Oideachas trí Ghaeilge

Questions (30)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

30. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist ag a Roinn go n-íocfar an deontas múineadh trí Ghaeilge agus múineadh go dátheangach de €103 in aghaidh an dalta agus de €84 in aghaidh an dalta le scoileanna chuimsitheacha, le pobal scoileanna agus le scoileanna a thagann faoi na Boird Oideachais agus Traenála chomh maith leis na scoileanna deonacha; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [19836/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The funding arrangements made by the Department for voluntary secondary, comprehensive & community and ETB schools and colleges reflect the different management and ownership arrangements that apply to schools at second level.

Voluntary secondary schools, in the Free Education scheme, which are privately owned and managed, are funded by way of per capita grants.  An additional per capita grant is paid to schools in the voluntary secondary sector in which instruction is through the medium of Irish in full or in part. However, this is not the method of funding that applies to the Community and Comprehensive or the ETB sectors. In the case of the Community and Comprehensive Sector the Department provides funding on a budget basis that is based mainly on pupil numbers, but also takes into account additional factors which vary from school to school such as condition of buildings, size of school etc.

The ETB allocations are made on a budget basis in respect of head office and other costs, including those relating to schools. ETBs are given a high level of autonomy in the management and appropriation of their budgets and each ETB is allowed to distribute its allocations in line with its priorities and perceptions of need. Any funding issues for an individual school have to be managed from within the relevant ETB’s budget.  The Department does not earmark funding allocations for individual schools in the ETB sector.

However, the Deputy is aware of the further improvements announced in the 2019 Budget which will see increased capitation funding for the school sector for the 2019/20 school year and in the non-pay budgets in the ETB sector.

TRANSLATED ANSWER:

Sna socruithe cistiúcháin atá déanta ag an Roinn le haghaidh meánscoileanna deonacha, scoileanna cuimsitheacha agus pobail agus le haghaidh scoileanna agus coláistí na mBord Oideachais agus Oiliúna (BOO) léirítear na socruithe éagsúla bainistíochta agus úinéireachta a bhaineann le scoileanna an dara leibhéil.

Maoinítear meánscoileanna deonacha i scéim an tSaoroideachais, atá faoi úinéireacht agus bhainistíocht phríobháideach, trí dheontais per capita.  Íoctar deontas per capita breise le scoileanna in earnáil na meánscoileanna deonacha ina múintear trí Ghaeilge go hiomlán nó i bpáirt. Ní hé seo an modh maoinithe áfach, a bhaineann le hearnálacha na scoileanna Pobail agus Cuimsitheacha ná le scoileanna na mBord Oideachais agus Oiliúna. I gcás na hEarnála Pobail agus Cuimsithí cuireann an Roinn maoiniú ar fáil ar bhonn buiséid atá bunaithe go príomha ar líon na scoláirí. Lena chois sin glactar san áireamh fachtóirí breise a athraíonn ó scoil go chéile, fachtóirí ar nós bail na bhfoirgneamh, méid na scoile srl.

Déantar leithdháiltí ar na BOO ar bhonn buiséid i ndáil le costais ardoifige agus costais eile lena n-áirítear iad siúd a bhaineann le scoileanna. Tugtar a lán neamhspleáchas do Bhoird Oideachais agus Oiliúna maidir le bainistiú agus leithreasú a gcuid buiséad agus tá cead ag gach BOO a chuid leithdháiltí a dháileadh amach de réir na dtosaíochtaí atá aige agus de réir a chuid riachtanas. Ní mór saincheisteanna maidir le maoiniú i dtaobh scoile ar leith a bhainistiú ó bhuiséad an Bhoid Oideachais agus Oiliúna lena mbaineann.  Ní chuireann an Roinn leithdháiltí maoinithe ar leataobh do scoileanna aonair in earnáil na mBord Oideachais agus Oiliúna.

