Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (258)

James Browne

Question:

258. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the new school inclusion model; the description of behaviour practitioners that will be employed as part of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21677/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

On 27th March I announced the trialling of the School Inclusion Model – a new model of support for students with special educational and additional care needs.

The School Inclusion Model, supported by €4.75m funding allocated in Budget 2019, aims to build schools’ capacity to include children with additional needs and to provide other supports for pupils.

The achievement of better education and life outcomes for all children including those with special needs is a key element of Government policy. In 2019, over €1.87 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 49% since 2011.

Seventy-five schools, both primary and post-primary, in Kildare, Wicklow and South Dublin have been invited to participate in this new package of education and health supports to be piloted and evaluated in the 2019/20 school year.

One key feature of the School Inclusion Model is the establishment of an enhanced Regional Support Team for schools in the pilot, under the auspices of the National Council for Special Education, which will include behaviour practitioners. This team will complement other services working with schools.

Behaviour practitioners will be experts who understand the emotional and development needs of children and young people. They will work with schools and teachers in the pilot area at both whole school level through the provision of professional development, workshops and seminars and with individual teachers in the classroom where the focus will be on practice.

School Staff

Questions (259)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

259. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills if discretion can be given to a national school in circumstances in which pupil numbers drop below the required amount for a three teacher school for a 12 month period in order to boost the numbers back to the required figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21679/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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.

An appeal mechanism is available to schools such as the one referred to by the Deputy under the Small Schools appeal criterion.

The next meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board will be held in June.  Schools have been notified that the closing date for applications to this meeting is Friday 24th May.

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

Schools Building Projects

Questions (260)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

260. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress in relation to provision of an extension at a school (details supplied); when plans are likely to progress further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21764/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department approved funding for the provision of 2 additional classrooms at the school in question together with a contribution towards a multi-purpose room. 

The school authority has submitted a pre-tender report to the Department and further information has been requested in relation to this documentation.  When the requested information has been reviewed, and if it is in order, the project will then be approved to proceed to tender stage.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (261)

Gino Kenny

Question:

261. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a child (details supplied) with Down syndrome and a mild learning disability has been excluded from availing of the July provision; if this is standard practice; the eligibility criteria for the July provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21801/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's July Provision Grant Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with severe or profound intellectual disabilities and students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which advises me on these matters published its Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism in July 2016 which included a review of the July Scheme.

The review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students. The NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme as currently organised.

These include concerns that the scheme may be inequitable because it is not provided to all students with complex special educational needs.

The Council recommended that the relevant Government Departments consider how an equitable national day activity scheme could be developed for all students with complex special educational needs.

The proposed scheme would provide a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.

There has been consultation with a number of other Departments and State agencies regarding the future direction of the July Education Programme. 

It is expected that the Group will make recommendations shortly concerning a revised scheme which would be implemented next year at the earliest.  Before any changes are made, there will be consultations with stakeholders,

School Curriculum

Questions (262)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

262. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce art therapy (details supplied) as part of the wider primary school curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21812/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

While art therapy is not included in the Primary Curriculum and primary teachers are not trained as art therapists, at a local level some Boards of Management have responded to the needs of individual pupils with additional or special needs by inviting art or music therapists to work with the children under the supervision of class teachers. Such interventions are useful, child-friendly ways of providing support for pupils’ wellbeing. There exists the autonomy in the system for local arrangements such as this to meet the needs of pupils, if it is deemed appropriate by the Board of Management in consultation with parents.

The NCCA is currently reviewing the 1999 Primary Curriculum. Following the publication of a report on the consultation on the structure of the primary curriculum and how time is allocated within it in January 2018, work is now focused on the overview of a redeveloped curriculum. This draft overview will be the focus of further public consultation in Autumn 2019. The development of the overview involves exploring key aspects of a primary curriculum through:

- Working with schools and settings

- Learning from research

- A series of invitational seminars

Members of the public will be invited to contribute to the consultation process and provide their views as to what areas of learning should be included in a future primary curriculum to meet the needs of Irish pupils.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Questions (263, 264)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

263. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason €153 per fortnight is being withheld from a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21823/19]

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Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

264. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) who has applied for retirement due to ill health; the reason this decision is been delayed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21824/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263 and 264 together.

A second application for Ill Health Retirement from the staff member in question was forwarded to the Civil Service Occupational Health Department (CSOHD) earlier this month. All applicants for Ill-Health retirement are assessed by an occupational health physician and my Department is awaiting a decision from the CSOHD on this latest application. I would like to assure the Deputy that my officials will be in touch with the staff member as soon as this decision is received.

