National Educational Psychological Service

Questions (249, 251)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

249. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish a national school-based counselling initiative to support the existing structures available in schools and which would be beneficial to students if increased mental health supports were provided in the school environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18388/19]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

251. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for a national school based counselling programme; his plans to supply each school with access to an on-call counsellor or psychotherapist to ensure children and young persons have regular access to mental health services outside of the intervention services provided by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18417/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 251 together.

The Department does not currently have plans for a national school-based counselling programme at primary-school level. NEPS provides consultation for school staff who may have concerns about individual pupils or students. NEPS supports schools in putting interventions in place for individuals with clearly identified and serious difficulties. Consultation in relation to appropriate therapeutic interventions delivered in the school setting is also available. When counselling is considered to be required a referral is made to an outside agency. Schools are advised to have identified appropriate referral pathways in consultation with HSE and other mental health services in their local community. NEPS helps schools in the process of making referrals to external agencies as appropriate for students who require more specialised interventions. NEPS Guidelines for Schools on Responding to Critical Incidents provide advice for schools in handling critical incidents and also advises about prevention and early intervention strategies for students at risk.

The Department of Education and Skills promotes a comprehensive and whole-school approach to the promotion of wellbeing and positive mental health focusing on the entire school community, as well as groups and individual young people with identified need.

As Minister for Education and Skills, I attended the annual conference of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) in Letterkenny last month. I am keenly aware of the issues and challenges facing young people today and the valuable role played by the school guidance counselling service as an integral part of the school’s pastoral care and student support structures to promote student wellbeing at whole-school level. It is important to acknowledge the key role, supports and advice provided by NEPS in this regard.

Every post-primary school is required to publish a whole-school guidance plan in which the school outlines how students can be supported.

Well-being in Primary and Post-Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion (2015) provide a Framework for all schools, including primary schools, to present in an integrated way the existing elements of good practice to promote social and emotional learning, and mental health and direct then to appropriate practice. They provide clear information for schools and for agencies supporting schools on how to address issues of social emotional learning and mental health promotion. The European-wide HSE supported, Health Promoting School Process (HSP) is also outlined, and the Well-being Guidelines show how the HSP can be introduced to schools to complement existing good practice. The Guidelines outline how schools support young people through early intervention and prevention, modelled on the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) Continuum of Support tiered approach.

Wellbeing spans the curriculum in schools, whole-school ethos, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, student support and the provision of professional development for teachers. It also involves other supports such as educational psychological services and guidance and counselling services, and the interface with other agencies, both nationally and locally. Each school receives an allocation in respect of Guidance Provision. It is calculated by reference to the approved enrolment, including PLC students as set out in Department Circular 14/2019. The Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 has a specific action to enhance guidance counselling at second-level as resources permit and to date 500 of the 600 guidance posts that were withdrawn in Budget 2012, were restored to schools from September 2018. These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school.

The Department has committed considerable resources towards the restoration of guidance counselling hours to post-primary schools, to the provision of CPD for guidance counsellors and to the provision of a national guidance counselling supervision service for post-primary guidance counsellors.

Schools Building Projects Status

Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 249.

Questions (250)

Martin Heydon

Question:

250. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of progress on a new build for a school (details supplied) since the announcement in December 2018. [18412/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a new site will be required for the school in question and my Department has commenced the site identification process in relation to same. In line with protocols for the use of State property assets, my Department has written to the Department of Defence enquiring if the Department is in a position to provide a site that could be suitable. 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 is making every effort to progress the matter.

Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 249.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (252)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

252. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be granted to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18425/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently in architectural planning. 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, tendering and construction in the shortest possible timeframe.

The design is being progressed in preparation for the planning application which will be the next key step in the progression of the project. It is intended that Planning Permission will be lodged in the second quarter of 2019.

School Accommodation

Questions (253)

Catherine Martin

Question:

253. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made on the commitment to increase the capacity by five classrooms of a school (details supplied); the timeline for completion of the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18439/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that an application for capital funding, under my Department's Additional School Accommodation Scheme (ASA), has been received from the school in question.

Officials from my Department have been liaising with the school authority and are awaiting further information.  On receipt of this information the application will be given further consideration and the school authority will be informed directly. As an interim measure, approval to proceed with the provision of temporary accommodation has been devolved to the school authority in order to cater for the school's immediate accommodation needs.