Tuigeann an Teachtaire Dála áfach go bhfuil tuilleadh feabhsuithe fógartha i mBuiséad 2019 sa mhéid go gcuirfear maoiniú caipitlíocha méadaithe ar fáil don earnáil scoile i gcomhair na scoilbhliana 2019/20 agus sna buiséid neamh-íoc san in earnáil na mBord Oideachais agus Oiliúna.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (31, 32)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

31. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills when applications by schools (details supplied) were made for improvement works and or extensions at the respective schools; the interactions that have taken place between his Department and the respective schools in the intervening period of time; the future actions he plans to take in regard to each of the respective applications; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19410/19]

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Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

32. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding schools (details supplied) which are awaiting sanction for improvement works or extensions; the timeline for the delivery of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19409/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 32 together.

The current positions on the proposed projects for the schools referred to by the Deputy are as follows:

In relation to the first and fourth schools, in question: My Department is finalising the project brief for a capital projects at these schools. This process will be completed shortly and my Department will be in contact with the School Authorities shortly with a view to progressing the projects.

In relation to the Gaelscoil, a building project for this school is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan. The project will be delivered via the ADAPT programme which is an innovative delivery programme first introduced by my Department in 2016. It uses a professional external Project Manager to coordinate and drive the respective design teams on each project. My Department recently wrote to the school to provide an update on the status of the project.

In relation to the third school, my Department is in receipt of an application for capital funding at this school. This application is currently under assessment and my Department has been in recent contact with the School Management Authority with a view to progressing the project.

In relation to the final school, the major building project for this school is currently at Stage 2a (Developed Design). At this stage the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully cost planned and can be prepared to lodge for statutory approvals. On receipt of the Stage 2(a) report a stakeholders meeting will be arranged to which the school will be invited and if there are no issues outstanding after that meeting the project can be authorised to progress to Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design Stage, where statutory approvals are secured and tender documentation is prepared.

Junior Cycle Reform

Questions (33, 40)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

33. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to adjust the optional nature of history for the junior cycle; his views on the findings of the report of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19835/19]

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Thomas Byrne

Question:

40. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the position of history at junior cycle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19841/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 40 together.

In November of last year, I met with officials from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and asked that they undertake a review of the optional nature of History in the Junior Cycle. As part of their review the NCCA has also been asked to identify how we can best promote the study of history in our schools.

The NCCA Council is currently considering the draft report, and following their consideration, I look forward to receiving the advice of the Council on this matter.

I will consider the advice of the Council in detail before making a final decision in this matter.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (34)

John Curran

Question:

34. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to provide additional primary school places for children in Rathcoole, County Dublin, for September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19493/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department approved two temporary classrooms and a Special Education Teaching room for Scoil Chronain National School, Rathcoole in 2018 to provide for additional school places. These additional classes are currently being accommodated in Rathcoole Community Centre pending installation of the temporary classrooms at the school. The responsibility for this installation has been devolved to the Board of Management.

In addition, my Department has recently approved 2 further mainstream classrooms for Scoil Chronain to cater for additional primary school places in Rathcoole for September 2019. The responsibility for the installation of these classrooms has also been devolved to the Board of Management.

With regard to the provision of additional primary school capacity in the area, the Deputy will be aware of the announcement in April 2018 regarding the establishment of 42 new schools, over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This includes the establishment of a new 8 classroom primary school in September 2020 to serve the Newcastle/Rathcoole/Saggart school planning area.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (35)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

35. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of remedial works and the completion of external precautionary measures identified as required at 42 schools built by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19838/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that last October and November my Department carried out initial investigations into 42 schools that were built by the company to which he refers.  He will also be aware that of those schools, 22 required precautionary measures to enable continued safe occupation.  The implementation of these precautionary measures was completed by December 2018.  The safety of pupils and staff has been and remains our first priority.

Following on from the initial investigations, which were based on sample opening up works, my Department initiated a second phase of detailed investigations for the schools on the 18th of January last.  This next phase of the programme is focusing initially on the 22 schools that have precautionary measures in place and at Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, part of which remains closed.

The purpose of these investigations is to determine the type and extent of structural issues in each individual school and, from the technical information gathered by the appointed structural engineers, to design permanent remediation solutions where these are needed. 

