International Terrorism

Questions (45)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

45. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to change the travel status to Sri Lanka in view of violence in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The attacks in the Sri Lankan cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on Easter Sunday resulted in the deaths of over 250 people and injured hundreds more. I wish to record my strong condemnation of these atrocities, and to extend my sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of those injured and killed.

Following the attacks on 21 April my Department updated its travel advice for Sri Lanka to advise Irish citizens to follow the instructions and advice of local authorities and stay indoors where possible, as well as to warn that travel restrictions and curfews were in place across the island. This advice was further updated in the following days as more details of the attacks emerged, and to reflect that a State of Emergency was declared on 23 April. On 25 April my Department changed the Security Status for Sri Lanka to “Avoid non-essential travel”. This is the second most severe travel warning my Department issues and was in response to the ongoing volatile security situation in the country.

My Department continually reviews its travel advice based on the reports from Irish missions, local contacts, EU partners and a wide range of other sources.

Help-To-Buy Scheme

Questions (46)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

46. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance his plans to continue with the help-to-buy scheme beyond 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20173/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Help to Buy incentive (HTB) is scheduled to expire on 31 December 2019. This is provided for in Section 477C of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

As is normal, the role and operation of the incentive will be examined in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill process. It would be premature at this point to anticipate the outcome of that examination.

Tax Reliefs Availability

Questions (47)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

47. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 16 April 2019, his views on a matter (details supplied). [20283/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that where consanguinity relief is not available, the full amount of stamp duty relieved under the ‘young trained farmer’ relief counts towards the amount of State aid that may be granted in the context of the application of Article 18 of the EU Agricultural Block Exemption Regulations. That article imposes a €70,000 ceiling on the amount of State aid that may be granted to an individual farmer. Accordingly, in the situation outlined by the Deputy, the full amount of the €60,000 stamp duty chargeable on the open market purchase of farmland is relieved under the ‘young trained farmer relief’, which means in effect that €60,000 State aid has been granted.

I would again stress two points I made in my reply to your previous PQ on this matter.

Firstly, supporting young farmers and generational renewal continues to be a priority for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as it is for the Government, and will form an important part of the CAP post-2020. Minister Creed and his Department are actively engaging with other Member States and the EU on these issues during the current negotiations on new CAP proposals.

Secondly, any changes to the Regulation that gives rise to the lifetime cap on the state aid that farmers can receive under the three schemes covered by it in Ireland can only be considered in the context of the CAP negotiations. In the meantime, the Government must seek to ensure, as with all EU Regulations, that the Regulation is enforced here, or we risk being in contravention of EU law.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (48)

Robert Troy

Question:

48. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of plans to implement recommendations made by the Labour Court in terms of enhanced redundancy and pension entitlements for community employment supervisors. [20256/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent. The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives. The implications arising from this claim extend beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

The Forum met in the period subsequent to the conduct of the scoping exercise where relevant matters in respect of this issue were discussed in comprehensive detail with the members of the Forum. These discussions provided a clear understanding to each of the parties of their respective positions in relation to this matter and in this context the formal engagement process between the parties was accordingly concluded on this basis.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Questions (49)

Peter Burke

Question:

49. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has issued the report on the public servants forced to retire between 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 due to reaching 65 years of age as per Part 3, section 6 of the Act; if appropriate remedies to assist this cohort have been found; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20265/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

On 5 December 2017, the Government made the decision to increase the compulsory retirement age to 70, for public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004. Primary legislation was necessary in order to bring that change into effect. It was made clear at the time that until such legislation was enacted, the compulsory retirement age of 65, which applied to the vast majority of this cohort, remained in effect and pre-2004 public servants reaching that age would be required to retire.

Interim arrangements were provided for the cohort of public servants who reached their compulsory retirement age of 65 after the Government Decision because, while they would be aware of the Government’s decision, they would be unable to avail of it. Those arrangements permitted these individuals to be rehired post-retirement for a period of 1 year until they reached the age of eligibility for the State Pension (Contributory). Without that specific arrangement, they would have been required to cease working on reaching the age of 65.

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 was enacted on 26 December 2018. Under the Act, any relevant public servant who had not already reached their compulsory retirement age of 65 before that date has a new compulsory retirement age of 70. Enactment of the legislation had no effect on those public servants who retired at 65 prior to the 26 December 2018 and who availed of a one year contract under the interim arrangements. The terms of their contracts continue to apply and they will cease working when they reach the age of 66.