School Expulsions

Questions (254)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

254. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken in 2019 to investigate the prevalence of exclusion of pupils from schools for behavioural reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18445/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The issue of the expulsion of pupils from schools is dealt with in the context of Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools which can be accessed at the following link: https://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/guidelines_school_codes_eng.pdf.

As the Deputy will note, there are very specific procedures to be followed by schools where the expulsion of a pupil becomes an issue. One of the requirements is that the school should notify the Education Welfare Officer.

Each recognised school in the State is obliged to submit a report to the Educational Welfare Services, Child and Family Agency, on the levels of attendance at the end of each academic year. Schools are required to provide the following data in the annual attendance report:

- Total number of days lost through student absence in the entire school year.

- Total number of students who were absent for 20 days or more during the school year.

- Total number of students expelled in respect of whom all appeal processes have been exhausted or not availed of during the school year.

- Total number of students who were suspended for any number of days during the school year.

Where the matter cannot be resolved at school level in conjunction with the Education Welfare Officer, Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 allows an appeal to made to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills in respect of a decision by a Board of management or a person acting on behalf of the Board of Management to permanently exclude a student from the school.

Appeals are generally heard within a 30 day period from the date that the appeal is admitted.

If the Deputy is referring to the inappropriate use of “reduced timetables”, my Department is working with TUSLA Educational Welfare Service and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to address the issue, with a view to ensuring that the use of reduced timetables is limited to only those circumstances where it is necessary. It is proposed to issue guidelines to schools to clarify the situation and the circumstances where reduced timetables may be considered. My Department has not specifically collated data or investigated the prevalence of this practice; however my Department's Inspectorate does intend to challenge the inappropriate use of reduced timetables in the context of the school inspection process.

The Inspectorate has recently introduced a model of inspection of provision for children with special educational needs in post-primary schools (SEN-PP). As part of this inspection model, inspectors will engage with schools on a range of issues, including the use of reduced timetables. This mirrors the practice that has also been recently introduced for inspections of provision for children with special educational needs in primary schools (SEN-P) where inspectors raise the issue of numbers of children on reduced timetables. Similarly, Inspectors raise this issue when conducting DEIS evaluations.

If parents have concerns about the use by a school of a reduced timetable for their child they can contact their local Educational Welfare Officer, who has statutory responsibility for ensuring that the rights of the child to an education are upheld and will advise them on the most appropriate type of action.

Apprenticeship Data

Questions (255)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

255. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of apprenticeships under way; the number of female apprentices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18446/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

There are 367 female apprentices registered on the 45 apprenticeship programmes currently available.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (256)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

256. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the resolution of an issue that resulted in additional taxes being paid by substitute teachers in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18447/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department issues salary and pension payments to approximately 120,000 payees per fortnight on four payrolls: primary teachers, post primary teachers, non-teaching staff and retired teachers, spouses and children.

The Revenue Commissioners introduced real time PAYE (PAYE modernisation) from 1 January 2019. This was the biggest change to the PAYE system since the 1960s. Under the new system, from 1 January 2019, employers are required to report their employees’ pay and statutory deductions to Revenue for each payroll issue.

The issue that arose in January in relation to the taxation of substitute staff has been resolved and amended RPNs have been applied to the people involved.

Revenue has advised the Department that they have checked and reallocated credits and rate bands to the DES employment where appropriate. They have also advised that there are still substitute payees with zero credits. These payees have other employments and / or taxable income and their tax credits may be allocated to other employments or income streams. Where staff have complex employment circumstances, they should engage individually with Revenue to assign credits to various employments to prevent underpayment of tax during the year.

Technological Universities Status

Questions (257)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

257. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of university status to institutes of technology which have indicated an interest in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18448/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The process for the establishment of additional universities is provided for in Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997. There are currently 8 universities in the State, the most recent being the establishment of Technological University Dublin under the Technological Universities Act 2018 on 1 January 2019. The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 states that there is no case for the establishment of any new universities in Ireland on the basis set out in Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997. The National Strategy also states that smaller, stand-alone institutions such as individual Institutes of Technology (IoTs) lack the scale required to deliver necessary advances in quality and efficiency and recommends consolidation within the IoT sector and a pathway of evolution for consolidated IoTs to allow them to demonstrate significant progress against stated performance criteria and to become multi-campus technological universities (TUs).

