School Admissions

Questions (125)

James Browne

Question:

125. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14304/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils is the responsibility of the management authorities in each individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent’s choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a school board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where the appeal involves an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, the appeal must be made to the local ETB in the first instance. Further information on the Section 29 Appeals process is available on my Departments website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/

In addition, the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the legal body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. In relation to the person referred to by the Deputy, the EWS in that region can be contacted at 021-2428611.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (126)

Frank O'Rourke

Question:

126. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a new 24-classroom school building project (details supplied); the timeline for completion of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14322/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The process of Pre-Qualification of contractors for the project in question is underway. For this particular project, pre-qualification of reserved specialists for the mechanical and electrical works is also required. The Pre-qualification process culminates in the compilation of shortlists of suitable candidates for each respective discipline.

The shortlist was submitted to my Department for review on January 11th 2019. On January 17th the Department reverted to the Design Team with a number of items to be actioned with regard to finalising the process. The updated report was submitted to my Department on March 06th 2019 and is currently under review.

When the Pre-Qualification process is completed the project will then be progressed to tender stage which normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

Questions (127)

Joan Burton

Question:

127. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to arrange for a comparison of national school enrolment and ECCE returns to ensure that there is no duplication of applications in cases in which a school and ECCE provider may have both claimed for the same child; and the procedures for ensuring that no duplication of claims will occur with the provision of a second year under ECCE in September 2019. [14334/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

National school enrolment figures are collected on an annual basis through the Primary Online Database, based on the number of pupils attending a school on 30th September of that year. The figure submitted is signed off on by the principal and chairperson of the board of management of the school. The records submitted can be, if necessary, verified against the school’s internal records of attendance.

The Department is satisfied that the information submitted as part of this process is an accurate record of the pupils enrolled in and attending primary school in September of a given year.

The ECCE scheme is under the aegis of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the returns for that scheme are a matter for that Department.

School Patronage

Questions (128)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

128. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the voting rights of parents in terms of voting to change the patronage of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14346/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I have set out below an outline of the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process for the Deputy's information, the formal Implementation Phase of which has not yet commenced.

It is worth noting that a transfer of patronage and consultation with school communities on Reconfiguration is a matter for the current patron in the first instance. I would advise parents who have questions or views in this regard to discuss these with their school patron.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment of reaching 400 multi-/non-denominational schools in Ireland by the year 2030. The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process is aimed at assisting in achieving this target by transferring existing schools from denominational to multi-/non-denominational patronage in line with the wishes of the school community.

The process is composed of two separate and distinct phases - the Identification Phase and the subsequent Implementation Phase. The first Identification Phase of the phase 1 pilot process is nearing completion for 16 initial areas nationwide.

In the Identification Phase, each of the country’s 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) have selected an initial pilot area within their district where they consider, based on census data and local knowledge, there exists an oncoming demand for more diversity within the local educational provision.

Surveys of parents of pre-school children have been carried out in these areas by the relevant City/County Childcare Committee on behalf of the ETBs. ETBs, having analysed the survey results, then draw up comprehensive reports detailing the outcomes of the surveys in relation to each of the 16 pilot areas.

This forms the basis of discussions with the most prevalent patron/landowner in the area, which is the Catholic Bishop or Archbishop in most cases, concerning the transfer of patronage of an existing school(s) to meet that demand. The response by the Bishop to any identified oncoming demand for greater diversity of school patronage in the area is included in the report prepared by the ETB, for submission to my Department, who will subsequently publicly publish the reports on its website.

It is envisaged that the Identification Phase reports from the initial areas will be published in the first half of this year.

Following the completion of the Identification Phase, it is intended that the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process will move into the Implementation Phase, which would involve the existing patron of the majority of schools in each area, i.e., the relevant Catholic Archbishop or Bishop, consulting with their local school communities on accommodating the oncoming demand for a greater diversity of patronage among the schools in their area.

The transfer to a new patron should reflect the wishes of parents and the school community. The Department envisages that such consultation would include an outline of contingencies that may be put in place for parents who wish for their children to retain the current ethos of the school, having regard to local circumstances.

The Implementation Phase would also provide an opportunity for potential multi-denominational and non-denominational patrons to engage in a consultative process with the existing school community, affording the best possible opportunity for patron bodies themselves to inform parents as to the unique characteristics of their schools. This may include a meeting where prospective patrons could provide information to the school community.