Section 3 of the 2018 Act also provides that I, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, within three months of the passing of the Act, would prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the public servants who were forced to retire between 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Act, due to reaching the age of 65 years, and on potential remedies to assist this cohort of worker. This Report was laid before the Oireachtas on 26 March 2019 and is publicly available on the www.gov.ie website and in the Oireachtas Library online catalogue.

Having considered all of the issues outlined in the Report, I am satisfied that the interim arrangements were an appropriate temporary policy response at the time of the Government Decision, pending enactment of the legislation. The terms of those arrangements were clear, unambiguous and made known to those who availed of them. Accordingly, for the reasons set out in the report, I do not propose to make any changes to those terms.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (50, 53)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

50. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will address concerns raised in correspondence (details suppled) on the proposed industrial action by community employment supervisors; if he will engage with unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20194/19]

View answer

John Brassil

Question:

53. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will arrange a meeting as requested by a union (details supplied) to discuss the implementation of a pension scheme for community employment supervisors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20238/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 53 together.

This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent. The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives. The implications arising from this claim extend beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

The Forum met in the period subsequent to the conduct of the scoping exercise where relevant matters in respect of this issue were discussed in comprehensive detail with the members of the Forum. These discussions provided a clear understanding to each of the parties of their respective positions in relation to this matter and in this context the formal engagement process between the parties was accordingly concluded on this basis.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (51)

Catherine Martin

Question:

51. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for full restoration of public service pensions before 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20198/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 sets out a specific schedule of measures and dates in respect of deductions made under the FEMPI Acts including provisions in respect of the implementation of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 (PSSA). This scheduled further lessening of the PSPR impact on pensions means that from 1 January 2019 all pensions up to €39,000 per annum will be exempt from PSPR, removing some 12,000 pensioners from the impact of PSPR.

From 1 January 2020, further PSPR-amelioration will mean that all pensions up to €54,000 per annum will be exempt from PSPR, removing some 10,500 additional pensioners from the impact of PSPR.

When fully in place from the beginning of 2020, these changes will mean that the vast majority of public service retirees - approximately 97% - comprising everyone with occupational pension values up to at least €54,000, will be entirely free of PSPR. For those who retired since end-February 2012 that threshold will be even higher at €60,000.

Section 26 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act, 2017 requires the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to make an order, no later than 31 December 2020, setting a date for the complete elimination of PSPR from all public service pensions.

This approach can be seen in the context that restoration of the public service pension reductions has proceeded at a faster pace than has applied to the FEMPI pay measures.

This implies that only those pensions whose associated contemporary salaries are, at a minimum, €108,000 (or €120,000 for the post-February 2012 retiree group), will bear any PSPR impact beyond the end of 2020. I can assure the Deputy that the timetable set out in the Act will be complied with.

Public Sector Pensions

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 50.

Questions (52)

Catherine Martin

Question:

52. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to provide increases in public service pensions of €12,000 or less; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20199/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In order to address the question, I would first advise the Deputy of the existing pension increase policies in place for public service pensions.

The current pension increase policy applying to pensions awarded under pre-existing public service pension schemes (i.e. excluding the Single Pension Scheme) was agreed as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 (PSSA). This policy is essentially a time-limited (expires end-2020) resumption of the non-statutory pension increase arrangements, sometimes known as pay parity, which formerly prevailed, but which lapsed in 2010. Under that policy, pay increases applied to serving staff over the course of the PSSA are passed on to those pensions where the salary on which the pension is based, in any case, does not exceed the salary of a serving staff member with the same grade and scale point, after the pay increase has been applied. If it qualifies, the pension is eligible for an increase to the extent that this will ensure alignment with the pay of serving staff.

As regards pensions payable under the Single Pension Scheme, the pension scheme introduced for new entrants to the public service from 2013 onwards, the relevant legislation provides that pensions are uprated in line with CPI increases.

I have no plans to provide increases in public service pensions of €12,000 or less other than in accordance with the policies I have outlined.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 50.

Budget Measures

Questions (54)

Barry Cowen

Question:

54. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the ministerial gross expenditure ceilings as originally budgeted for, that is, ceiling for 2018 according to the budget 2016 expenditure report for each year since expenditure ceilings were established by gross capital and gross current expenditure; the actual ministerial gross expenditure for each of these years including 2018 by gross capital and gross current expenditure in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20264/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Set out below are the gross voted current, capital and total expenditure ceilings for the period 2014 to 2018 published in the Expenditure Reports for Budgets 2014 to 2018. Also included in the Table is the actual outturn for each year. These ceilings are agreed by Government and set on a nominal gross expenditure basis and are restated to reflect any technical or policy adjustments.