In line with the update published in January, detailed structural investigations have now been completed in 19 of the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place and at Ardgillan Community College.  The investigations into the remaining 3 schools with precautionary measures in place will be completed by the middle of May.

In the meantime, significant work has been undertaken by my Department, supported by the National Development Finance Agency and an appointed multi-disciplinary team, to design and plan permanent engineered remediation solutions for each of these 22 schools

An individual work plan for each school will flow from this body of work.  These plans will feed into an overall timetabled programme of remediation works for the schools which will commence during the summer months.    All efforts remain on track to achieve this objective.

When the works programme is available, the details will be first shared at meetings with the Patrons and the schools involved. An overall update will also be published. 

In parallel with this work during the summer months, detailed structural investigations in 17 schools built by the same contractor without precautionary measures in place will also proceed (this number excludes 2 schools originally investigated as they have since moved into purpose built accommodation).   A schedule for those detailed investigations issued to the 17 schools involved and their Patrons last week.  The intention is that any remediation works that may be necessary in these schools will be carried out in 2020.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Principals, staff, parents and pupils again for their patience and co-operation as my Department works its way through this complex process.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (36)

Clare Daly

Question:

36. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to intervene under the provisions of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 to compel schools to make additional provision for the education of children with special needs. [19663/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 was passed by the Oireachtas on 4th July 2018, and was signed into law by the President on the 18th July 2018.

The Act will create a more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy should operate for schools. 

The first stage of commencement on 3rd October 2018 brought a number of sections of the Act into operation including the banning of admission fees and the amendment of the Equal Status Act 2000 to remove, in the case of recognised denominational primary schools, the existing provision that permits such schools to use religion as a selection criterion in school admissions. Under this provision, there will be a protection to ensure that a child of a minority faith, can still access a school of their faith or a similar faith.

Section 8 of the Act, which commenced on the 3rd of December 2018, also provides the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the NCSE, the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs. A number of sections of the Act were commenced in 2018.

Whereas most children, including children with special educational needs, will be able to be enrolled in the school or school placement of their choice there are circumstances where it may be difficult for parents to obtain the school or special class placement of their choice.

The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.75 billion.  We have significantly increased the availability of special classes for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.

Notwithstanding the extent of this additional investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to pressure on school places for children with special needs, it is vital that all children, including those with special educational needs, can access an appropriate and sustainable placement.  

I have been assured that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an independent agency of the Department, is actively engaging with schools, patron bodies, parents, the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services for children with special educational needs to try to ensure that each child has a school placement appropriate to their needs for the 2019/20 school year.

As Minister, my objective is for children, including children with special educational needs, to access education in as inclusive a setting as possible where they will experience a welcoming school environment. 

Following the commencement of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, a power has been created to allow me to compel a school to make additional provision for special education. 

The power has yet to be invoked and I believe it should only be used as a measure of last resort.   

As Minister, I hope that schools, patrons and boards of managements can be encouraged to work together with the NCSE to meet demand in the best interests of the children concerned.

Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for me and my Department.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (37)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

37. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the development of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18845/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the tender process. The school was recently authorised to issue the Letter of Intent to the preferred tenderer.

Subject to no issues arising it is anticipated that construction will commence in the second quarter of 2019, with a construction period of approximately 24 months.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (38)

Clare Daly

Question:

38. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans for school accommodation in west Swords, County Dublin for the 2019/2020 school year; the location of the proposed temporary school; the number of classrooms that will be provided; and the progress that has been made to find a permanent site for a new school. [19252/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced plans in April 2018 for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including two new schools to be established in the Swords school planning area as follows:

A new 8-classroom primary school to serve Swords South to be established in 2019; and

A new 8-classroom primary school to serve the Swords North to be established in 2019.

Both schools will be established to the serve the Swords school planning area which includes the west Swords area.

Both schools will open in September 2019 in suitable interim accommodation with one junior infant class each. Both schools are under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB.

The Swords North primary school will open in temporary accommodation on a site at Mooretown and this will also be its permanent site location.

