a number of programmes;

- Adult Literacy groups (small groups)

- Intensive Tuition in Adult Basic Education (ITABE)

- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

- Skills for Work - workplace literacy courses

- Voluntary Literacy provision (one-to-one tuition)

- Family Learning Programmes

- Distance learning service

Details of the allocation of funding across programmes and the numbers of beneficiaries of those programmes is set out in the following table.

The adult literacy programme is informed by a set of operational guidelines that include guidance on initial assessment and engagement and the importance of more intensive provision to support literacy acquisition. Less intensive provision can be useful in welcoming and engaging new learners back into education but the guidelines recognise that more intensive approaches are required to enable progression.

I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland', which was developed by SOLAS in consultation with key partners. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees those who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. It should be noted that while the NFQ is not a literacy scale but a qualifications framework, I am committed to addressing literacy issues amongst those whose highest level of qualification is below Level 5, including through achieving certification for their learning. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge.

The substantial investment already being made in adult literacy, supplemented by this new initiative to support those in employment, will also ensure that Ireland is well positioned to achieve the 2030 literacy targets in the in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This new initiative is also a significant part of our national efforts to implement the European Commission's Upskilling Pathways Recommendation: New Opportunities for Adults, as almost half of those with less than an upper secondary qualification are in employment. My Department has been working with partners on the implementation of the recommendation – which aims to help adults with less than upper second level education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills. My Department has established a multi–agency steering group to identify the priority cohorts and appropriate measures to implement the recommendation. This informed my Department's recent response to a request from the Commission for information regarding arrangements in Ireland on upskilling pathways interventions. The response presented the overall context for Upskilling Pathways in Ireland, including key background information that the Commission would find useful, as well as information on existing and planned provision. The Commission are conducting an audit of interventions across Member States and hope to report back on their findings by the end of the year.

Adult Literacy Programmes in ETBs

Programme

Funding Allocation for 2018

Projected Beneficiaries  2018

Adult Literacy (incl. Family Literacy)

€26,312,079

37,876

ESOL

€2,341,231

14,749

ITABE

€1,569,483

2,778

Libraries Training

€11,500

N/A[1]

Refugee Resettlement (ESOL)

€2,991,243

1,341

Skills for Work

€2,532,281

4,064

Totals

€35,757,817

60,8088

1. Information not available at this time.

Skills Development

Questions (79, 143, 144, 145)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

79. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action plan developed for addressing unemployment if caused by adult illiteracy (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41234/18]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

143. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the numbers achieved from 2011 to 2017 under the national skills strategy by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41231/18]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

144. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the age targets (details supplied) achieved from 2011 to 2017 under the national skills strategy in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41232/18]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

145. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a target (details supplied) was not achieved within the 2011 to 2017 timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41233/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 143 to 145, inclusive, together.

The National Skills Strategy 2025 includes information on the achievement of targets set out in the previous strategy, Towards Tomorrow’s Skills, which was published in 2007. Some of these targets used the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) as a reference point. Since 2007, the number of learners completing senior cycle at second level increased from 81% to 90.6%. This exceeds the 90% target set for 2020. 93% of people aged 20-24 achieved an award at Levels 4-5 or more on the NFQ in 2014. This was an increase of 7% on the baseline year of 2005, and just 1% short of the target for 2020.

However, progress was not as strong in relation to the target to increase the percentages of people in the labour force holding a qualification at Levels 4-5. A clear challenge also remains in relation to the share of persons with NFQ Level 3 as the highest level of education attained.

In the National Skills Strategy 2025, targets are set to reduce the percentage of adults scoring at level 1 in the PIAAC survey from a baseline of 17.5% to 12% by 2025, and to increase the percentage of adults scoring at levels 2, 3 and 4 in the PIAAC survey from a baseline of 44% to 50% by 2025.

The delivery and enhancement of adult literacy and numeracy provision is being driven through the implementation of the Further Education and Training (FET) Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which is contained in the FET Strategy 2014-19. My Department, along with SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and partner agencies are collaborating on the ongoing development and enhancement of the structures required to progress its implementation. The strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population. Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, Take the First Step, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes. This year SOLAS has commissioned NALA to progress the evidence base to inform best practice in relation to family learning. It is envisaged that Family Learning Best Practice Guidelines will be available in early 2019.

The SOLAS allocation to Education and Training Boards (ETBs) for 2018 for adult literacy and basic skills provision is over €35m. Funding for further education and training (FET) is allocated to SOLAS, who then allocate to the ETBs through a strategic planning process. There is some discretion for SOLAS and the ETBs in relation to how funding is allocated across all of the FET programmes, including adult literacy.

The ETB Adult Literacy Service provides programmes with accreditation at levels NQF levels 1-4. Provision for adult literacy is delivered through a number of programmes;

- Adult Literacy groups (small groups)

- Intensive Tuition in Adult Basic Education (ITABE)

- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

- Skills for Work - workplace literacy courses

- Voluntary Literacy provision (one-to-one tuition)

- Family Learning Programmes

- Distance learning service

Details of the allocation of funding across programmes and the numbers of beneficiaries of those programmes is set out in the following table.

