Multidenominational Schools

Questions (295)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

295. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the location of each multidenominational primary school; the location of each interdenominational primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12907/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The spreadsheet in the link contains the information requested by the Deputy, based on 2017-18 census returns from mainstream primary schools.

Inter/Multidenominational schools

School Patronage

Questions (296)

Seamus Healy

Question:

296. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide an educate together school in Nenagh, County Tipperary; the timeframe for the proposal; the location of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12915/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is implementing new plans aimed at accelerating the provision of multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of parents, families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment to reach 400 such schools by 2030.

The previous model of patronage divestment yielded only a very limited number of schools for transfer to multi-denominational patrons (11 since 2013, with a twelfth school, due to be established under this process for September 2019). I believe that the new Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process has the potential to significantly increase patron diversity in our school system.

While the Schools Reconfiguration process is being advanced, my Department is continuing to work with the main stakeholders to progress delivery of diversity in areas already identified, including Nenagh.

To date, it has not been possible to secure a property to facilitate a new school being established in Nenagh. However, my Department will continue its efforts in relation to identifying a suitable solution under the patronage divesting process, which would facilitate a new Educate Together school being established to serve the Nenagh area.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (297)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

297. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a planning application has been submitted by a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [12918/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school building project for the school referred to by the Deputy will be delivered under the Department’s Design & Build programme.

The project is currently at advanced architectural planning which includes the preparation of the planning application. The Design & Build Project Management Team is now proceeding to finalise the planning application for submission to Cork County Council which is due to be lodged shortly.

Medical Internships

Questions (298)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

298. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason universities receive payment during the work placements of medical students (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12937/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy may wish to note that in relation to work placements for medical students, the universities continue to provide formal education throughout the course of all years of medical courses with the majority of this formal education provided by clinical lecturing staff who are employed by the universities and who are deployed at clinical sites.

In addition, the final years of most undergraduate curricula include both formal small group teaching and clinical skills development across a range of clinical settings including acute, general and specialist hospitals as well as primary care centres. The formal education activity is led and managed by university staff who are employed at these clinical sites.

It is, therefore, appropriate for the universities to receive funding in respect of these students during their placements.

It is also important to emphasise that Universities remain at all times responsible for the education programme including that component which is delivered at clinical sites.

This is consistent with the principle that under the Universities Act, 1997, universities are autonomous bodies and are responsible for their own day to day affairs, including the delivery of its academic programmes.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (299)

Noel Rock

Question:

299. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills when new capital works will take place at a school (details supplied); the funding for capital projects and minor works the school has received over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12945/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy was approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2018 and is at an early stage in the delivery process. It is devolved for delivery to the school authority. The onus is on the school to progress the project to the next stage in that context.

The funding details sought by the Deputy are contained in the following link.

Capital Spend

Special Educational Needs

Questions (300, 301)

Michael McGrath

Question:

300. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a separate system of allocations of special education teaching for developing schools that more accurately reflects their baseline enrolment data to commence with the next review of SET provision in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12958/19]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

301. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to direct the NCSE to ensure that there is a separate appeals process instigated for developing schools by June 2019 regarding the SET allocation for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years that takes into account the rapid growth year on year of a school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12959/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 300 and 301 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools set out details of a new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

DES Circulars 0007/2019 for primary schools and 0008/2019 for post primary schools also provide details of how the allocations are being updated for schools from September 2019, based on updated profile data.

All schools have now received revised allocations for September 2019.

As the reprofiling occurred, some schools have gained additional allocations, where the profile indicator data indicates these schools have additional needs. Some schools received slightly reduced allocations, where the data indicates less need, and some schools maintained their existing allocations.

The Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fair allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the level of need in each school.

Schools are front-loaded with resources, based on each school’s profile. The allocations to schools include provision to support all pupils in the schools, including where a child receives a diagnosis after the allocation is received by a school, or where there are newly enrolling pupils to the school.

Both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring that all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.

Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published details of an appeal process for the 2019 allocation process for schools on their website www.ncse.ie.

Schools are advised that the appeal will consider circumstances where schools considered that their school profile was calculated incorrectly, using the data set out in DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019. An appeal can be submitted for a review of the information used and of the calculation of the allocation.

A second process will be put in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2019/20 school year.

Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria will also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

Additional special education teaching allocations will be made for schools who have increased enrolments to the extent that they achieve developing status, once school enrolments have been verified at October 2019, as opposed to being based on projected enrolments. As the actual enrolments must be taken account of, this process cannot take place until the new school year is underway.

