State Examinations

Questions (201)

John Brassil

Question:

201. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a scribe will be made available to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16174/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. The Commission in this regard operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate Examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Teacher Supply

Questions (202)

Frank O'Rourke

Question:

202. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reviewing the teaching allocation given to physics (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16220/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Teacher allocations to all schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. The criteria for the allocation of teaching posts are communicated to school managements annually and are available on the Department website. The deployment of teaching staff in the school, the range of subjects offered and ultimately the quality of teaching and learning are in the first instance a matter for the school management authorities.

The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, subject to procedures agreed under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012).

Circular 0015/2019 which is available on my Department's website introduces a new scheme to share teachers between recognised post-primary schools and is intended to provide schools with flexibility around the provision of certain subjects that are experiencing a supply shortage. The scheme, which is a result of work carried out by the Teacher Supply Steering Group, is expected to ease recruitment pressures in some specific subject areas such as STEM including Physics, modern languages, Irish, and Home Economics.

Addressing the supply issues is a matter of national priority for the Government and it is hoped that Principals and boards of management in schools will seize the opportunity to engage with other schools in their local areas.

Schools Health and Safety

Questions (203)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

203. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will engage with Fingal County Council and a landowner regarding a school safety issue (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16223/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department does not currently have an application for funding from the school to which the Deputy refers to provide a set down area outside the school boundary.

Projects of this type may be appropriate for delivery via the Summer Works Scheme. It is open to the school authority to apply for Summer Works funding when the scheme opens for applications. I refer the Deputy to my announcement on 29th March last in that respect.

School Staff

Questions (204)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

204. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking with an issue (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16242/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals, including at the recent IPPN conference, and I appreciate the pressures they face. In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019. 

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

Any additional increase in the number of release days will be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process.

The Primary Education Forum was established in September 2018 and aims to support the planning and sequencing of change in the primary school sector and to exchange information on the intent and impacts of the actions in the Action Plan for Education in order to look for synergies and opportunities to streamline implementation and address workload issues.

Membership represents key personnel from the Department, school management, and representatives of school leadership and representatives of teachers, with the Forum akin to a working group in scale.

Through adopting this approach, my Department and partners have already agreed to make several changes to the pace and sequence of planned reforms. These include the decision to re-schedule the implementation of the Primary Mathematics Curriculum to give teachers the time to expand on their understanding and engage more fully with the new curriculum and to allow for further supports to be developed for teachers. Also, I took the decision to pace the commencement of the Education (Admission to schools) Act 2018 by initially focusing on regulations relating to the essential key features of the Act and there was agreement to consult with the sector on the regulations to be put in place alongside the commencement of the remaining sections of the Act.

Schools Establishment

Questions (205, 206, 207, 208, 209)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

205. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the data used to decide for a new second level school for the Curragh, Newbridge and Kildare areas in County Kildare will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16261/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

206. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeline to secure a site for the new second level school to replace an existing school (details supplied); the timeline for the construction and opening of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16262/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

207. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date by which the new school for the Newbridge and Kildare areas is required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16263/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

208. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the dates of meetings that have taken place between his Department and the Department of Defence during which the location of the site for a school has been discussed. [16264/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

209. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the engagement between Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board and Educate Together about a collaborative partnership for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16265/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 to 209, inclusive, together.

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. 

Where data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Government recently announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). 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. In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future through either planned capacity increases in existing schools or additional accommodation or extensions to existing schools.  

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department's review of provision at post-primary level across the school planning areas in the South Kildare area is now complete.  

My Department is satisfied that the needs in the area can be met through the replacement and expansion of the existing Curragh Post-Primary School with a new 1,000 pupil school building. It is intended that the expansion of the existing Curragh Post-Primary school, a multi-denominational Community College under the patronage of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB), will also cater for demand arising in the adjoining Newbridge and Kildare school planning areas. There is existing capacity in the Curragh Post-Primary school pending delivery of the new school building.  

A new site will be required for the school and the Department has commenced the site identification process. Due to commercial sensitivities 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. In line with protocols for the use of State property assets my Department has written to the Department of Defence regarding the school site requirement and will engage with that Department further in this regard in the coming weeks.