The Implementation Phase of the process has yet to formally commence. Draft protocols for the Implementation Phase are at an advanced stage of development and consultation with Catholic Church representatives is ongoing.

It is also possible for any school community to directly engage their current patron, outside of the main reconfiguration process, and to seek a transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron, fast-tracking the patronage reassignment. Already the first 'early mover' reconfiguration has successfully taken place, with Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry opening in September 2017. I encourage any school which is seeking a transfer of patronage under the “Early Movers” provision to contact their school patron directly.

School Curriculum

Questions (129)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

129. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if students in a community or education and training board school in which the NCCA religious education course is mandatory under circular 0062/2018 have a right to opt out of that subject in line with Article 44.2.4o of the Constitution or section 30(2)(e) of the Education Act 1998; if provision will be made to exercise the right to opt out of the course in such schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14360/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Religious Education curriculum designed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is an optional examinable subject at Junior and Leaving Certificate.

The Department does not require schools to include the NCCA-developed Religious Education syllabuses at Junior or Senior Cycle as mandatory subjects on their curriculum. Accordingly schools have discretion to determine if they provide the subject at all or if it is to be mandatory or optional in any particular class group or year.

Circular 0062/2018 issued in October 2018 to clarify that withdrawal with an offer of an alternative subject does not arise in relation to the NCCA Religious syllabus as the that syllabus cannot be delivered by schools containing any element of religious instruction, formation, indoctrination or worship of any individual religion.

Circular 0062/2018 does not in any way change or alter the right of any parent under the Education Act or the Constitution not to attend instruction in any subject that is contrary to the conscience of the parent. Under section 30 of the 1998 Education Act, a school is not required to provide an alternative subject. Section 30 applies to any subject where a parent may have a conscientious objection.

School Admissions

Questions (130)

Clare Daly

Question:

130. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the constitutional right of a person (details supplied) to an appropriate education placement has been vindicated. [14361/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils is the responsibility of the management authorities in each individual school. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent’s choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a school board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where the appeal involves an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, the appeal must be made to the local ETB in the first instance.

My Department has recently received a number of Section 29 Appeal applications on behalf of the child referred to by the Deputy and these appeal applications will be processed in the normal way in accordance with the Procedures for Hearing and Determining Appeals.

In relation to children with special educational needs, 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. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

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 Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO) may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability. This work is currently underway in the area concerned.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (131)

Robert Troy

Question:

131. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied) for an additional ASD classroom. [14375/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has recently approved additional temporary accommodation to the school and the school authority has been advised accordingly.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (132)

Robert Troy

Question:

132. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of planned school building works at a school (details supplied). [14376/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I can inform the Deputy that the NDFA has started preparations for the appointment of a design team for the project. This appointment will be a key first step in the design and construction stages. While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA has written to the school in the past week and a "kick-off meeting" with the school will take place in the very near future.

Schools Building Projects Expenditure

Questions (133)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

133. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will contribute to the costs of constructing a retaining wall between a secondary school and a community centre at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14382/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school project referred to by the Deputy was devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). My officials have been in contact with the NDFA who will be engaging with the school authorities in respect of the matter.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (134)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

134. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will engage urgently with a union (details supplied) regarding the terms and conditions of adult literacy tutors regarding matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14383/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The matter of regularisation of the terms and conditions of Adult Education Tutors is currently subject to discussions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission so it would be inappropriate of me to comment on this matter at this time.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (135)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

135. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a record in his Department for a school (details supplied) applying to be included in a sports hall building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14411/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department received an application, from the school in question, for capital funding to build a Sports Hall.

The National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. 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 schools.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place. The focus in the medium will be on the provision of PE halls in post-primary schools.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Questions (136)

John Deasy

Question:

136. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reopen the Residential Institutions Redress Board to individual survivors who, due to personal circumstances, were not in a position to pursue a claim at that time. [14436/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Redress Scheme operated by the Residential Institutions Redress Board which was in place for people who had suffered abuse in a number of scheduled institutions had an original closing date of 31st December 2005 but the Board were able to accept applications after that closing date where exceptional circumstances existed. The Board continued to accept late applications until the Residential Institutions Redress (Amendment) Act, 2011 was enacted. This legislation removed the Board’s power to accept late applications received on or after the 17th September 2011.