Over the last number of years for example, adjustments have reflected current expenditure increases for the Health sector and other areas; technical changes to funding arrangements for Irish Water; additional capital investment; and new funds under the National Development Plan.

Following a period of significant expenditure consolidation, the overall fiscal context needs to be considered when reviewing the movements in the expenditure ceilings. While, for example, Budget 2014 set out an expenditure ceiling of €51.9 billion for 2016 and a General Government deficit of 2.4% of GDP, the actual expenditure of €56 billion could be accommodated while delivering a General Government deficit of c. 0.7% of GDP. Budgets 2017 and 2018 reflect adjustments including the allocation of additional funding for capital investment and budgetary decisions to prioritise additional spending supported by discretionary revenue measures.

Table 1: Multi-Annual Gross Voted Current Expenditure Ceilings Budget 2014 - 2018 (€m)

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Budget 2014

49,606

48,250

48,600

-

-

Budget 2015

-

50,077

50,296

50,362

-

Budget 2016

-

-

51,477

52,197

52,813

Budget 2017

-

-

-

53,494

54,720

Budget 2018

-

-

-

-

55,593

Outturn

50,501

50,864

51,775

54,019

57,052

Table 2: Multi-Annual Gross Voted Capital Expenditure Ceilings Budget 2014 - 2018 (€m)

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Budget 2014

3,335

3,252

3,255

-

-

Budget 2015

-

3,549

3,600

3,748

-

Budget 2016

-

-

3,781

3,970

4,230

Budget 2017

-

-

-

4,535

5,292

Budget 2018

-

-

-

-

5,330

Outturn

3,597

3,730

4,212

4,601

5,928

Table 3: Multi-Annual Total Gross Voted Expenditure Ceilings Budget 2014 - 2018 (€m)

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Budget 2014

52,941

51,502

51,855

-

-

Budget 2015

-

53,626

53,896

54,110

-

Budget 2016

-

-

55,258

56,167

57,043

Budget 2017

-

-

-

58,029

60,012

Budget 2018

-

-

-

0

60,923

Outturn

54,098

54,594

55,987

58,620

62,979

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (55)

Jack Chambers

Question:

55. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeline for the new secondary school for west Blanchardstown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20177/19]

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), including a new 800 pupil post-primary school (to be established in 2020) to serve the Blanchardstown_West_Dublin15 and BlanchardstownVge_Dublin15 school planning areas as a regional solution.

This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG submits a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.

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

The patronage process for primary and post-primary schools to be established in 2020 will commence in 2019, significantly ahead of their due opening. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website and my Department’s website (www.education.ie).

My Department has identified potential locations for the school and is currently working to undertake a detailed assessment of these. It is not, unfortunately, possible to give an indicative timeline for the delivery of the new school at this point. Once the location has been determined, the project to deliver the school accommodation can advance into the architectural planning process.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (56)

James Lawless

Question:

56. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for new secondary school provision in Kill, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20182/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date data on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development, including additional residential developments arising from the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF).

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

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

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

In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future.

While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school in the Naas school planning area, within which Kill is located, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

It is open to an individual school to apply for accommodation under the additional accommodation scheme if the school does not have sufficient capacity to meet school places.

Teacher Recruitment

Questions (57)

Jack Chambers

Question:

57. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the incentives or entitlements in place or being considered to encourage Irish-trained teachers who emigrated to return to live and work here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20186/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Management bodies and schools have, in recent years, reported difficulties in recruiting teachers. At primary level this relates mainly to the recruitment of substitute teachers and at post primary to the recruitment of teachers of particular subjects such as STEM, modern foreign languages, Irish and Home Economics.

In response to these difficulties, the Teacher Supply Steering Group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, was established in March 2018.

The Steering Group is considering the issues that relate to teacher supply under four policy headings: initial teacher education policy, provision, funding and support; data/research requirements; policies and arrangements for schools and teachers that impact on teacher mobility/supply; and promotion of the teaching profession. It is supported in its work by the Teacher Supply Implementation Group and a number of working groups that are looking at specific policy areas. In undertaking its task, the Steering Group is cognisant of the requirement that all persons wishing to teach in recognised schools must meet the professional registration standards and criteria set by the Teaching Council, which is the professional regulatory body for the teaching profession.