Government policy as set out in the Programme for Government is to support the creation of TUs as higher education institutes (HEIs) of sufficient size, capacity and critical mass to have a significant impact at regional, national and international level. These regional HEIs will have greater links to industry and will have an enormous impact on the capacity to create and retain jobs in regions. As such, Government will prioritise those institutions which have clear ambitions and plans for the furthering of industry-relevant technological research and education.

The Government has provided the enabling legislation in the Technological Universities Act 2018 for two or more IoTs to come together to seek TU status. The Technological Universities Act 2018 which was signed into law on 19 March 2018 provides the legal framework underpinning the process for establishment by two or more IoTs as a TU subject to a decision-making process contingent on the meeting of specified eligibility criteria and including assessment by an international advisory panel. The 2018 Act also sets out the functions and governance requirements for these new HEIs. Section 29 of the 2018 Act provides for the application jointly by two or more institutes to the Minister of Education and Skills for an order seeking designation as a TU. Section 38 of the Act provides that an institution and an established TU may also apply to the Minister for such an order.

Government also continues to support those consortia of IoTs seeking to achieve TU status under the legislation in terms of significant Exchequer co-funding, with the latest funding call for a total of €14 million in respect of TU development and other higher education landscape restructuring projects having issued from the Higher Education Authority on 29 March 2019.

The potential benefits of becoming a successful TU are significant in terms of increased reach, international recognition, research capacity building, FDI attraction, skills retention and creation, regional development, enhanced staff and student experience and opportunities and socio-economic progression. The merging of institutes of technology will create institutions of sufficient size, capacity and critical mass to maximise those benefits and attract greater investment.

TUs will be distinguished by a mission and ethos that is aligned and consistent with the current mission and focus of IoTs with an emphasis on programmes at Levels 6 to 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), industry focused research and the development and use of new knowledge through industry-focused research. However, TUs will also offer post-graduate programmes at Levels 9 and 10 on the NFQ.

TUs will help retain talent in the regions by strengthening the offer available to students who will be able to continue to masters and postgraduate level, including PhDs. Larger management and academic teams permitted by the merger of institutions will increase institutional capacity and will facilitate enhanced performance in areas such as winning research funding.

TUs will also be expected to play a pivotal role in facilitating access and progression particularly through relationships with the further education and training sector. The presence of a technological university in a region, with a specific mandate for promoting regional development, will have a transformative effect on local and regional communities. By creating institutions of increased scale and capacity, multi-campus TUs will bring greater social and economic benefits to their regions through a strengthened role in research and innovation and the delivery of a broad range of high quality education and training in each of their campuses.

It is clear from the progress made with existing consortia and from international exemplars that there is very considerable coherence in sectoral and educational offerings that make a single HEI hub both a catalyst and a magnet for regional economic development and employment. The strong regional mission of TUs to support development and innovation is aligned with the objectives of Project Ireland 2040: National Planning Framework. Enhanced HEIs will deliver the skilled and talented people that sustain enterprise and new investments. The National Development Plan 2018 - 2027 cites as a priority the establishment of a clearly prioritised Exchequer-supported higher education building programme including the objective of bolstering the capacity of multi-campus TUs. The current TU development consortia are referenced under Project Ireland 2040 as having a role in deepening the talent pool for distinctive regional clusters and driving research and innovation. TUs will also be well placed to attract increased research funding and to bid for a share of the €4 billion in funding available as part of Project Ireland 2040 over the period 2019 – 2027 under the four broad themes of rural development, urban development, climate action and disruptive technology.

On 1 January 2019 the first TU in the State, Technological University Dublin, which formerly comprised Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght, was established under the Technological Universities Act 2018. With some 28,000 students, Technological University Dublin became the largest HEI in the State.

On 12 February 2019 the Munster Technological University consortium, comprising Cork IT and IT Tralee, submitted an application to the Minister for Education and Skills seeking TU status under the 2018 Act. The relevant legislative procedures under the Act are in train in relation to the assessment and decision- making process in relation to this application.