The adult literacy programme is informed by a set of operational guidelines that include guidance on initial assessment and engagement and the importance of more intensive provision to support literacy acquisition. Less intensive provision can be useful in welcoming and engaging new learners back into education but the guidelines recognise that more intensive approaches are required to enable progression.

I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland', which was developed by SOLAS in consultation with key partners. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees those who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the NFQ, engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. It should be noted that while the NFQ is not a literacy scale but a qualifications framework, I am committed to addressing literacy issues amongst those whose highest level of qualification is below Level 5, including through achieving certification for their learning. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge.

The substantial investment already being made in adult literacy, supplemented by this new initiative to support those in employment, will also ensure that Ireland is well positioned to achieve the 2025 literacy targets set out in the National Skills Strategy 2025.

This new initiative is also a significant part of our national efforts to implement the European Commission's Upskilling Pathways Recommendation: New Opportunities for Adults, as almost half of those with less than an upper secondary qualification are in employment. My Department has been working with partners on the implementation of the recommendation – which aims to help adults with less than upper second level education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills. My Department has established a multi–agency steering group to identify the priority cohorts and appropriate measures to implement the recommendation. This informed my Department's recent response to a request from the Commission for information regarding arrangements in Ireland on upskilling pathways interventions. The response presented the overall context for Upskilling Pathways in Ireland, including key background information that the Commission would find useful, as well as information on existing and planned provision. The Commission are conducting an audit of interventions across Member States and hope to report back on their findings by the end of the year.

Adult Literacy Programmes in ETBs

Programme

Funding Allocation for 2018

Projected Beneficiaries  2018

Adult Literacy (incl. Family Literacy)

€26,312,079

37,876

ESOL

€2,341,231

14,749

ITABE

€1,569,483

2,778

Libraries Training

€11,500

N/A[1]

Refugee Resettlement (ESOL)

€2,991,243

1,341

Skills for Work

€2,532,281

4,064

Totals

€35,757,817

60,808

Fulltime provision that includes significant literacy and numeracy components include:

Programme

Funding Allocation for 2018

Projected Beneficiaries  2018

Justice Workshops

€747,217

174

Local Training Initiatives

€23,003,876

3,570

Specialist Training Programmes

€45,736,130

3,469

Specific Skills Training

€42,615,421

11,231

Youthreach

€66,335,038

7,169

Totals

€178,437,682

25,613

1. Information not available at this time

Skills Development

Questions (80, 81, 147)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

80. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for a paid learning leave programme for employees with literacy, numeracy and digital needs or who have less than a level four qualification, to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills; his further plans for funding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41238/18]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

81. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered options to support a paid learning leave programme for employees who have literacy, numeracy and digital needs or who have less than a level 4 qualification, to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41239/18]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

147. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to follow the European Commission in its promise to have a concrete plan on upskilling pathways for adults with low skills levels or no upper secondary education by 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41236/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 81 and 147 together.

My Department has been working on the development of a plan for the implementation of the European Commission's Upskilling Pathways Recommendation: New Opportunities for Adults. My Department has been working with partners on the implementation of the Upskilling Pathways recommendation, which aims to help adults with less than upper second level education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills.

My Department has established a multi–agency steering group to identify the priority cohorts and appropriate measures to implement the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation. This informed my Department's recent response to a request from the Commission for information regarding arrangements in Ireland on upskilling pathways interventions. The response presented the overall context for Upskilling Pathways in Ireland, including key background information that the Commission would find useful, as well as information on existing and planned provision. The Commission are conducting an audit of interventions across Member States and hope to report back on their findings by the end of the year.

I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland'. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. This is a substantial part of our national efforts to implement the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation as almost half of those with less than an upper secondary qualification are in employment.

The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications, engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge. The issue of paid leave to take part in upskilling would be a matter for each individual employer.

The development and publication of this policy framework is a key deliverable under the 2018 Action Plan for Education.

School Management

Questions (82)

Clare Daly

Question:

82. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by the parent body in relation to the board of management of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40599/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department’s inspectorate conducted a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) Inspection in Castleknock Educate Together and the report was published on my Department’s website on 04 September 2018. The report made a number of recommendations for improvement to the school management.

Responsibility for the implementation of improvements identified in the WSE lies in the first instance with the Board of Management of the school. In carrying out this duty the Board is obliged to consult with and keep the Patron, Educate Together informed of decisions and proposals as they work towards implementing the recommendations of the WSE.

School Transport

Questions (83)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

83. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school transport service will be provided for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40600/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

My Department is seeking additional information in relation to this case and Bus Éireann will liaise directly with the family when this information is received.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (84)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

84. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a response will issue to an interim reply (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40604/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Meeting requests and/or invitations to attend events in schools are managed in conjunction with visits by the Minister to the relevant areas. The request from the school referred to in this question will be considered in that context.