The Steering Group is overseeing the Action Plan for Teacher Supply, which I published in November 2018. Several of the actions are aimed at supporting Irish teachers who are considering returning to Ireland to take up teaching positions, including:

- The commencement of a new teacher sharing scheme for post-primary schools in the 2019/20 school year, as set out in my Department’s Circular 0015/2019. This scheme will support young teachers in obtaining full time employment and enhance curricular choices in post primary schools.

- The development of an online teacher recruitment portal is being explored.

- The use of digital technology by schools to facilitate interviewing applicants, for teaching posts, is also being explored, particularly in the case of qualified applicants resident outside the State.

- The Teaching Council is developing more streamlined processes for the registration of teachers, including those originally from Ireland, who qualified in jurisdictions outside the State.

- In December 2018, a national campaign to promote the teaching profession was launched across a number of platforms, including radio and digital media, supported by a new dedicated webpage www.gov.ie/teachingtransforms. This website provides useful information about teaching as a career in Ireland.

With regard to salary on return from teaching abroad, the position is that qualified teachers who work in schools outside the State may, on appointment to a teaching post in a recognised school in the Republic of Ireland, qualify for the award of incremental credit for the purposes of progression on the incremental salary scale under the terms of the schemes as outlined in my Department’s circulars 10/01, 29/07 and 29/10.

The Deputy may wish to note that I intend to visit the United Arab Emirates in the coming months to meet with Irish teachers working there to ascertain how they can be best supported to return to Ireland to work as teachers here. I have been working closely with the Irish Ambassador to the UAE and his staff to arrange to meet as many Irish teachers in the area as possible so as to hear their concerns.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (58)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

58. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on an application form in respect of a student (details supplied) in County Donegal under the assistive technology scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20189/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology/specialised equipment is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support, which is set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013. In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology scheme, a student must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the student to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.

Due to obligations under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was introduced in May 2018 a new version of the Assistive Technology application form was created. This was necessitated by the sensitive nature of personal data submitted by schools along with applications. The NCSE was informed that with effect from 1st December 2018, the older version of the application form would be returned.

On 17th January 2019 my Department received an application for Assistive Technology in respect of the child in question, however this form was returned to the SENO, to have the school resubmit a new version of the application form in order to comply with GDPR guidelines. To date the new version of the form has not been received in my Department in respect of the child in question.

The NCSE has confirmed that the new application form has been received from the school, and the NCSE is recommending the approval of equipment for the child. The application form is being forwarded to my Department this week.

On receipt of the new version of the Assistive Technology form in respect of the child in question, the application will be processed and the school notified of the decision.

Clár Foghlamtha Comhtháite Ábhar agus Teangacha

Questions (59, 60, 61)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

59. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cad iad sonraí na réamhscoileanna, na mbunscoileanna agus na n-iar-bhunscoileanna, go háirithe ainm, áit agus uimhir na scoileanna sin, a bheidh ag glacadh páirt sa Chlár Foghlamtha Comhtháite Ábhar agus Teangacha le linn scoilbhliain 2019/2020; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [20190/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

60. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cad é líon na múinteoirí i ngach scoil atá ag glacadh páirt sa Chlár Foghlamtha Comhtháite Ábhar agus Teangacha le linn scoilbhliain 2019/2020 agus atá cáilithe chun ábhair eile, seachas an Ghaeilge, a mhúineadh trí mheán na Gaeilge sna scoileanna sin; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [20191/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

61. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cad é líon na ndaltaí a ghlacfaidh páirt sa Chlár Foghlamtha Comhtháite Ábhar agus Teangacha le linn scoilbhliain 2019/2020 agus cad iad na ranganna/blianta scoile lena mbaineann siad de réir scoile i bhfoirm tábla; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [20192/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimhir 59, 60 agus 61 le chéile.

D’fhógair mé treoirthionscadal trí bliana bunaithe ar an bhFoghlaim Chomhtháite Ábhar agus Teangacha (FCÁT) mar chur chuige i dtaca le foghlaim na Gaeilge agus Nuatheangacha Iasachta an 23 AIbreán.

Beidh an treoirthionscadal á mhaoirsiú ag Grúpa Stiúrtha ar bhfuil ionadaithe ó na hInstitiúidí Ardoideachais, COGG, CNCM agus an Chigireacht chomh maith le hoifigigh eile ón Roinn.