There are two other consortia of IoTs currently working to develop TU proposals. These are the Technological University for South East Ireland consortium, comprising Waterford IT and IT Carlow, and the Connacht Ulster Alliance, comprising IT Sligo, Galway Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT. These consortia are understood to be working toward the submission of applications for TU designation under the 2018 Act in 2019 and 2020, respectively, though it is a matter for the relevant consortia to lead on the progression of their plans under the 2018 Act subject to their individual circumstances.

Currently four IoTs - Athlone, Dundalk and Limerick - and the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology - have not joined or formed a consortium seeking to develop TU proposals as is their prerogative as autonomous HEIs.

School Patronage

Questions (258)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

258. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a patronage process will be announced for schools to be established in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18449/19]

View answer

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).

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.

An Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) website 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 and their preferred language of instruction. Parental preferences were previously collected based on direct engagement with patron bodies.

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.

The patronage process for the 4 post-primary schools and 12 primary schools to be established in 2019 has been completed. The patronage process for the schools to be established in September 2020, will commence later this year. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website and the Department’s website (www.education.ie).

Third Level Funding

Questions (259)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

259. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the referral of an economic analysis related to third level funding to the European Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18450/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, in order to build a political consensus regarding the future funding of higher education on a fiscally sustainable basis, in July 2016 the then Minister for Education and Skills referred the expert group report on future funding of higher education to the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills. In January 2018 the Committee requested that my Department undertake an economic examination of the three policy options proposed by the expert group to assist the Committee in forming its view of the most appropriate option.

Following the receipt of this request my Department engaged with the European Commission Structural Support Service throughout 2018 to ascertain the scope for the economic evaluation to be carried out with support from the European Commission Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP). The SRSP provides tailor-made support to all EU countries for their institutional, administrative and growth-enhancing reforms to carry out the analysis of the three policy options identified by the Expert Group. A formal application for support under the SRSP was submitted in October 2018 and subsequently approved by the Commission. Officials of my Department are currently working with officials from the European Commission to assist in finalising the detailed terms of reference for the review which is expected to commence shortly thereafter.

Having this evaluation undertaken through the Commission’s SRSP will provide access to the type of independent international expertise and analysis that will be very beneficial to a major evaluation of this nature.

School Funding

Questions (260)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

260. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an analysis has been conducted of the prevalence of voluntary contributions to schools by county; if so, if the analysis will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18451/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Voluntary contributions by parents are permissible provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay and that, in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.

The manner in which voluntary contributions are sought and collected is a matter for school management, however their collection should be such as not to create a situation where either parents or pupils could reasonably infer that the contributions take on a compulsory character.

The most effective way to deal with this particular issue is to require all schools to provide full transparency in relation to the use of any voluntary contributions collected. It is intended that the Parent and Student Charter will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.

School Transport

Questions (261)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

261. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the decision to have an age limit of 70 years of age for taxi drivers transporting special needs children to school under the school transport scheme was arrived at; and the Department responsible for the decision (details supplied). [18477/19]

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.

It is Bus Éireann policy that the normal retirement age for all staff is currently 66 years. Bus Éireann part-time school bus drivers and drivers nominated by private operators as school bus drivers may continue to perform this role, subject to completing an annual medical examination up to the retirement age of 70 years.

This criteria is applied to all drivers who provide services as part of the School transport scheme that is operated by Bus Éireann, on behalf of the Department of Education and skills. As this age limit has been examined previously and the retirement age extended to 70 years, there are no plans to extend this limit further at this point in time.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (262)

Alan Kelly

Question:

262. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills when works are due to commence with the installation of the three temporary classrooms and toilet block at a school (details supplied). [18492/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department issued final grant approval for the provision of three temporary classrooms and toilet block in December 2018, to the school in question, as a devolved project.

A devolved project allows individual school authorities the means to address their approved accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives them day to day control of their building project. It is a central tenet of the devolved schemes that responsibility for the management of a project, including cost control, start and completion dates, rests with the school authority.

Autism Support Services

Questions (263, 338, 339)

Seán Fleming

Question:

263. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children with an autism diagnosis that require school placement in preschool settings, mainstream primary schools or ASD units or second-level schools in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18522/19]

View answer

Seán Fleming

Question:

338. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of ASD units; the location of each; the number of students in each of these units in second level schools in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19365/19]

View answer

Seán Fleming

Question:

339. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of ASD units; the location of each; the number of students in each of these units in primary schools in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19366/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263, 338 and 339 together.

