School Services Staff

Questions (208)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

208. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to regularise the employment of school secretaries nationally; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that only 10% of school secretaries are employed directly by his Department while the other 90% are paid from school funding that should be otherwise used for running the schools; if the situation will be corrected; if the necessary security of employment and parity of employment as enjoyed by the other 10% of existing school secretaries will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23267/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. 

These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on 9 April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

Officials from my Department recently had discussions with Fórsa trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. Fórsa took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department will seek to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Fórsa's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of the survey.  The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with Fórsa once this work has been undertaken.

Legislative Programme

Questions (209)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

209. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the parent and student charter Bill; when he plans to progress the Bill; the reason for the delays to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23275/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In January 2018, the Government approved the formal drafting of an Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill. Since then, my Department has been working on the formal drafting of the Bill in conjunction with Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) and it is expected that this process will be completed shortly. The drafting process has involved a significant level of engagement between my Department and the OPC.

As soon as the drafting process is complete, it is my intention to seek Government approval for the publication of the Bill and the presentation of the Bill to the Dáil.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (210)

Barry Cowen

Question:

210. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made on the planning and development of a new site for a college (details supplied) further to his visit to Edenderry, County Offaly, on 4 May 2018 in which he gave a commitment to progress the application. [23284/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is in the process of being devolved for delivery to Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB).

My Department will shortly be making the necessary arrangements to enter into a Service Level Agreement with LOETB.  This is the first step to initiate the delivery of the project.  Thereafter, the ETB will procure a design team for the project to design the buildings, obtain the necessary statutory planning permissions and move the project onward to construction in due course. As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for its completion.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (211)

James Lawless

Question:

211. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision can be made for a person (details supplied) in an autism unit when the person transfers to secondary school in September 2020. [23287/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

It is the policy of my Department that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with Autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

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

The greater proportion of children with Autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based a recommendation contained within a professional assessment in consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

Students enrolling in specialised placements must have a report from a relevant professional or team of professionals stating that:

- S/he has a disability (in line with the designation of the special placement in question) and

- S/he has significant learning needs that require the support of a specialised setting and the reasons why this is the case.

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 including Autism, 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.

Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes.  Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

In Co. Kildare, there are currently 4 special schools and 75 special classes in mainstream schools, including 6 ASD Early Intervention classes, 46 primary ASD classes and 15 ASD post primary ASD classes. 

The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish approx. 160 new ASD Special Classes nationally for 2019/20 school year to meet currently identified need.

In order to identify need in the area for forthcoming school years, the NCSE refer to professional reports indicating students require the support of a special class. In this regard Parents/Guardians of students with ASD seeking a special class placement should provide the relevant professional report to their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) to inform the planning process.

Parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local SENO who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie .

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published transitional guidelines for children with special needs. These wide-ranging and comprehensive guidelines provide advice and tips for parents, students and schools covering the transitions between all stages of education, including the transition from primary to post-primary - Guidelines on Moving from Primary to Post-Primary School.  These Guidelines are available at www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (212)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

212. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23299/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The process of Pre-Qualification of contractors for the project in question is underway.  The Pre-qualification process culminates in the compilation of shortlists of suitable candidates for each respective discipline. The Department has recently authorised the Design Team to complete the pre-qualification process.

When the Pre-Qualification process is completed the project will then be progressed to tender stage which normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (213)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

213. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23300/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The process of Pre-Qualification of contractors for the project in question is underway.  The Pre-qualification process culminates in the compilation of shortlists of suitable candidates for each respective discipline. The Department has recently authorised the Design Team to complete the pre-qualification process.

When the Pre-Qualification process is completed the project will then be progressed to tender stage which normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (214)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

214. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23301/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b (Detailed Design), which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

The Design Team is currently working on preparing the applications for the statutory approvals, namely, Planning Permission, Disability Access Certificate and Fire Safety Certificate and expect to be in a position to lodge the planning application shortly.

