Public Sector Staff Retirements

Questions (67)

Jack Chambers

Question:

67. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a matter relating to the plans to increase the compulsory retirement age in the pubic sector (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41312/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018 was published on 9 July and passed all stages in the Seanad on 17 July. The Bill is being treated as a priority and the intention is 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 continues to apply and public servants reaching the age of 65 are required to retire. To accommodate public servants who reach the age of 65 in the period between the Government Decision to increase the retirement age and the commencement of the necessary legislation, I arranged for the introduction of interim arrangements.

The interim arrangements must respect the current statutory position of the compulsory retirement age of 65. They provide a temporary solution to affected public servants by allowing them to be re-hired for a period of one year, until they reach the age of eligibility for the State Pension (66). Their new employment contracts make provision for this arrangement.

The general policy across the public service is that, where a retired employee is re-hired, they are paid at the minimum point of the relevant scale, rather than at the pay point they had reached when they retired. This practice is continuing in the context of the interim arrangements.

Once the Bill is commenced the practice of payment at the minimum point will not apply to public servants who choose to remain beyond the age of 65. Those public servants will not be in the position of having retired and been re-hired.

In a case where a public servant makes an application for the interim arrangements and the legislation referred to above is commenced before the individual reaches the age of 65, he/she will be covered by the proposed legislation. Public servants covered by the legislation, who reach the age of 65 after the date of its commencement, will be able to remain at work on current terms and conditions, including pay, up to the age of 70.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (68)

Carol Nolan

Question:

68. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding will be restored in budget 2019 for middle management teaching posts in national schools. [41417/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Approximately 3,000 leadership posts have been invested in our primary and post primary schools in the past year. 1 in 3 (34.5%) teachers are now in promoted positions in our schools.

Budget 2017 allocated €2.75m to allow for the commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model and meant lifting the rigidity of the longstanding moratorium on these posts at primary and post-primary levels. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive and accountable.

This Government is committed to investing to support and empower school leaders and the recent expansion of the School Excellence Fund and an expansion of the coaching service available to school leaders will assist in this.

Schools will shortly be invited to apply to form part of a cluster to work together on innovative projects to enhance their schools in a range of important areas over the next 2 years. There will be scope for up to 42 clusters nationwide in the initial phase with each cluster containing between a minimum of three and a maximum of six schools. Priority will be given to applicant clusters containing at least one DEIS school.

I also announced that further funding is being made available to extend the coaching service currently available to school principals, to the Deputy and Assistant Principals on their leadership teams. The service to date has been one to one coaching for principals only. DEIS schools will be prioritised for the extension of the coaching service to incorporate team coaching for the Principal and their leadership team, with up to four sessions being offered to 100 DEIS schools in the first instance.

These measures are in addition to the other supports recently introduced through the Centre for School Leadership including mentoring, a new postgraduate diploma in school leadership and the additional 3,000 middle management posts in schools.

Disadvantaged Status

Questions (69)

Carol Nolan

Question:

69. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding resources will be provided in budget 2019 to reduce class sizes in DEIS schools. [41418/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My aim for Budget 2019, as it has been in previous years, is to progressively deliver on the commitments set out in the Action Plan for Education, in the Programme for a Partnership Government and in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement and to meet demographic and demand pressures, which can have significant resource implications. It is in that context that I will formulate my specific budgetary priorities.

I have set 4 key areas where I am seeking to make improvements in order to meet our objective to make the Irish Education and Training service the best in Europe: the quality of the learning experience; the capacity to meet the needs of those at a disadvantage or with special needs to fulfil their potential; the environment for schools to be innovative and continuously improve their capacity to serve their pupils' needs; and the collaboration and bridges which education and training institutions build with their wider communities to meet the changing needs of our country.

DEIS Plan 2017 allows for a reduced class size in Urban Band 1 primary schools to accommodate class size of 20:1 at junior classes and 24:1 at senior classes to support those students at the highest risk of educational disadvantage. Under DEIS Plan 2017, there is a commitment to evaluate the level of teaching resources for schools participating in the School Support Programme to inform future policy in this area and this evaluation is currently underway.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (70)

Carol Nolan

Question:

70. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if pay equality will be restored for teachers in budget 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41419/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. I negotiated, together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, a 15-22% pay increase for new teachers.

As a result of these changes, the current starting salary of a teacher is €36,318, and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692.

Section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that “the Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.”