Furthermore, officials in my Department are liaising with the National Shared Services Offices (NSSO), who have responsibility for pay matters generally, in relation to why pay is being withheld from the person in question. On receipt of the explanation from the NSSO in relation to this matter my officials will also be in contact with the staff member directly on the matter.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (265)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

265. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to appoint a clerk of works to all future major school building projects to enhance the oversight and inspection of works when they are being carried out. [21843/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that it is standard practice that a Clerk of Works is appointed on all major school building projects when the project is progressing to site. 

Cruinnithe an Aire

Questions (266)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

266. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills má eagróidh sé cruinniú práinneach a eagrú le Teachtaí Dála Gaillimh Thiar maidir le scoil (sonraí tughta); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21854/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Toisc líon mór iarratas ar chruinnithe ó scoileanna atá ar láimh ag m’oifig faoi láthair ní féidir cruinniú a eagrú ag an am seo.

Coinnítear gach iarratas cruinnithe ó scoileanna ar chomhad i m'oifig agus déantar iad a bhreithniú agus cuairteanna á phleanáil ar an gceantar cuí.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (267)

John McGuinness

Question:

267. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options open to a person (details supplied) in order to undertake third-level studies; if DARE and CAO approval can be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21877/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) offers places at reduced points to school leavers with disabilities. Admissions under the DARE scheme is regulated by the institutions themselves and not by my Department. Each higher institution determines its own admission policy in relation to DARE, the number of places they reserve for DARE and the allocation of those places.

Any requests for more detailed information about DARE and should be directed to the Central Applications Office (CAO) (www.cao.ie) who coordinate the DARE scheme for participating institutions.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (268)

Joan Burton

Question:

268. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress on a permanent school building for a school (details supplied); the timeline for the delivery of a permanent school building; his plans to ensure pupils will not have to move to alternative temporary accommodation in February 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21958/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Despite requests from my Department, the Landlord involved did not want to extend the lease so that the school to which the Deputy refers could remain on their land past the current academic year 2018/2019.  They had required my Department to confirm that the school would vacate the property at end June 2019.  Clearly, my Department could not give such confirmation as alternative interim accommodation for the school was not available in the current area.  My Department had much engagement with the Landlord in relation to extending the leasing arrangement at this property.  In this regard my Department had requested the Landlord’s consent to extending the lease to 31st August, 2020 to facilitate the school remaining in interim accommodation at this location until the end of the 2019/2020 school year by which time the permanent accommodation for the school would be ready.  Unfortunately it was not possible to get the Landlord’s agreement to this lease extension.  Following protracted negotiations with the Landlord, agreement was reached for the school to remain in interim accommodation at its current location until the end of January 2020.  The Landlord has indicated that it is not possible to extend the lease beyond this date. 

My Department is examining alternative interim accommodation options for re-locating the school pending delivery of its permanent school building.

The site acquisition process for the school is now complete.   A planning application for the permanent accommodation for the school was lodged in January 2019.  A request for additional information received from the local authority was responded to on 26 April 2019 and a decision is awaited.  The timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission.

Officials in my Department will continue to keep the school authority updated on progress.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (269)

Joan Burton

Question:

269. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress on the planning application with Dublin City Council for the temporary accommodation required by a school (details supplied) for September 2019 on the current temporary site of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21959/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The planning application for the additional interim accommodation required for September 2019 for the school to which the Deputy refers was lodged with Dublin City Council on 25 February 2019.  Notification of Decision to Grant was received from the local authority on 18 April 2019.  Final Grant is awaited.

The tender process for the required temporary accommodation commenced in parallel with the planning application. 

Officials in my Department will continue to keep the school authority updated on progress on the temporary accommodation for September 2019.

National Council for Special Education

Questions (270)

Clare Daly

Question:

270. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the case of a person (details supplied) whose parents have applied to 42 schools and still cannot secure a placement for their child will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21962/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs.

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

The NCSE team of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs), who are locally based, is available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs. 

Parents/Guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child, using the contact details available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.

The NCSE works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency which is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child or can offer assistance where a child is out of school. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available at http://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular child, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (271)

Catherine Martin

Question:

271. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a permanent location for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21968/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that Department officials are working to put a solution for the permanent accommodation for the school in question in place at the earliest possible date.  Engagement with relevant stakeholders is ongoing in that regard.