Some initial engagement had taken place in relation to the potential for Educate Together to become a Trustee Partner for the school in a similar arrangement to those implemented elsewhere (e.g. Clonturk Community College with City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) as patron of the school and Educate Together as a Trustee Partner). I understand that it is intended that there will be further engagement on this matter shortly.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (210)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

210. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a child (details supplied) in County Cork is not being accommodated by the National Council for Special Education. [16277/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

ASD Early Intervention classes are available for children aged between 3 and 5 years of age with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Early intervention classes are intended to provide early support for children with ASD before they start school.

Following early intervention, children will attend a mainstream class unless there is professional guidance that they require a special class or a placement in a special school. 

My Department’s policy is that all children must be enrolled in the primary school system, whether through placement in mainstream classes, in special classes or in special schools in the September prior to their sixth birthday.  If children are not in school by six years of age, under the Education Welfare Act 2000, the Educational Welfare Service must be satisfied that the child is receiving a minimum standard of education in a place other than a recognised school.

The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision and support services for children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

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

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 or school placement, should contact their local SENO.

I understand that the local SENO is working with this family and that a suitable placement has been identified.  If further issues arise, it is important that the parent continues to work closely with the SENO for the area.

School Services Staff

Questions (211)

Clare Daly

Question:

211. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of negotiations with a union (details supplied) in regard to a new pay agreement for school secretaries paid through an ancillary grant; and if consideration will be given to expediting the operation of a new pay agreement in view of the poor pay and conditions of school secretaries employed through ancillary grants. [16287/19]

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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 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 this 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.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (212)

Alan Kelly

Question:

212. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to progress the development of a school (details supplied) in view of the fact that it has been on the school building capital plan since 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16308/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school to which he refers is included in my Department's 6-Year Construction Programme.

In the context of progressing the building project, my Department intends undertaking a technical site visit to the school. My Department has been engaging with the school authority relating to the preparatory work associated with the site visit and will be in further contact in this regard.

Schools Facilities

Questions Nos 214 and 215 answered with Question No. 196.

Questions (213)

Catherine Martin

Question:

213. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a private room will be provided in relation to breastfeeding breaks for registered teachers in recognised primary and post-primary schools (details supplied); and his plans to include special needs assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16346/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to school employees my Department is not the employer.  The employer is the Education and Training Board (ETB) for vocational schools/community colleges, community national schools and the Board of Management/Manager in the case of primary (excluding community national schools) voluntary secondary, community and comprehensive schools.

The provision of facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding is a matter for the employer.

Under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 , employers are not obliged to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if the provision of such facilities would give rise to considerable costs.

Questions Nos 214 and 215 answered with Question No. 196.

Teaching Council of Ireland

Questions (216)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

216. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) is waiting since December 2018 for a Teaching Council number; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16393/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the statutory body with responsibility for the registration of teachers.  

The person, to whom the Deputy refers, is advised to contact the Teaching Council to progress their application. The Teaching Council, as the statutory  body responsible for registration of teachers, can assist the individual in relation to the registration process, the steps involved including details of the information required to complete the registration and will also be in a position to advise as to the estimated timeline to conclusion of the process.

Capitation Grants

Questions (217)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

217. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated first and full-year costs of increasing the capitation grant at primary and secondary level by 5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16458/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The first and full year costs of increasing the capitation grant at primary and secondary level by 5% is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

I am pleased to have been able to provide for this 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year.

I fully recognise the need to further improve capitation funding for schools. However, I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures and I have to prioritise where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the Education Sector in any one year especially in the light of increasing enrolments.

It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (218)

Michael McGrath

Question:

218. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 300 and 301 of 26 March 2019 and in the context of the review processes referred to, his plans to hold a separate review for developing schools in May or June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16498/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that a process is being put in place to update the allocations of special education teacher support for schools, in circumstances where the school profile significantly changes following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increase.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedules 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. In many cases, the full projected enrolments do not always manifest.

The process therefore cannot take place in May or June 2019, but must wait until the enrolment data for the new school year has been finalised, from September 2019.