Finally, it is acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.

These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

A process will also be available where schools can seek a review of their allocations in the coming months, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

As revised updated allocations have recently been issued to schools, this process will recommence in September 2019.

I am satisfied that there are in place a number of processes which can review the special education teacher allocation for schools where necessary.

This Government is investing heavily in supporting our children with special educational needs, with €1.8bn being spent annually, about €1 in every 5 of the education budget.

There are currently over 13,400 special education teachers in schools, an increase of 37% since 2011.

There are therefore more special education teachers in schools now than we have ever had previously.

The very significant levels of additional provision we have made in recent years to provide additional Special Education Teachers means that all schools are resourced to provide for the special educational needs of children in their schools.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (302)

Dara Calleary

Question:

302. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school (details supplied) on the NCTE critical list; the timeframe expected before this school will be offered appropriate broadband services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12976/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The policy of the Department is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and financial constraints. Broadband capacity can vary due to geographical location and local infrastructure, and thus impact on the service that can be provided.

Under the current primary schools programme the Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A framework involving 14 providers was put in place in 2017 which has ensured improved solutions are available to primary schools and to date, drawdowns from the Framework of Providers of Broadband Services saw some 1,400 primary schools awarded download speeds of 30Mbps or greater (the baseline download speed required under the National Broadband Plan). Those schools have now been upgraded to that connectivity. This represents more than one third of all primary schools. This is a significant improvement over recent years, given that less than 100 primary schools were on those speeds in 2012. Further schools are likely to be upgraded to those speeds in 2019, through EIR's 300K Rural Deployment commitment.

In relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, I have asked my officials to review the service and raise this matter with the existing service provider. If the service provided cannot be upgraded under the existing contractual arrangements, my officials will include this school in the next available mini competition. Through this process, and subject to current contractual arrangements, it may be possible to provide improved service to this school, depending on the locally available infrastructure. The Schools Broadband Service Desk, managed on behalf of my Department by the Professional Development Service for Teachers - Technology in Education, will continue to liaise with the school on this matter.

Currently, 3G/4G services are not available on the DES Schools Broadband Network due to the fact that Service Providers cannot guarantee bandwidth and contention across their networks as outlined in the Department specification of service requirements, and generally their service comes with a restrictive download limit. Connections supplied through the Schools Broadband Network have no download limit, and provide an integrated set of services to schools which includes broadband connectivity, and hosted services including content filtering, and security services including anti-virus control and a centralised firewall.

The Department is obliged to adhere to procurement regulations, and must engage with the selected providers on the DES Framework of Providers of Broadband Services through a tender process to award services. Having awarded a school service to the highest placed tenderer, the Department is then required to work with that provider to install the service. This is the basis on which all state-funding must be utilised to ensure transparency and equal treatment for all schools and providers, and adherence to regulatory requirements.

The need to improve broadband connectivity to primary schools is recognised in the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, and access to high speed broadband is one of the indicators identified in the Digital Strategy Action Plan. An interdepartmental working group has been established to determine how best to address broadband connectivity to primary schools The Group includes representatives of DES, PDST support service for schools, HEA-net and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The work of the Group will take account of the developments on the implementation of the Governments’ National Broadband Plan and its associated Intervention Strategy and the provision offered by industry. The options identified will be costed and a recommendation made.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (303)

Joan Burton

Question:

303. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding progress on the development of a new permanent school building for schools (details supplied); the timeline for the delivery of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12978/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b (Detailed Design), which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

The Design Team is currently completing work on a revised stage 2(b) submission. My Department has also authorised the design team to carry out the pre-qualification of contractors.

Upon receipt and review of the revised Stage 2(b) report, my Department will advise the Board of Management of the timeline for the progression of this project to tender and construction.

In preparation for the major building works, the decant for Setanta School to temporary accommodation in Greenhills, D12 is currently at tender stage. Ballyowen Meadows School have decanted to temporary accommodation in Dún Laoghaire a number of years ago.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (304)

Joan Burton

Question:

304. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding progress on the development of a new permanent school premises for a school (details supplied); the timeline for the delivery of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12979/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that officials in my Department continue to work towards the provision of a suitable permanent location for the school to which she refers.

A number of potential site options were identified with the assistance of officials in the relevant local authority, however the acquisition of school sites in highly developed urban areas, such as that for the school in question, presents particular challenges for this Department.