My Department does not hold information in relation to the number of children with a recommendation for ASD specific placements.

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 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.

When the NCSE sanction the establishment of a special class or the expansion of special school provision in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.

Special classes for students with ASD provide 6 placements and are staffed with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children.

The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special class provision, is required, it is planned and established to meet that need.

Since 2011, the number of ASD special classes has increased by over 260% from 330 in 2011 to 1,196 across the country now.

There are currently 25 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Laois. Of these, 4 are ASD early intervention classes, 17 are primary ASD classes and 3 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Laois has increased from 4 in 2011/2012 to 24 in 2018/2019 thus providing for 144 places.

The NCSE has sanctioned the establishment of 3 new special classes in Co. Laois to date, this means there will be 28 special classes for the forthcoming school year. Of these, 4 are ASD early intervention classes, 20 primary ASD classes and 3 post primary ASD classes.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie.

As the Deputy's question relates to identified need for specialised placements, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (264)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

264. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18557/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding has been approved for the provision of an additional mainstream classroom, en-suite toilets, a WC for assisted users and a Special Education Teaching room at the school to which the Deputy refers.

The project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority so it is now a matter for the Board of Management to advance the project.

School Accommodation

Questions (265)

John Lahart

Question:

265. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a proposal to house six classes from a secondary school in a nearby Gaelscoil (details supplied); if his Department approved plans for such a move; his views on whether such a move would impact on the ethos of the school; his plans to prevent the move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18584/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials from my Department have been in discussions and ongoing communication with the school patrons of both the Gaelscoil and the secondary school to which the Deputy refers in relation to the matter of sufficient suitable accommodation for all of the schools on the campus for September 2019.

There are two primary schools in permanent buildings on a campus in the area referred to by the Deputy and both will have vacant classrooms in the coming academic year. In order to accommodate the needs of the secondary school for September 2019 which is currently accommodated in one of the primary schools it will be necessary to utilise some available classrooms in both the primary schools.

My Department is very aware of the need to maintain the Gaelscoil ethos around language and will endeavour to ensure that the minimum disruption is caused to the Gaelscoil.

This arrangement is only required for the next academic year 2019/2020 as my Department seeks an alternative site location for the secondary school for September 2020.

With regard to the permanent location for the secondary school, as the Deputy may be aware, agreement in principle was previously reached with a landowner on a site, however, this site has failed to progress through planning permission stage. The Department is now progressing an alternative suitable site. Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage but I can assure you that the acquisition of a suitable site for the school is very active on the programme of site acquisitions and every effort is being made to secure the suitable site for the school as expeditiously as possible.

School Staff Appeals Mechanism

Questions (266)

Catherine Martin

Question:

266. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason an appeal under circular 0019/2019, appendix F(e), criterion E - small schools, by a school (details supplied) in March 2019 regarding staff retention was declined despite the school having the requisite number of pupils; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this DEIS school must now curtail many of its educational programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18596/19]

View answer

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 includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

As part of Budget 2012, the pupil thresholds in ordinary schools with 4 teachers or less were increased. The Small Schools appeal criterion allows such schools to appeal on the basis of projected enrolment for the coming September.

The school referred to by the Deputy is a DEIS Urban Band 1 school and therefore was not affected by the increased pupil teacher ratio in Budget 2012. The school submitted an appeal to the March meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board and the appeal was deemed ineligible under the criteria as set out in Circular 0019/2019.

The school currently has an enrolment of 60 pupils which under the Staffing Schedule for DEIS Urban Band 1 schools warrants a teacher allocation of a Principal plus 2 Mainstream Teachers. The school also has a Special Education Teaching post.

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

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (267)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

267. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of additional primary teaching posts required in order to restore the appointment figure to 48 pupils for the third teacher in a primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18616/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Budget 2012 increased the appointment and retention ratios for small schools, i.e. schools with four classroom teachers or fewer.

Since 2015, measures have been introduced to improve the staffing of these schools which has seen improvements in the appointment and retention thresholds for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th classroom teacher and more favourable enrolment thresholds for one teacher schools situated 8km or more from the nearest school of the same type of patronage and/or language of instruction.

