Skills Shortages

Questions (183)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

183. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding allocation to the regional skills fora in 2019. [16037/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The 2019 Estimates provides for an allocation of €1,236,000 from the National Training Fund to support the work of the Regional Skills Fora in 2019.

In 2018 the Regional Skills Fora Managers engaged with over 1,000 enterprises, representing over 100,000 employees.  Engagement was mostly with the Manufacturing, ICT and Construction sectors. The majority of this engagement was with Small, Medium and Micro enterprises. 

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (184)

Jack Chambers

Question:

184. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a purchase and planning application by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16044/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, a building project to deliver permanent accommodation for Edmund Rice College Carpenterstown/Castleknock is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme and will be delivered under my Department's 2020 Design & Build programme.

This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning and construction.

A tender competition to establish a Project Manager framework is nearing completion. 

The acquisition is currently at an advanced stage in the conveyancing process. Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions, I am not in a position to provide further details at this time.

School Transport Eligibility

Questions (185)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

185. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if school transport for a child (details supplied) with medical issues will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16059/19]

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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.

Bus Éireann has advised that an application for transport has not been received to date for the child in question; eligibility for school transport will be assessed when an application is received. 

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (186)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

186. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new primary school for the Donabate area of County Dublin as announced in April 2018; if he has identified locations for the proposed school; if the school patronage has been decide upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16062/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including a new 16 classroom primary school to be established in 2020 to serve the Donabate school planning area. This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure. 

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 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 submits a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision.  The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.

An Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to all parents which will allow them to make an informed choice about their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education. Parental preferences were previously collected based on direct engagement with patron bodies.

The patronage process for the new schools to be established in 2020, including the school referred to by the Deputy, will commence later in 2019. The patronage process for the remainder of the new schools 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 (https://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and the Department’s website ( www.education.ie).

It is intended that the permanent school building will be developed on the zoned school site within the  Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) residential development at Corballis, Donabate. 

The school will be delivered under the Department's Design & Build Programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning and construction.  A tender competition to establish a Project Manager framework is nearing completion.

School Staff

Questions (187)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

187. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a new agreement on employment conditions for school secretaries and caretakers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16063/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.  These schemes have been superseded by the more  extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

I have in recent days and with immediate effect relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which will allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to the Department.  

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration will, from 1 January 2019, be paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

The FÓRSA trade union have requested a meeting with the Department to discuss pay arrangements for grant-funded Secretaries and Caretakers from 2020 onwards. The Department has agreed to arrange a meeting with the Union.

School Transport

Questions (188)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

188. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding is available for transport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16079/19]

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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 purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

Schools and/or parents may also privately hire buses for school trips or activities.  These arrangements operate outside of the School Transport Scheme and are a matter for the school authority at local level.

Teacher Supply

Questions (189)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

189. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if teacher levels in a school (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16090/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts is published annually on the Department website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.

The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location.

The staffing schedule arrangements also include an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted a staffing appeal for consideration by the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.  Having considered the appeal, the Appeals Board has given provisional approval to the school for an additional mainstream teaching post for the 2019/20 school year.  This decision is conditional on the school achieving the projected 30 September 2019 enrolment figures.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (190)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

190. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if land has been secured for a new school building (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16093/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department recently decided in order to meet future capacity needs across the area, that the school to which the Deputy refers should be replaced and expanded with a new 1,000 pupil school building. A new site will be required for the school and the Department has commenced the site identification process. Due to commercial sensitives surrounding site acquisitions in general, I cannot comment further at this point in the process, though I can assure the Deputy that my Department will make every effort to progress the matter.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Questions (191, 193, 194)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

191. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) can take a career break to study and work part-time. [16096/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

193. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if career breaks for special needs assistants, SNAs, will be changed to allow them to work in other fields during their break; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16109/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

194. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if allowances will be made to allow special needs assistants, SNAs, to take a career break for upskilling and to work part-time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16110/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191, 193 and 194 together.

Special Needs Assistants are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities, who have additional and significant care needs, in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs.

In June 2012, my Department, following consultation with the School Management Bodies and the relevant Trade Unions, issued a Career Break Scheme for Special Needs Assistants in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools, the provisions for which are contained in Circular Letter 22/2012 which is available on my Departments website. 