Nonetheless, Department officials are engaging with relevant parties with a view to putting an appropriate solution in place at the earliest possible date.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (305)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

305. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd 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. [12980/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme. The project when complete will provide for a 24 classroom school and a 2 classroom Special needs unit.

The project will be delivered via the Design & Build Programme. The Design & Build programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning and construction. Planning Permission has already been secured.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (306)

Seán Fleming

Question:

306. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and secondary schools respectively, that have high speed broadband; the cost arrangements that are in place for the provision of broadband to these schools; if it is a matter for each board of management to deal with the matter locally; if there is an overall framework in place for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13017/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Through the Schools Broadband Access Programme the Department of Education and Skills provides for the supply of internet connectivity for all recognised primary and post primary schools, and some 98% of schools are included in this scheme.

All post-primary schools (715 in the 2017-2018 school year) and some 58 special schools are included in the High Speed Broadband programme with uncontended symmetrical connectivity of 100 Mbp/s plus.

Under the current primary schools programme the Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A framework involving 14 providers was put in place in 2017 which has ensured improved solutions are available to primary schools and to date, drawdowns from the Framework of Providers of Broadband Services saw some 1,400 primary schools awarded download speeds of 30Mbps or greater (the baseline download speed required under the National Broadband Plan). This represents more than one third of all primary schools. in 2012 less than 100 primary schools were on those speeds. Further schools are likely to be upgraded to those speeds in 2019, through EIR's 300K Rural Deployment commitment.

The policy of the Department through the Schools Broadband Access Programme is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and within financial constraints. Currently investment of some €14m is allocated annually for the provision of internet connectivity to schools. Over the past three years my Department has invested some €40 million in the Schools Broadband Access programme. Broadband capacity can vary across geographical locations and is dependent on local infrastructure. A Schools Broadband Service Desk, managed on the Department's behalf by the Professional Development Service for Teachers - Technology in Education, is a direct point of contact for schools on the programme, providing first line technical support and liaising with the providers to install and maintain services.

The Department is obliged to adhere to procurement regulations, and must engage with the selected providers on the DES Framework of Providers of Broadband Services through a tender process to award services. Having awarded a school service to the highest placed tenderer, the Department is then required to work with that provider to install the service. This is the basis on which all state-funding is utilised to ensure transparency and equal treatment for all schools and providers, and adherence to regulatory requirements.

The need to improve broadband connectivity to primary schools is recognised in the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, and access to high speed broadband is one of the indicators identified in the Digital Strategy Action Plan. An interdepartmental working group has been established to determine how best to address broadband connectivity to primary schools The Group includes representatives of DES, PDST support service for schools, HEA-net and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The work of the Group will take account of the developments on the implementation of the Governments’ National Broadband Plan and its associated Intervention Strategy and the provision offered by industry. The options identified will be reviewed and evaluated in a final report.

School Curriculum

Questions (307, 361)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

307. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding geography in the junior certificate curriculum; his views on the concerns raised by the heads of departments of geography across Irish universities, organisations (details supplied) and others in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13046/19]

View answer

Martin Heydon

Question:

361. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider a review of the status of geography in the junior certificate syllabus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13622/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 361 together.

My Department has every confidence that, through the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle the place of Geography will be retained and given a new impetus across the junior cycle curriculum. As part of the rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle, Geography was one of five new subject specifications that were introduced to schools in September 2018.

The new Framework for Junior Cycle gives students the opportunity to develop a wider range of knowledge and skills – to equip them for further learning, for work, for responsible and active citizenship, and for healthy living. It gives students better learning opportunities, and rewards and recognises non-academic performance and achievements, with a central focus on the student’s quality of life, wellbeing and mental health.

Prior to the introduction of the new Framework for Junior Cycle the status of Geography in junior cycle varied by school type. Geography was only a core subject in voluntary secondary schools (52% of schools).

It is important to note that currently some 92% of students across all schools choose to study Geography at Junior Cycle, although it is not compulsory in all schools. This is a clear indication that in respect of subjects like geography, schools make curricular decisions in the absence of directives and we expect this to continue.

There are no plans to make geography a mandatory subject in schools.