In relation to the Swords South primary school on the 17 April, 2019, a planning application was submitted to Fingal County Council for development of interim accommodation within the grounds of the existing car park at 85/87 Main Street, Swords and a decision is awaited. 

Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB, as patron of the school, is currently advancing a site acquisition process which had been commenced by my Department in respect of the permanent accommodation for this school.  This process has been assisted by Fingal County Council under the Memorandum of Understanding for the acquisition of school sites.  A preferred site option has been identified and ETB officials are working to progress its potential acquisition.

Digital Strategy for Schools

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 33.

Questions (39)

Willie Penrose

Question:

39. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy in respect of the use of laptops in schools and the cost of laptops to parents particularly during secondary education years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19834/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Decisions regarding the use and deployment of digital technology in schools is a matter for the Board of Management of each school. Where the introduction of digital devices is planned, consultation with members of the school community including parents is advised. The cost and other implications must be fully considered by the Boards of Managements before a decision is made. It is important for schools, in conjunction with parents, to retain local autonomy for decisions on the use of digital technology, including tablet devices, laptops, and learning platforms, and how best to manage their integration into classroom practice reflective of their own context and requirements. In making this decision each school should refer to and reflect on the available information.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers Technology in Education (PDST-TIE) offers advice to schools and have developed an advice sheets on digital technology in education, including on the adoption of Laptops and tablets in schools. The information on their website outlines what these devices can offer schools to support teaching, learning and assessment, and facilitate students' active learning and collaboration. Specific items for consideration including software and hardware requirements, purchasing regulations, are addressed in the support information.

I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by educators and parents, in relation to costs of digital technology, including Laptops, and my Department continues to work to help support schools and families meet these costs. In 2017 a circular letter issued to schools with measures to be adopted to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs. This circular also instructed schools to consult with parents and their school community on the issue of ensuring costs are reasonable for parents, and how to avoid costs acting as a barrier. This circular specified that wherever possible, generic rather than branded items should be specified (e.g. uniform, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment etc.).

My Department has put in place a range of supports for schools, teachers, pupils and parents to ensure development of appropriate policies and to raise awareness around the appropriate use of digital technology including the publication of the circular referred to requiring consultation on the issue of the use of digital devices in schools.

The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, sets out a plan to embed the use of digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment, and affirms that the use of digital technology can enhance the teaching and learning experience. The Strategy recognises that schools require investment in their ICT infrastructure. Funding of €210m has been committed to support the implementation of this strategy with €60m issued to schools over the 2016/17 and 2017/18 school years and a further €45m recently issued to schools in respect of the 2018/19 school year.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 33.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (41)

Joan Burton

Question:

41. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeline for the delivery of a new permanent school building for schools (details supplied); when the new school building will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19831/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.  The project was recently approved to proceed to tender. 

Subject to no issues arising, it is envisaged that construction will commence in the final quarter of 2019, with a construction period of approximately 24 months.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (42)

Clare Daly

Question:

42. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to ensure children with special education requirements who are without a suitable placement for the next school year will be provided with a suitable place. [19662/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I want to assure the Deputy that concerns regarding a shortage of appropriate school places for next September are being taken very seriously. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has been engaging with local groups on this issue directly.

The National Council for Special education (NCSE) has formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

I wrote to the local parents committee on the 26th April and my Department, the NCSE and the Office of An Taoiseach were represented at a meeting with Parents to discuss this issue on the 29th April.

My Department, the NCSE and school patrons are actively engaging to address this issue. As a result of these efforts, three special classes catering for 18 students are on track to open in September 2019.

In addition, the NCSE met with stakeholders, including education providers, in the Dublin 15 area on 30 April and further engagement with the objective of opening further special classes is ongoing. 

If existing schools, including special schools, cannot provide the necessary number of places, then other arrangements will be made following any necessary consultation with parents and schools.  

To this end, I can advise that options are currently being examined and scoped out, in relation to establishing additional special school places to cater for the needs of children in Dublin 15.  My Department officials are engaging with patron bodies including Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board with regard to suitable space which may be made available immediately for the purpose of providing the required placements. 