The report laid before the Oireachtas on foot of this provision by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform assesses the cost of a further change which would provide a two scale point adjustment to new entrants recruited since 2011. The total cost of such an adjustment across the public sector is of the order of €200 million, of which Education accounts for €83 million. The report also acknowledges that, during the financial crisis, there were policy changes which affected remuneration in different occupations across the public sector (including education). Addressing any issues arising from changes which are not specifically detailed in the report would give rise to additional costs over and above the foregoing figures.

The matter of new entrant pay is a cross sectoral issue, not just an issue for the education sector alone. The Government supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

On Monday 24th September, I welcomed, together with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the outcome of discussions between public service employers and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay.

This agreement will benefit 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental jumps for new entrants at points 4 and 8 of their scale.

For example, a teachers hired in September 2011 would see their salary increase from €45,200 in September 2018 to €53,062 in September 2020 under the PSSA agreement and the recent outcome of the new entrant pay talks.

Capitation Grants

Questions (71)

Carol Nolan

Question:

71. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision will be made in budget 2019 to increase the capitation grant to primary schools. [41420/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools. The Programme for Government commits to capitation increases in primary and post primary schools. My Department will increase capitation rates by 5% from September 2019, the full year cost of which is €10m. This increase is the beginning of the process for the restoration of capitation which is one of the actions included in the Action Plan for Education.

Restoring capitation funding as resources permit is one of the actions included in the Action Plan for Education and I remain committed to achieving this. However, I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures and prioritise where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year.

Minor Works Scheme Payments

Questions (72)

Carol Nolan

Question:

72. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision will be made in budget 2019 to increase the annual minor works grant to primary schools. [41421/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

On 14 September 2018, the announcement of the major package of investment in education under Project Ireland 2040 provided confirmation that primary schools will receive the minor works grant in either December or early January of each school year.

The rates payable under the Minor Works Grant are €5,500 per school plus €18.50 per mainstream pupil and €74 per special needs pupil attending a special school or a special class. There are no plans to increase these rates.

School Transport Provision

Questions (73)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

73. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a taxi under the school transport scheme will be provided for a person (details supplied) to transport them to and from an ASD unit in a school. [41273/18]

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.

Bus Éireann has advised that they are continuing their efforts to establish a suitable transport service for the child in question and I have requested that they liaise directly with the family regarding progress.

In the meantime the family may avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

School Transport Eligibility

Questions (74)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

74. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a solution will be provided for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41298/18]

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.

Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application process on time have been issued with tickets for the services operating into the school in question for the 2018/19 school year.

Children who are not eligible for school transport can be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated.

Under the terms of the scheme, routes will not be extended or altered, additional vehicles will not be introduced, nor will larger vehicles or extra trips using existing vehicles be provided to cater for children who are not eligible as no additional State cost will be incurred in covering the cost of providing school transport for children who are not eligible.

A number of families were late in submitting their payment details and these families cannot be accommodated as services are currently operating to capacity.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

National Educational Psychological Service

Questions (75)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

75. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the digitisation of files under the National Educational and Psychological Service; and if paper based files are still in use. [41322/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximise positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

NEPS educational psychologists undertake some 8,000 such referrals for individual casework annually to investigate concerns raised, in the main by schools, in relation to the educational, social or emotional development of those pupils.

Such interventions are undertaken with parental consent and are documented in a client record maintained within NEPS. This process is predominantly a paper based one and informs the ongoing and future intervention with the child throughout their school career. These files retain all the salient details of the concerns raised in the referral, the details of the nature of the NEPS psychologist’s intervention and the report on his/her findings and recommendations which are produced and presented to the parents of the subject and the school authorities.

Short-hand soft detail of these referrals are maintained by NEPS on the Casetrack database which currently represents the only formal digitisation of the process. Additionally soft copies of assessment reports produced under the SCPA scheme, some 1,500 per annum, are captured by NEPS and retained in soft copy.

I can inform the Deputy that consideration is being given within my Department to the development of a new NEPS management information system which includes a redevelopment of the NEPS Casetrack database. This, in turn, does involve the prospect of maintaining a comprehensive ‘soft record’ of the referral rather than a hard-copy file. However the digitisation of the archive of NEPS past referral files is not currently being considered.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (76)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

76. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for an extension and associated building works by a school (details supplied) to the school capitals appraisal section, planning and building unit; if his attention has been drawn to the need for an efficient decision to be returned urgently in order that the school can apply for planning permission in advance of the next academic year when it will facilitate an extra class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41325/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is currently liaising with the school referred to by the Deputy in the context of the application for capital funding. A decision on the application will be conveyed to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (77)

Shane Cassells

Question:

77. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason new full-time primary school teachers have to wait six weeks to receive their first salary payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41329/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Primary school teachers are employed by the managerial authorities of schools. The documentation necessary for the placement of teachers on payrolls operated by my Department must be approved by the managerial authorities and submitted to the payroll division to enable the teachers to be paid. There are legislative matters such as vetting and registration of teachers which the managerial authorities must ensure are complied with. Teachers can only be placed on payroll when certification is received from the managerial authorities that these procedures have been complied with.