Paragraph 1.2 of the Circular states:

“The main objectives of this scheme below which are not exhaustive, is for employers, wherever possible to facilitate applicants in the areas of:

- Personal Development

- Education (including teacher training)

- Public Representation

- Childcare/Dependent care

- Self-employment”

The Career Break Scheme therefore is applicable to Special Needs Assistants who wish to pursue further education.

Paragraph 7.1 of the Circular states:

“The taking up of regular paid employment of any kind elsewhere in the State while on career break would be contrary to the objectives of the scheme and shall lead to refusal of an application or withdrawal of approval already given”.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions Nos. 193 and 194 answered with Question No. 191.

Questions (192)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

192. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to an application for additional accommodation by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16099/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

The application is currently under consideration and a decision will be relayed to the school authority shortly.  

Questions Nos. 193 and 194 answered with Question No. 191.

School Equipment

Questions (195)

Tom Neville

Question:

195. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 26 March 2019, if the scheme applies to primary schools that teach music; if they can avail of funds for the provision of a range of equipment in the same way as post-primary schools; if County Limerick is included in a catchment area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16119/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to clarify the role of Music Generation for the Deputy. Music Generation provides instrumental and vocal music tuition in a wide range of genres for children and young people in 20 areas of the country. This is done through Music Education Partnerships (MEPs) which are either led by an Education and Training Board or Local Authority.  

MEPs do not fund capital purchases of musical instruments for schools but provide accessible music tuition for children and young people.  

On 7 December 2017, at the launch of the Creative Youth programme, An Taoiseach announced that Phase 3 of Music Generation would proceed in the coming years. This final phase will see Music Generation reach all areas of the country.  

School Patronage

Questions (196, 197, 199, 214, 215, 219, 227, 233, 242)

Clare Daly

Question:

196. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the process being led by a school (details supplied) regarding divestment. [16127/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

197. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options open to parents that desire better non or multi-denominational education for their children if an association (details supplied) and the board of management are opposed to this divestment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16128/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

199. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) was chosen for divestment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16163/19]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

214. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the process in relation to the way in which a school will be chosen to be divested in the Malahide, Portmarnock and Kinsealy area particularly if each of the eight schools in question vote for their schools to remain with the current patron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16378/19]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

215. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will proceed with his plans to divest one of the eight existing national schools in the Kinsealy, Malahide and Portmarnock area when a school (details supplied) proposed for the Broomfield site in Malahide is built and running at capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16379/19]

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Peadar Tóibín

Question:

219. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills if parents will have a vote on the question of patronage of their schools; the proportion that will determine the outcome; if parents will know the new patron in advance of a vote; if a vote is passed, the arrangements made to provide for the ethos based education originally selected by parents for their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16506/19]

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Thomas Byrne

Question:

227. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the information provided to parents in Malahide and Portmarnock in terms of the divestment survey process underway. [16563/19]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

233. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing situation in a school (details supplied) regarding the patronage of the school; if the results of the survey undertaken by the education and training board, ETB, will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16587/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

242. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will release the findings of a survey that was conducted into schools in the Malahide and Portmarnock area with regard to potential divestment; and the way in which he envisages proceeding with the matter in view of the considerable chaos that has arisen as a result of the lack of information coming forward from his Department. [16737/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196, 197,199, 214, 215, 219, 227, 233 and 242 together.

The Deputies have raised a number of questions on the consultation undertaken by representatives of the Dublin Archdiocese with schools under Catholic patronage in the Malahide/Portmarnock area of Dublin. I will address these, prior to outlining the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process.

My Department understands that a representative of the Archdiocese of Dublin wrote to schools in the Portmarnock, Malahide, Kinsealy and Yellow Walls areas on 5 April last in relation to the consultation that had been undertaken by the Archdiocese with a number of schools under its patronage in these areas. I understand that this correspondence indicates that any vote which may have been planned by the schools involved should be postponed, pending the publication of the Identification Phase report for this area as part of the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. My Department intends to publish the Identification Phase reports in the first half of this year.

For clarity, I wish to confirm that in relation to the phase 1 pilot areas, including Malahide/Portmarnock, the Implementation Phase of the process has not yet commenced.