The Redress Board accepted applications over a 9 year period and there are no plans to re-open the scheme.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Questions (137)

John Deasy

Question:

137. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to accommodate bona fide survivors who were deemed ineligible for Caranua support services on the basis that they did not receive redress board or court awards or settlements with religious orders in the first instance. [14437/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under Section 3 of the 2012 Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act, eligibility for assistance from the Fund is confined to those former residents of scheduled institutions who received awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board or similar awards or settlements in court proceedings and who would otherwise have received an award from the Redress Board. The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund is a limited fund and an eligibility review on widening access to the Fund concluded that the Fund was going to be fully utilised by the survivors it was designed to reach. There isn't an alternate Fund for other survivors who were not eligible to avail of Caranua's support services. However ,there are services that all survivors can avail of and this includes the HSE's counselling service which offers face-to-face appointments and is a nationwide service.

I am conscious that access to mainstream services including the type of community and welfare supports provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the housing supports provided by the local authorities should be made as easy as possible for survivors. My Department is leading on an inter-Departmental group which is examining how existing State services can best meet the needs of survivors into the future. It will be informed by survivors experiences of mainstream services and their views.

Schools Facilities

Questions (138)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

138. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the minimum yard space in a national school for a child (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14455/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of playspace, where site conditions and circumstances allow, is one of the issues considered in the architectural design of new schools and major extensions. The level of facilities, including playspace, that can be provided in schools will therefore vary depending on the extent of classroom accommodation needed for the school.

In higher density urban developments, the optimum site area may not be available and green space guidelines are subject to space availability.

School Curriculum

Questions (139)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

139. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the possibility of including Lámh (details supplied) within the school curriculum will be investigated; the steps being taken to raise awareness and participation levels in the use of the important non-verbal communicative technique; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14466/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

There are no immediate plans to introduce Irish Sign Language or Lámh as part of the primary curriculum but the inclusion of languages (including modern languages) will be considered as part of the current primary curriculum review. A Draft overview of the Primary Curriculum is due to be available for consultation by the end of 2019.

As part of the Junior Cycle programme schools may offer students the opportunity to take a small number of short courses. These courses are assessed through Classroom-Based Assessment, and are reported upon to parents/guardians and students by the school. The delivery of the short courses is dependent on resources available in individual schools and can vary from school to school.

A new short course in Irish Sign Language (ISL) has been prepared by the Post-Primary Languages Initiative (PPLI) under the remit of my Department. This 100 hour course is based on the Generic Short Course in Modern Languages, which was also developed by the PPLI using the new Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) and the Junior Cycle Short Courses Draft Handbook 'Developing Short Courses in Junior Cycle' prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The course provides the 'learning statements' and key skills which all short courses are based upon. In this course, the emphasis is on developing communication skills in ISL at level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Schools can choose to provide this short course as part of their Junior Cycle programme. A link to the course is available at: http://languagesinitiative.ie/images/ISL/MFL_Gen_Spec_ISL_28_May__Short_Course.pdf

In addition to the short course, Irish Sign Language is an option for students who undertake the Leaving Certificate Applied. There is also an opportunity for students to learn Sign Language in the course of Transition Year. ISL is currently being considered as part of the development of the primary languages curriculum.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils and young persons with special educational needs, including children who are Deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure that children can have access to an education appropriate to their needs.

Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are allocated to primary, post-primary and special schools to assist schools in addressing additional care needs so as to facilitate inclusion of students with special educational needs. SNAs can assist in providing access to peer interaction and curriculum participation for pupils who have a hearing impairment and who communicate through sign language or specialist training (Braille, Lámh, Sign Language, Augumentive/Alternative Interventions). They may also assist in the care and preparation of audiological and assistive technology equipment.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocates a quantum of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the care needs of all of the qualifying children enrolled in the school, and on the basis of the assessed care needs of the children, rather than solely by reference to a pupil's disability categorisation.

The criteria by which SNA support is allocated to pupils is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014. The Circular explains that schools should ensure that SNAs who work with Deaf and hard of hearing children are equipped with the skills necessary to support the particular needs of these pupils, where required.

The Circular also explains that, where existing SNA staff require specialist training, schools should ensure that the most senior SNA staff in the school are the staff that are trained in order to avoid a situation where staff trained in specialist skills may leave the school due to a reduction in the overall level of SNA support allocated to a school in future years.