Unfortunately it is not possible to indicate a timeline for the confirmation of a location for the school at this point but I can assure the Deputy that the patron will be informed as soon as it is possible to do so. 

Schools Establishment

Questions (272)

Catherine Martin

Question:

272. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the policy on opening new schools without first identifying permanent locations for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21969/19]

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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.

Where the provision of a new school or schools requires the acquisition of a site, securing school sites in highly developed urban areas, can present particular challenges for my Department.  To ensure that school accommodation is in place when required, the need for temporary accommodation may therefore be necessary.

In April 2018, the Government 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.

School Accommodation

Questions (273)

Catherine Martin

Question:

273. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the lease on the site of the temporary accommodation for a school (details supplied) ends in January 2020; if the progression of the permanent building for the school will be expedited in order that pupils will not have to move again to alternative temporary accommodation in February 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21976/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Despite requests from my Department, the Landlord involved did not want to extend the lease so that the school to which the Deputy refers could remain on their land past the current academic year 2018/2019.  They had required my Department to confirm that the school would vacate the property at end June 2019.   Clearly, my Department could not give such confirmation as alternative interim accommodation for the school was not available in the current area.  My Department had much engagement with the Landlord in relation to extending the leasing arrangement at this property.  In this regard my Department had requested the Landlord’s consent to extending the lease to 31st August, 2020 to facilitate the school remaining in interim accommodation at this location until the end of the 2019/2020 school year by which time the permanent accommodation for the school would be ready.  Unfortunately it was not possible to get the Landlord’s agreement to this lease extension.  Following protracted negotiations with the Landlord, agreement was reached for the school to remain in interim accommodation at its current location until the end of January 2020.  The Landlord has indicated that it is not possible to extend the lease beyond this date. 

My Department is examining alternative interim accommodation options for re-locating the school pending delivery of its permanent school building.

The site acquisition process for the school is now complete.   A planning application for the permanent accommodation for the school was lodged in January 2019.  A request for additional information received from the local authority was responded to on 26 April 2019 and a decision is awaited.  The timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission.

Officials in my Department will continue to keep the school authority updated on progress.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (274)

Seán Haughey

Question:

274. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that children with autism in areas of Dublin city (details supplied) receive an appropriate education; if the necessary special classes and special schools will be provided for these children; if the National Council for Special Education wrote to him in April 2019 to advise him that sufficient schools will not respond voluntarily to meet the demand; if he will invoke the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 to ensure that the necessary places are provided; his further plans to ensure that all new schools to be built will have designated classrooms for special needs children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21981/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019.  We have significantly increased the availability of special placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. 

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

Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased from 548 to 1,459 this year.

Provision in special schools has increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin. Of these, there are 3 ASD early intervention classes, 26 primary ASD classes and 9 post primary ASD classes in the areas referred to by the Deputy. 

The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

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

Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.

In the case of all new schools, it is general practice to include a Special Education Needs Base (SEN Base) in the accommodation brief for new school buildings, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required. Typically, a two classroom SEN Base is provided in new primary schools and a two or four classroom SEN Base is provided in new post primary schools.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment issues remain.  There are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to shortages in capacity in the school system. 

The NCSE formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15 and in Kildare.

This letter is the formal activation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018).  This contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.

The NCSE and my Department are actively engaging with education service providers in order to encourage them to address the shortage of places. 

I am encouraged that to date these efforts have resolved the issue in Kildare and resulted in progress in Dublin 15.

Engagement with schools, patrons bodies, parents and others is continuing in Dublin 15 to bring the required additional special class and special school placements on stream.

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.

The NCSE and my Department officials hosted a briefing session for Oireachtas members in Leinster House on Tuesday last to advise members on the approach being taken.

The new power to compel schools to make additional special education provision available has yet to be invoked. 

While the NCSE and the Department continue to encourage stakeholders to open special classes, the process under the admissions legislation will continue and may lead to interaction with education providers entering a more formal process.

In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for this Government.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (275)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

275. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on the application for an ASD unit for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22004/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school, in question, has recently submitted an application to my Department for capital funding, for a Special Educational Needs Base.  This application is currently under assessment.  As soon as the assessment process has been completed a decision will be relayed to the school authority directly 

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (276)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

276. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on an application for additional accommodation for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22005/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is in receipt of an application for capital funding, for additional accommodation, at the school referred to by the Deputy. Officials from my Department have been liaising with the school authority in this regard and additional information has been received. 

The application is being processed and as soon as the assessment process has been completed the decision will be relayed to the school authority directly.