Legislative Programme

Questions (308)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

308. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the Retention of Records Bill 2019; if he will reconsider his plans and include the relevant records under the existing provisions of the National Archives Act 1986 which some experts believe to be more than adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13047/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The recently published Retention of Records Bill represents a very important measure in that it provides for the retention of the records of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee. I must stress that under the legislation establishing these bodies the bulk of their records would, on the dissolution of those bodies, fall to be destroyed. The Bill provides for the retention of the records, their transfer to the National Archives and their sealing and withholding from public inspection for a period of at least 75 years.

The records of the redress bodies are unlike normal departmental records in that they contain information of a deeply personal nature that was provided to the bodies in the expectation that that information would be treated as confidential and private and the relevant legislation fully reflected that expectation. Accordingly, fresh legislation is required to address the range of issues involved.

The Bill balances the right to confidentiality of all who engaged with the redress bodies with the public interest requirement to retain and eventually release the records. The legal advice available to me is that that balance can best be achieved by ensuring that all of the records are withheld from public inspection for a lengthy period and the Bill provides that that period will be at least 75 years. It is essential therefore that no access to these records be permitted for that period and accordingly, it is necessary to provide in the Bill for the dis-application of those sections of the National Archives Act 1986 that govern access to the records by individuals, government departments, etc., and related provisions.

While the National Archives Act provides for a certification process for the withholding from public inspection in certain circumstances of records that are more than 30 years old it does not provide the necessary certainty that the records will be withheld from public scrutiny for a sufficiently lengthy period.

I am satisfied, having regard to all of the circumstances, that the approach set out in the Bill is the appropriate way to proceed in relation to these historically important, extremely sensitive and unique records.

School Transport Appeals

Questions (309)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

309. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a request for school transport by a person (details supplied) will be reassessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13080/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The child in question submitted two applications for school transport for the 2018/19 school year; one application under the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs and a second application under the Post Primary School Transport Scheme.

Under the terms of my Department’s School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are eligible for school transport where they have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability and are attending the nearest recognised school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs

Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers.

The child in question is not eligible for school transport under the terms of this scheme as he is not attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet his special educational needs.

Bus Éireann has advised that this child was given eligibility in error under the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme and a ticket was issued for a public scheduled service; the child may continue to avail of this public scheduled service.

Given that this child is not eligible for school transport under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs it is not possible to consider an alternative transport arrangement.

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

Freedom of Information Requests

Questions (310)

Clare Daly

Question:

310. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 262 of 19 February 2019, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the freedom of information officer in his Department responded to a freedom of information request on 11 March 2019 (details supplied) indicating that no records exist or could not be found in regard his Department’s engagement with the patron; the mechanism or method his Department used to engage with the patron; if there is recorded evidence of the engagement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13084/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is doing a further check of its records in relation to this matter and will update the Deputy in due course.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (311)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

311. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide an ASD unit to secondary schools in Limerick city (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13090/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.

The greater proportion of children with special educational needs attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based on a recommendation contained within a professional assessment and in consultation with the NCSE.

Special Classes offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.

The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. This includes taking account of the flow of students from primary into post primary. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

As approximately 1% of the school population require the support of a special class, it is not possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in the every school.

In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. In this regard, the SENO may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.

The Council has informed my Department that they are satisfied that there are sufficient post primary ASD special class placements in Limerick to meet identified need for the forthcoming school year.

The NCSE’s team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs and identify available placements. They also support and advise schools in this area. Parents who are experiencing difficulties in locating a special class placement, should contact their local SENO.

160 new special classes have been opened for the 2018/19 school year, which means there are now 1,459 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

School Accommodation

Questions (312, 313)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

312. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children at both primary and second level in non-permanent school accommodation by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13127/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

313. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children at both primary and second level in portakabins by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13128/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 313 together.

My Department does not hold information on the numbers of pupils in individual schools who currently occupy prefabs; this depends on the organisation of class groups by schools within available accommodation and may vary from year to year.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the overall policy goal of my Department is to ensure the highest standard of permanent accommodation for all schools. In the context of a rapidly increasing school population, my Department's priority is to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place and in this regard, it is sometimes necessary to make use of temporary accommodation in order to meet the accommodation needs of schools.

In-service Training

Questions (314)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

314. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of the in-service training in respect of the new junior certificate dedicated to enabling those children with disabilities to participate to the fullest extent possible. [13147/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A dedicated Junior Cycle CPD team, Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT), was established by the Department in July 2013. Its primary function is to provide high quality continuing professional development (CPD) support to teachers and school leaders in the context of their implementation of the new Framework for Junior Cycle.