Prior to the letter issuing on the 5 April, I understand that representatives of the Dublin Archdiocese had been holding meetings with a number of primary schools under their patronage in the Malahide and Portmarnock area to provide information to them on the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. Letters/leaflets received by parents were not based on information provided by my Department. These letters and leaflets contained incorrect information which led to unnecessary confusion. At no stage did the Department seek to impose any artificial deadline on this process and there has never been a requirement for any transfer of patronage to take place in September 2019.

My Department has received a number of queries on relation to traditional religious celebrations and festivals. For clarity, non-denominational schools are not required to ask pupils not to mark or celebrate or learn about religious festivals or events or times of the year and occasions that would historically have a religious connotation or connection. There is clear guidance on the teaching of religion in primary schools and multi-denominational schools deliver the national primary curriculum in the same way as all schools and are subject to the same rules and regulations, regardless of patron. Many multi-denominational schools celebrate various important religious and non-religious events that take place throughout the year such as Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi, Holi, Darwin Day and other festivals. Many multi-denominational schools have symbols and images on display in the school which may reflect the different religions and beliefs of children attending the school and special times of year may also be marked with particular images and artefacts. It can be seen, therefore, that significant festivals or events which may be associated with a particular religion can play a part in the life of a multi-denominational school.

Transfer of patronage and consultation with school communities on Reconfiguration is a matter for the current patron (i.e. the Dublin Archdiocesan representatives in the case of the schools under Catholic patronage in Malahide and Portmarnock) in the first instance. Any concerns or views that parents have in relation to such events should be discussed with the school patron. My Department, as part of this process, is not involved in the selection of any school for reconfiguration.

In relation to the Schools Reconfiguration process, as the Deputies will be aware, 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.

Identification Phase

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 is likely to be an oncoming demand for more diversity of patronage 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 of 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, which will publish the reports on its website, www.education.ie. Not all of the Identification Phase reports from these 16 initial areas have been finalised. It is envisaged that the reports will be published in the first half of this year.

Implementation Phase

Following the publication of the first round of reports, it is intended that the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process will move into the Implementation Phase.

It is intended that the Implementation Phase 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.

In the Implementation Phase, the existing patron (the Catholic Archbishop/Bishop), would identify a school to transfer to a multi-denominational or non-denominational patron (where the Identification Phase report has shown a viable level of demand for greater diversity of patronage).

The process envisages that the identification of a new multi-denominational or non-denominational patron should reflect the wishes of parents and the school community. It will be up to the relevant school patron (i.e. the Catholic Archbishop/Bishop) to discuss with their school communities the choices that could be made.

It is also envisaged that the existing patron would provide information to parents on the multi-denominational/non-denominational options available and engage in a consultative process with the school community. For example, the existing patron may wish to arrange a meeting where prospective patrons could provide information to the school community.

Draft protocols for the Implementation Phase are at an advanced stage of development and consultation with Catholic Church representatives is ongoing.

I recently had a very constructive meeting with Irish Episcopal Conference representatives in relation to a number of matters including Reconfiguration. The Bishops reiterated their commitment to the Reconfiguration process. Further engagement is planned in this regard and I look forward to working positively with the Bishops on this matter in a spirit of continued partnership.

Further to the Deputy Daly's query on options open to parents in relation to multi or non-denominational education, it is also possible for a patron to transfer patronage of a school to a multi-denominational patron outside of the main Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. There are a number of instances where school communities directly engaged their patron and sought a transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron. For example, the ‘early movers’ provision fast-tracks patronage reassignment. The first 'early mover' reconfiguration has successfully taken place, with Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry opening in September 2017. Any school which is seeking a transfer of patronage under the “early movers” provision should contact their school patron directly.

National Educational Psychological Service

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 196.

Questions (198)

Peter Burke

Question:

198. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills the recourse parents have when denied a NEPS assessment by a school principal; if there is no direct access given to a parent to a publicly funded assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16162/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) 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.

I would advise if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student that these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 196.

School Transport Eligibility

Questions (200)

Robert Troy

Question:

200. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for school transport for children with special needs by a person (details supplied). [16166/19]

View answer

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.

Under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are generally eligible for school transport where they meet the Department's criteria and are attending the nearest recognised school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs.

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

Eligibility for school transport for the child in question will be assessed when an application form is received.