Budget 2017 announced two adjustments in relation to one teacher schools. Where the school is the sole primary school on an island the school will be able to appoint a second teacher. In relation to single teacher schools generally with an enrolment of 15 or more pupils the school can apply to the staffing appeal board for a second post where the single teacher has children across 6 or more class groups.

Small schools have also benefitted from the 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule for all schools implemented in 2016 and again in 2018. For the current school year, the staffing schedule at Primary level operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

In addition, the staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria, including a specific appeal measure for small schools, to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.

The estimated cost of restoring the staffing schedule for small schools to pre-2012 levels would be approximately €3.5 million.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (268)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

268. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 7 March 2019, the status of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18619/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has recently sanctioned capital funding, for the provision of a Special Education Needs Base, at the school in question. The School Authority has been notified accordingly.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (269)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

269. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of allowances previously available to teachers which were removed following a review of allowances during the recession; the estimated annual saving through the reduction of these allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18639/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As a consequence of the economic crisis, there was a need to enact a number of measures to reduce public expenditure so as to stabilise the country's public finances.

The last Government approved a number of measures relating to public service allowances following a public service-wide review of allowances and premium payments conducted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As a result of the Government decision, certain allowances were withdrawn for new beneficiaries with effect from 1 February 2012. The details are set out in my Department's Circular 08/2013.

Any person who was in receipt of the relevant allowances on 31 January 2012 will continue to be paid that allowance except where the teacher ceases that job role or changes school or employer on or after 1 February 2012. Where a teacher is redeployed under the agreed redeployment scheme, this will not be regarded as a cessation.

As part of the public service-wide review of allowances, the Government withdrew all qualification allowances for teachers’ appointed from the 1st February, 2012.

As a result of the September 2016 Agreement with Unions, revised salary scales which include the equivalent of the value of the Honours' Primary Degree allowance have been applied from 1 January 2018 to teachers recruited since 1 January 2011. A registered teacher now commences on an annual salary of over €36,318 under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020. The starting salary for a registered teacher commencing teaching for the first time in October 2020 will be €37,600.

The annual cost of restoring the H.Dip allowance is estimated at €7 million.

In addition to the qualification allowances , another 5 allowances were withdrawn. The estimated annual cost of restoring these allowances to new entry teachers in Primary, Voluntary Secondary and Community and Comprehensive schools would be in the region of €2.5m.

The details provided relate only to teachers paid on payrolls operated by my Department and do not include details applicable to teachers employed by Education and Training Boards.

Autism Support Services

Questions (270)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

270. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if plans for a new primary school at a location (details supplied) include a provision for an ASD unit with another school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18640/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A major building project to provide permanent accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP) Construction Programme. The building will include a Special Educational Needs Base.

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

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (271)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

271. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of special educational needs hours for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18691/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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 re profiling 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 frontloaded 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.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (272)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

272. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be allocated for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18692/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board (MSLETB).

My Department has recently given approval for the project to proceed to Construction Stage. When construction has commenced, the ETB will submit the requisite drawdown requirements to the Building Unit. The relevant officials in my Department, once they are satisfied with same, will release the initial tranche of funding in accordance with the conditions of the approved grant.

Student Grant Scheme Applications Data

Questions (273, 274)

Carol Nolan

Question:

273. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students that failed to qualify for third level SUSI grants in 2017 and 2018 due to their earnings being above the €4,500 limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18704/19]

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Carol Nolan

Question:

274. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students in counties Laois and Offaly that failed to qualify for third level SUSI grants in 2017 and 2018 due to their earnings being above the €4,500 limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18705/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 273 and 274 together.

In the assessment of means, a deduction can be made for “Holiday Earnings” earned by the applicant from employment outside of term time but within the reference period for the assessment of income for student grant purposes.

The value of the Holiday Earnings income disregard was increased from €3,809 to €4,500 under the Student Grant Scheme 2016.

I wish to advise that the awarding authority does not collate information specifically on 'Holiday Earnings' as the assessment of means under the Student Grant Scheme is based on gross income from all sources, with certain social welfare and health service executive payments being exempt. Furthermore, the assessment of an applicant’s eligibility is multifactorial, involving assessment against criteria such as means, nationality, residency, progression and whether or not the course is an approved course.