JCT CPD is available to teachers in special schools and mainstream post-primary schools to prepare all students, including pupils with special educational needs for the award of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement. The Junior Cycle principle of an inclusive education is a key design feature of all JCT CPD. It is a particular feature of the JCT Whole School days.

JCT provides CPD to teachers in special schools and mainstream schools on Level 1 and Level 2 (L1 and L2) Learning Programmes which are specifically designed to address the learning needs of students across the range of general learning disabilities, from low mild to severe and profound. JCT has a dedicated L1/L2 Team which has provided 177 school visits across special and mainstream schools to date in the current school year .

A specific section for Level 1 Level 2 Learning Programmes is available on JCT’s Website. This section includes a range of resources to support teacher to enable students with special educational needs to participate in their Junior Cycle to the fullest extent possible.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (315, 316, 318)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

315. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his efforts to resolve the industrial relations issues in relation to individual education plans at schools for children with special educational needs. [13148/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

316. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is a statutory requirement that individual education plans be provided in respect of children with special educational needs. [13149/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

318. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the training or continuing professional development provided to teachers in respect of individual education plans. [13151/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315, 316 and 318 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has recently been in contact with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and with the Teachers Union of Ireland and has reiterated to them the importance of planning to achieve good educational outcomes for pupils with special educational needs in schools.

Effective planning ensures that the school’s resources are deployed efficiently and that they achieve the desired outcomes.

Under the Education Act 1998, schools are under statutory obligations to “provide education to students which is appropriate to their abilities and needs” and to “ensure that the educational needs of all students, including those with a disability or other special educational needs, are identified and provided for”.

Planning is a normal part of a teacher’s work and planning tools, like the student support file, have been created as a resource to help schools provide for their students.

Circulars 0013 and 0014 2017, which introduced the model for allocating special education teachers to schools, noted the importance of educational planning. This is in the context of ensuring that the children with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

The Circulars note that educational planning is an essential element of a whole-school approach to meeting pupils’ needs.

Guidelines for schools on educational planning and monitoring of outcomes through the Student Support File, are contained in the Guidelines for Primary and Post primary Schools: Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools.

All schools are therefore encouraged to use Education Plans or Student Support plans for children who are receiving additional teaching or care in schools.

Whereas there is not currently a statutory requirement for schools to provide a particular form of Individual Education Plan, it is evident that the majority of schools do use some form of education planning to plan and record the support that they provide for pupils with special educational needs. This is considered to be both beneficial for schools and children and is regarded as best practice.

The ongoing provision of planning will represent a continuation of the good practice that is occurring in the majority of schools.

In relation to training and support for teachers in the provision of special education needs support, the Department provides for a comprehensive system of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers in the area of special educational needs

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Regional Support Service, which has incorporated the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behavioural Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for the Visually Impaired and Hearing Impaired, provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for teachers and continuing professional development for teachers.

It is also enhancing the multi-disciplinary capacity of the education system through providing access to expert knowledge in areas such as autism, speech and language and challenging behaviour. The SESS, has a role to enhance the quality of learning and teaching of students with special educational needs through the provision of CPD and support for teachers in mainstream schools, primary and post-primary special schools, and special classes.

Through applications to NCSE’s Supports Service, schools and individual teachers can access support in all areas of special education, including support in relation to individualised educational planning.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) also provides guidance for schools in supporting children with special educational needs.

NEPS works with schools through the Continuum of Support framework. NEPS psychologists can provide advice and guidance to Principals and teachers in relation to individual students needs and in the development of whole school approaches to support inclusion, participation and integration.

NEPS psychologists provide advice and support around the identification of needs, the use of evidence-informed interventions and the monitoring of outcomes for individuals and groups of children. Psychologists can also advise and assist schools on effective whole-school practices, early intervention approaches and good deployment of Special Education Teaching supports.

This Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfil their potential.

In 2018 my Department invested over €1.75 Billion in this area - 1/5 of my Department's budget and up 42% since 2011, at which point €1.24 Billion was invested. This increased investment has allowed the Government to increase the number of:

SNAs by 42%, from 10,575 in 2011 to 15,000 at present.

Special classes by 160% to over 1,450 at present, compared to 548 special classes in 2011.

Special education teachers by 37%, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

This Government will continue to prioritise investment in the area of special education support and I am confident that ongoing investment and reform will continue to see improvements made in this area.