Déanfar an treoirthionscadal seo a fhorbairt ina dhá chéim i gcás na Gaeilge. Samhlaítear go dtabharfar cuireadh do 10 scoil a fheidhmíonn trí mheán an Bhéarla (5 bhunscoil agus 5 iar-bhunscoil) agus 2 shuíomh Luathbhlianta páirt a ghlacadh le linn na scoilbhliana 2019/20. Samhlaítear go mbeidh 10 n-iar-bhunscoil breise páirteach i dtreoirthionscadal FCÁT comhthreomhar do Theangacha Iasachta. Tá sé beartaithe go méadófar ar líon na scoileanna agus suíomhanna Luathbhlianta rannpháirteacha de réir mar a théann an treoirthionscadal ar aghaidh. Tacóidh an tonscadal le múineadh na Gaeilge trí ábhair eile, an corpoideachas san áireamh.

Tá sé ar intinn ag an Roinn seisiún eolais a eagrú sna seachtainí seo atá romhainn do pháirtithe leasmhara chun tuilleadh a mhíniú faoin tionscadal agus ina dhiaidh sin tabharfar cuireadh do scoileanna agus suíomhanna Luathbhlianta páirt a ghlacadh.

English Translation:

I announced a three-year pilot project based on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) as an approach to learning Irish and Modern Foreign Languages on the 23rd April. This pilot project will be overseen by a Steering Group which includes representatives from the Higher Education Institutions, COGG, the NCCA and the Inspectorate as well as other officials from the Department. This pilot project will be developed over two phases in the case of Irish. It is expected that 10 English-medium schools (5 primary and 5 post-primary) and 2 Early Years settings will be invited to participate during the 2019/20 school year. An additional 10 post-primary schools are expected to participate in a parallel CLIL pilot project for Foreign Languages. It is planned that the number of participating schools and Early Years settings will be increased as the pilot progresses. The project will support the teaching of Irish through other subjects including PE.

The Department plans to hold an information session in the coming weeks for interested parties to explain more about the project after which schools and Early Years settings will be invited to participate.

School Staff

Questions (62, 63)

Eugene Murphy

Question:

62. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an appeal with the Primary Staffing Appeals Board in respect of a school (details supplied) which is requesting the retention of its third mainstream classroom teacher in September 2019 due to extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20206/19]

View answer

Eugene Murphy

Question:

63. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) retains its third mainstream classroom teacher in September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20211/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.

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

The Small Schools appeal criterion allows schools with 4 teachers or less to appeal on the basis of projected enrolment for the coming September. In the case of the school referred to by the Deputy, a projected enrolment of 51 for September 2019 is required to fulfil the appeal criteria. The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal to the March meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board but as the school projects an enrolment less than 51, the appeal was deemed ineligible.

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

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (64)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

64. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a contract has been signed for the site for the new school building for a school (details supplied); and the new timeline for the commencement and delivery of the building. [20214/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for this school is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been obtained.

Authorisation to recommence the pre-qualification process has recently been issued to the Design Team and school. The notice was published on the etenders platform on 26th April with responses due back on 27th May 2019.

When the pre-qualification process for the main contract and reserved specialists contracts is complete, the project will then be progressed to tender stage.

Regarding the site acquisition, legal representatives for both parties are working together with a view to concluding the conveyancing. There continues to be progress on foot of close and intense engagement from all parties. All parties continue the work to ensure the acquisition completes at the earliest possible date and at this point it is not anticipated that the completion of conveyancing will impact on the timelines for delivery of the building project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (65)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

65. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a site has been considered for the new second-level school for south County Kildare; if negotiations have begun with the Department of Defence; the details of correspondence on same; and the number of meetings that have taken place between the KWETB and Educate Together. [20215/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

A new site will be required for the new school and my Department has commenced the site identification process . 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.

Some initial engagement has taken place in relation to the potential for Educate Together to become a Trustee Partner for the school in a similar arrangement to those implemented elsewhere (e.g. Clonturk Community College with City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) as patron of the school and Educate Together as a Trustee Partner). The Department is satisfied that the needs of the area can be met through the expansion of this multi-denominational post-primary school.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (66)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

66. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the proposed new primary school in Kanturk, County Cork; when the project will progress to the construction stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20217/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that the project to which he refers is devolved to the OPW for delivery.

I can confirm that the enabling works, involving the re-routing and under-grounding of ESB cables, is expected to be completed in May 2019.

I can further confirm that a planning application for PV panels was lodged with Cork County Council on the 4th December 2018 and full planning permission in that respect was finalised on the 3rd March 2019.

Furthermore, a list of Main Contractors and Reserved Specialists has been established following pre-qualification processes and work on Tender documents is progressing. It is now expected that tenders will issue in the next four to six weeks.