The school year commences on the 1st September and ends on the following 31st August. There are over 9,000 appointment and re-appointment applications to be processed in advance of the start of new school year. A commitment was given to schools and teachers that if fully completed appointment forms were received by my Department on or before 13th July 2018 then the first salary payment would begin on 6th September 2018. This commitment was met and surpassed in many cases. My Department continues to receive appointment forms for teachers for this current school year and will continue to process appointments for the payment of salary in a timely manner.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (78)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

78. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if students can lose their SUSI grant if they register as homeless. [41385/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The student grant scheme administered by SUSI, provides maintenance grants to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

Prospective applicants who register as homeless will not lose their grant, provided they continue to meet the eligibility criteria regarding means, nationality etc.

Departmental Communications

Questions (79)

John Lahart

Question:

79. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41391/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the schools in question furnished a proposal relating to a re-configuration arrangement directly to my Department. My Department has no record of receiving any communication from the Patron bodies relating to the proposal. My Department will contact the schools directly relating to the proposal.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (80)

Robert Troy

Question:

80. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a grant application for an ASD unit for a college (details supplied) will be expedited. [41394/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school in question has submitted an application for capital funding to my Department.

The application is being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as the assessment process has been completed.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (81)

John Lahart

Question:

81. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of developments with regard to the provision of a new post primary school serving Citywest, Dublin 24. [41395/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, I recently announced the opening of 42 new schools over the next 4 years. This announcement followed nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the current and future need for primary and post-primary school places across the country, and included provision for a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in September 2020 to serve Citywest/Saggart (Tallaght & Newcastle_Rathcoole school planning areas) as a regional solution. This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country.

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

The new Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed to provide objective information to all parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education.

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes will be made available on my Department's website.

The patronage process commenced in June 2018 for the four new post-primary schools to be established in 2019. The patronage process for the remaining schools, including the new post-primary school referred to by the Deputy, will also be run at a later date, significantly ahead of their due opening. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website (http://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and my Department’s website (www.education.ie).

In line with the policy on the use of State assets (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Circulars 11/15 and 17/16), my Department will be seeking to maximise the use of sites already in my ownership and of available properties in the ownership of other State bodies, where these are considered suitable.

In addition as part of my Department's ongoing engagement with Local Authorities in respect of statutory planning processes and under the MoU on school site acquisitions, my Department will be examining all potential suitable site options, including appropriately zoned sites, to serve the relevant areas.

Taking into account all of the above, decisions will then be made as part of the site acquisition process in relation to appropriate sites for all the schools announced including the new post primary school referred to by the Deputy, and will be confirmed at the earliest possible date. Once a site has been secured, the architectural planning process to provide permanent accommodation for the school can be initiated.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (82)

John Lahart

Question:

82. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of school building projects for schools (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [41396/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is currently at Tender Stage. The Letter of Intent issued to the preferred bidder on the 21st September 2018. The Letter of Acceptance to commence the contract will issue when the documentation sought in the Letter of Intent is provided by the successful tenderer.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (83)

John Lahart

Question:

83. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of developments with regard to a project at a school (details supplied). [41397/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The planning application for the school building project referred to by the Deputy is currently being finalised and is expected to be lodged in the coming weeks. Once planning permission has been secured, the project will proceed to tender.

Capitation Grants

Questions (84)

Catherine Martin

Question:

84. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the primary school grants calendar will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41400/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Primary Schools Grant Calendar for 2018/19 is available on my Department's website at the following link.

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/Grants-and-Additional-Support/.

School Staff

Questions (85)

Carol Nolan

Question:

85. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision will be made in budget 2019 to provide teaching principals with one day per week administrative relief substitution cover. [41414/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days will be effective from 01 September 2019.

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This additional funding has provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

I recently announced an extension to the arrangements for schools with teaching principals to cluster their release days into full-time posts, with one teacher covering the release days of all the schools in the cluster. Up to 50 principal release cluster posts will be put in place for the current school year. This measure will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.