The NCSE will keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned to advise them of progress and identify placements as they become available.

I have discussed this matter in detail with An Taoiseach and my Department is actively engaged with the NCSE in taking steps to increase the number of suitable places to cater for the needs of children in Dublin 15.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (43)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

43. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on moves to abolish the two-tier pay scales for teachers as reported at the teachers' annual conferences during the last week of April 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19008/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. The starting salary for a new entrant teacher in 2012 was €30,702. As a result of the programme of pay restoration, the starting salary of a teacher is now €36,318 and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692.

Section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that “the Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.”

The report laid before the Oireachtas on foot of this provision by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform assesses the cost of a further change which would provide a two scale point adjustment to new entrants recruited since 2011. The total cost of such an adjustment across the public sector is of the order of €200 million, of which Education accounts for €83 million. The report also acknowledges that, during the financial crisis, there were policy changes which affected remuneration in different occupations across the public sector (including education).

The matter of new entrant pay is a cross sectorial issue, not just an issue for the education sector alone. The Government supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

On 24 September 2018, an agreement was reached between the Government and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay.

This agreement will benefit 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental jumps for new entrants.

I am aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement. These outstanding matters will be given full consideration. This will happen either in the context of any pay review mechanism agreed by the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement, or in the context of the next round of pay talks. The positions of each of the parties on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.

The current series of restorative measures for new entrants have been achieved through continued engagement and collective bargaining between the Government and the public service unions and shows the benefits that such engagement can bring.

Teachers' Remuneration

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 27.

Questions (44)

Joan Burton

Question:

44. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans aimed at reducing the pay gap between teachers recruited pre and post-2011; if there is scope to address the pay inequality under the current pay arrangements; if not, if it will be dealt with in negotiations on a successor to the Public Service Stability Agreement; the timeline for a pay review mechanism; when teachers on lower pay will see an actual benefit to their remuneration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19832/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. The starting salary for a new entrant teacher in 2012 was €30,702. As a result of the programme of pay restoration, the starting salary of a teacher is now €36,318 and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692.

Section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that “the Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.”

The report laid before the Oireachtas on foot of this provision by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform assesses the cost of a further change which would provide a two scale point adjustment to new entrants recruited since 2011. The total cost of such an adjustment across the public sector is of the order of €200 million, of which Education accounts for €83 million. The report also acknowledges that, during the financial crisis, there were policy changes which affected remuneration in different occupations across the public sector (including education).

The matter of new entrant pay is a cross sectorial issue, not just an issue for the education sector alone. The Government supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

On 24 September 2018, an agreement was reached between the Government and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay.

This agreement will benefit 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental jumps for new entrants.

I am aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement. These outstanding matters will be given full consideration. This will happen either in the context of any pay review mechanism agreed by the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement, or in the context of the next round of pay talks. The positions of each of the parties on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.

The current series of restorative measures for new entrants have been achieved through continued engagement and collective bargaining between the Government and the public service unions and shows the benefits that such engagement can bring.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 27.

National Educational Psychological Service

Questions (46)

James Browne

Question:

46. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide psychological and counselling supports for children with mental health issues in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18883/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service 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 and it supports schools in a continuum of support process. 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.

NEPS sanctioned psychologist numbers have grown from a base of 173 whole-time equivalents (w.t.e.) in 2016 through the intervening Budget increases in 2017 and 2018 to 194 w.t.e.

This Government remains firmly committed to the maintenance of a robust and effective educational psychological service. In this connection as part of Budget 2019 the provision of an additional 10 psychologist post to NEPS from next September was announced, bringing overall number to 204 w.t.e to further strengthen the excellent service provided to our school community.

A recruitment competition is currently in train by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to replenish NEPS regional recruitment panels to provide for both current vacancies and upcoming staffing increases for 2019/20.