On completion of the tender process, the project will move into the construction stage.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (67)

Eugene Murphy

Question:

67. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to address the various issues which special needs assistants are experiencing nationally in terms of job security, hours of work, contractual inequalities and SNA staffing levels in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20222/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually, taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school. The number of SNAs employed in a school depends on the allocation given to the school by the NCSE, based on its assessment of the special educational needs of pupils in the school.

My Department has no control over the allocation process to schools and is not in a position to influence the allocation process in light of the fact that the NCSE is an independent statutory body. In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource and allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

In respect of job security, the supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) were established on foot of proposals brought forward by the Labour Relations Commission when the Haddington Road Agreement was being agreed. These supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs continue to operate under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020 , and both unions representing SNAs, namely SIPTU and FÓRSA, have signed up to that agreement. As set out in the LRC proposals, the supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs only apply to current SNAs who are notified that they are to be made redundant. Accordingly, the purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school / ETB. Once an SNA with a minimum of one year's service (service in a substitute capacity i.e. covering for maternity leave, sick leave, career breaks, job-sharing etc. does not count) is notified by his/her employer that s/he is to be made redundant then s/he shall be deemed to be a member of a supplementary assignment panel for SNAs. The detailed supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2018/2019 school year are set out in Departmental Circular 0034/2018 which issued on 17 May 2017 and which is available on the Department's website at the following address:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0034_2018.pdf The operation of this panel is described and outlined in Circular 0034/2018 and it is designed to be as flexible as possible which enables all eligible SNAs, who have the requisite Panel Form 1 completed by their former employer, to apply for any SNA position that is advertised by a school or an ETB with no sectorial, diocesan or geographical limitations imposed. Every eligible SNA will remain on the panel for two years with a view to getting further employment. If they are not successful over that period of time in obtaining a further SNA position then they will be eligible for a redundancy payment. Furthermore, an SNA may opt out of this supplementary assignment panel at any point in time triggering the processing of his/her redundancy payment in line with the terms set out in the SNA redundancy scheme (DES Circular 58/06) or any revision of same that is applicable at that time.

With regard to the contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs, this is outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (IMPACT and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005. The agreement reached between the parties found expression in the two circular letters issued in 2005 detailing the contracts of employment for SNAs.

Links to the SNA Contracts of Employment are as follows: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary)

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf

Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 15/05 (Primary)

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Popular-forms/SNA-15-05-Contract-Form.pdf

The contracts were designed to be deliberately flexible to cater for the totally different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools, including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school, in order to help with the reception and dispersal of children, and the preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times should be agreed locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours. I should point out that this divisor was also agreed with both the Management Authorities and the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) that represent SNAs.

Furthermore, the contract of employment for SNAs in the post primary sector specifically requires that SNAs in the post primary sector are required to work the month of June.

In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. Accordingly, DES Circular 71/2011 was issued on 15 December 2011 which outlined that these 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.

Link to DES Circular 71/2011 is as follows:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0071_2011.pdf

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (68)

Eugene Murphy

Question:

68. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria or guidelines issued to schools for the tasks assigned and use of the bank of SNA hours allocated to a school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20223/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

All Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. Accordingly, DES Circular 71/2011 was issued on 15 December 2011 which outlined that these 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.

The scope of this circular is for all SNAs employed in recognised Primary, Secondary, Community and Comprehensive Schools and by ETBs. It doesn’t make any distinctions between any SNAs (whether standard or cover posts), except to provide for part-time SNAs only doing pro-rata Croke Park hours (i.e. percentage of the total 72-hours commitment).

While my Department published the Circular 71/2011 concerning Croke Park Hours for SNAs (a link to which is provided below), it does not get involved in the local management of how schools (as the employers) arrange the delivery of the hours from their staff (including SNAs). However, point 9 of Appendix 1 of this circular does provide possible examples (not an exhaustive listing) of the type of work that maybe undertaken by SNA’s to meet their Croke Park hourly obligations.

Link to DES Circular 71/2011 is as follows:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0071_2011.pdf

School Transport

Questions (69)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

69. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a post-primary school bus service will be provided to the residents of a village (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20239/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In general children are eligible for school transport if they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/20 school year.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that the children from the area referred to by the Deputy are not eligible for school transport to the Post Primary Centre referred to as this is not their nearest Post Primary Centre.

The number and size of buses operating for the 2019/20 school year will be determined by the number of children who apply and are deemed eligible for school transport.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. In this regard families should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of transport on a concessionary basis for the next school year.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.