Education Centre Network

Questions (85)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

85. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding funding for issues at a centre (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40616/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Education Centres are independent statutory bodies under Section 37 of the Education Act (1998) and are managed by voluntary Management Committees elected annually and comprised mainly of teachers.

My Department is the main source of funding for Education Centres through direct budget allocations towards administrative staff pay and operating costs. All funds held by Centres are subject to compliance with the general rules governing bodies in the public sector.

The Centre is question has been allocated €233,244 in 2018 for core funding, local course funding, minor works and ICT grant.

In addition, the Centre receives funding from the support services which are funded by my Department for the purpose of designing and delivering continuing professional development courses and other professional support for teachers throughout the country (e.g. support service pay for room hire, photocopying, preparation and checking of travel and subsistence forms). Education Centres also raise funds through local activities and from other organisations.

I wish to inform the Deputy that officials of my Department have been engaging with the Education Centre in question regarding its funding and how it can be utilised.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (86)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

86. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if and when a school place will be found to meet the needs of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40628/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It is the policy of the Department that all children with Special Educational Needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in recognised school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

Decisions about placement should be based on individual needs and take into account a number of factors including parental wishes, availability of evidence-based treatments and well-trained staff and individual factors such as targets for intervention and management of behaviours.

Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.

Others may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The local SENOs are available to advise parents in relation to supports which may be available to support children with special educational needs. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

Where students with Special Educational Needs experience difficulties, the first course of action is engagement with first level services provided by the Department of Education and Skills (National Educational Psychological Service, Special Education Support Service, National Behavioural Support Service, National Council for Special Education) and Health Services Executive (HSE)/ HSE funded services.

If a parent of a student feels that a student is currently experiencing continuing difficulties they should request through their school a multi-disciplinary school based review involving NEPS, the local SENO and other relevant professionals.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular child, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.

School Funding

Questions (87)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

87. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grant schemes available from his Department or other Government bodies to a primary school in order to build a school hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40644/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides a number of mechanisms through which improvements are carried out in schools. Through the 6 year Capital Programme, the investment plan is about looking to the future and ensuring that our school infrastructure is well prepared to accommodate our growing school population. The programme also addresses the requirements of many schools which are in need of upgrading and refurbishment, although they may not be experiencing significant demographic pressure.

The recent launch of Project Ireland 2040 included an announcement of a major package of investment in education for the next decade with the school building budget increasing by 70%. This major investment will underpin the implementation of the Action Plan for Education which is the government’s plan to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on the refurbishment of existing school buildings to include the building and modernisation of PE facilities in primary and post-primary schools.

In addition, in terms of other Government bodies, it is open to any school to explore any funding options that may be available under the Sports Capital Programme administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

School Transport

Questions (88)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

88. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, following the closure of a school (details supplied), an undertaking was given to the parents of children who were in the catchment area that school transport would be provided for their children to attend another school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40645/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

School transport arrangements under the Central/Closed School Rule originated from the last major amalgamation of schools in the late 1960's. Given the time lapse it is not feasible to provide copies of agreements, where they exist, reached between the Department and the School Authorities at the time of amalgamation.In any event, changes to my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme which were finalised for the beginning of the 2012 school year mean that children are now eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. The terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.

State Examinations

Questions (89)

Michael McGrath

Question:

89. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if second level students are permitted to sit a subject as a junior certificate examination where they are studying that subject outside of school time and as a subject that exceeds the school's curriculum, such as a second foreign language, if they have the support and agreement of the school in doing the additional subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40646/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Junior Cycle Framework presents a dual approach to assessment that supports student learning over the three years of junior cycle and also measures achievement at the end of those three years. This dual approach reduces the focus on one externally assessed examination as a means of assessing students and increases the prominence given to classroom-based assessment and formative assessment, providing a more rounded assessment of the education of each young person. This change of emphasis arises from an acknowledgement that students learn best when teachers provide feedback that helps students to understand how their learning can be improved.

The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) is a school based award issued by recognised schools which draws upon and reports on achievement across all elements of assessment including ongoing, formative assessment and Classroom-Based Assessments by teachers, as well as State Examinations marked by the State Examinations Commission. The assessment of subjects for the purposes of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will comprise two Classroom-Based Assessments undertaken in recognised schools, and a written examination (some subjects also have a practical examination).

Where students take extra subjects outside of their recognised school setting these subjects cannot satisfy the requirements for ongoing, formative assessment by recognised schools and cannot, therefore, be included as part of the JCPA.

School Transport

Questions (90)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

90. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding school transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40648/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

School transport arrangements under the Central/Closed School Rule originated from the last major amalgamation of schools in the late 1960's. Given the time lapse it is not feasible to provide copies of agreements, where they exist, reached between the Department and the School Authorities at the time of amalgamation.In any event, changes to my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme which were finalised for the beginning of the 2012 school year mean that children are now eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. The terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.