As the Deputy may be aware my Department launched its Well-being Policy Statement and Framework for Practice 2018-2023 in July 2018. This policy statement provides an overarching structure encompassing existing, ongoing and developing work in the area of well-being, which encompasses social and emotional learning across the curriculum.  It builds on the good work already happening in schools to ensure that best practice in whole-school well-being promotion is embedded across the system. It outlines a multicomponent, whole school preventative approach to the promotion of well-being with interventions at both universal and targeted levels. The interconnectedness of attitudes towards self, and others, positive social behaviour, emotional recognition, stress management, empathy and decision-making/problem-solving skills is recognised.   The power of empathy as a building block of tolerance and inclusion forms part of children and young people’s social and emotional literacy.  The Well-being Policy Statement and Frame work for Practice 2018-19 provides the overarching structure encompassing existing, ongoing and developing work across the school curriculum. 

NEPS provides consultation for school staff who may have concerns about individual students. NEPS supports schools in putting interventions in place for individuals with clearly identified and serious difficulties.  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 does not make provision for therapeutic counselling in schools. When such 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.

Education Policy

Questions (47)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he continues to be engaged with the concept of the publicly funded education programme, with particular reference to the need to ensure that the system continues to produce an adequate number of suitably qualified graduates to meet the challenges and competition of the workplace here and abroad; the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the ability of each stage of the educational system to achieve maximum targets in both the academic and technical spheres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19813/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The tertiary education system has a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure we meet existing and future skills demands in the workplace and equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands, to enhance the level of human capital in Ireland and provide a solid basis for long-term economic sustainability and rising living standards. These strategies include, in particular, the National Skills Strategy 2025 and the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019.

According to an OECD 2017 Report, the employment prospects and expected financial benefits from completing tertiary education in Ireland are higher than in most other European countries, indicating that the education system provides skills that are relevant to the labour market. This finding is supported by the analysis contained in the recent independent impact assessment of Irish universities carried out by Indecon and commissioned by the Irish Universities Association.

In relation to graduate supply, in 2017 there were a total of 48,931 graduates from the Higher Education system. Of this number, a significant proportion were in key skills areas, 2,765 were in ICT, 5,729 in Engineering Manufacturing and Construction and 4,200 in Science and Maths.

The National Employer Survey completed in Q2 2018, has shown that employers are very satisfied with graduate recruits across a range of personal and workplace attributes, including computer and technical literacy, working effectively with others and numeracy/processing numerical data. Overall satisfaction with higher education graduates was 86% and for further education and training graduates overall satisfaction was 84%. The satisfaction with the computer and technology literacy of graduates is very high (88% for Higher Education, 83% for Further Education and Training).

Future Jobs Ireland, which was launched in March 2019 is a new whole-of Government plan to secure Ireland’s economic success. A key element of Future Jobs Ireland is to support business, invest in the development of people and to ensure our education and training system is responsive to enterprise needs.

Technology Skills 2022: Ireland’s Third ICT Skills Action Plan which is a collaborative effort by Government, the higher and further education and training system and industry to meet Ireland’s high level ICT skills needs was recently published. The plan has devised measures that will boost the supply of ICT graduates to meet the ambitious level of demand forecast for the coming years. By 2022, the interventions outlined in this plan aim to deliver up to an additional 5,000 graduates per annum through indigenous supply, with the remainder serviced by inward migration.

In addition, I recently launched the Report of the independent Review of Career Guidance Tools and Information carried out by Indecon International Consultants. The report contains 18 far reaching recommendations which will ensure that my Department is providing high quality, relevant career guidance information to students from post–primary level up to further and higher education.

I am satisfied that these and other important elements of my Departments strategies, developed in collaboration with key stakeholders, will help ensure that we are well prepared to meet our skills needs on an ongoing basis and to support the long-term success of our economy.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (48)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

48. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a development at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19826/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers has been devolved for delivery to Donegal Education and Training Board (DETB).

A meeting took place with DETB and its design team on 12th February last. At this meeting, the Stage 2A submission was presented. A number of design issued were identified with this submission. DETB is liaising closely with officials in my Department to ensure that these issues are addressed as quickly as possible. Permission can be given to progress to the next stage of the project once the Department is satisfied with the solutions proposed by DETB in that respect.