Concurrently, authorisation has issued for the relocation and decant of the temporary accommodation element of this project and planning permission in respect of this has recently been received. 

Once all statutory approvals have been received the Design Team will work on finalising the Stage 2b report which will be submitted through the Board of Management to my Department.

Upon completion and review of the Stage 2(b) submission, the project will then be authorised to complete pre-qualification of Contractors.  Pre-qualification normally takes between 8 and 12 weeks to complete.

When pre-qualification is complete the project will then be progressed to tender stage. A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete. 

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (215)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

215. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23302/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I can inform the Deputy that the NDFA has started preparations for the appointment of a design team for the project. This appointment will be a key first step in the design and construction stages. While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (216)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

216. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned extension to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23303/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I can inform the Deputy that the NDFA has started preparations for the appointment of a design team for the project. This appointment will be a key first step in the design and construction stages. While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Questions (217)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

217. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants employed in County Donegal; the estimated net increase for the next academic year; the number of SNAs employed in County Donegal in each of the years 2012 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form, for both primary and secondary school sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23316/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I announced on 27 May that 792 additional SNA posts will be allocated to schools for the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, with up to 130 additional posts expected to be allocated by December 2019.

By the end of this year, there will be up to 15,950 SNAs working in our schools, an increase of over 51% since 2011.

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 NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.  

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE takes 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.

SNA 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.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with.  Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

Where a school has received its allocation of SNA support for 2019/20, but wishes new enrolments or assessments to be considered, which were not taken into account when the initial allocation was made, they may continue to make applications to the NCSE.  

The closing date for receipt of appeals in regard to SNA allocations is Friday 27 September 2019.

The NCSE publishes the allocations for individual schools for each school year and this information is available on its website, www.ncse.ie.

Student Assistance Fund

Questions (218)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

218. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of the student assistance fund ring-fenced for specific groups of students; if it will continue to be ring-fenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23324/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards the rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials.

The core allocation in 2018/2019 was €8.1 million.  An additional €1m was added to the Fund in 2017 which is specifically ring-fenced for part-time students who are lone-parents or members of the other access target groups. Prior to that the fund supported full-time students only. There are no plans at present to change this.

In December 2018 specifically for the 2018/19 academic year, a further €1 million was added to the Fund for students attending Professional Masters of Education courses, who are experiencing financial difficulty.

The total 2018/2019 allocation for the SAF was €10.1 million.

Student Assistance Fund

Questions (219)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

219. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who received the student assistance fund in each of the years 2012 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23325/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards the rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials.

In 2012/2013 the number of students who availed of the SAF was 17,840.  This increase was due to a once-off supplementary funding which was given in the context of long grant delays/issues encountered by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in its initial year of operation.

SAF recipients for subsequent years were as follows: 

2013/2014: 15,166 students; 2014/2015: 14,959 students; 2015/2016: 15,772 students; 2016/2017: 16,019 students; 2017/2018: 14,156 students.

While the numbers of recipients decreased in 2017/18 the allocation to the Student Assistance Fund has increased. In 2016/2017 almost €8m was allocated for the Student Assistance Fund (SAF).  In 2017/2018 SAF was extended to support part-time students who are lone parents and from other target groups in the National Access Plan by adding a further €1m to the Fund. A total of €9.1m was allocated through the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) in 2017/2018.

 In December 2018 a further €1 million was added to the Fund for students attending Professional Masters of Education courses, who are experiencing financial difficulty.

Third Level Participation

Questions (220)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

220. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students enrolled in higher education in each of the years 2012 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23326/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The information requested by the Deputy for the years 2012 - 2017 is available in the table. Data for the 2018/2019 academic year is being finalised and will be available later this year. These figures include students enrolled at HEA-funded institutions only.

Academic Year

Level/Mode

2011/2012

2012/2013

2013/2014

2014/2015

2015/2016

2016/2017

2017/2018

Full-time Postgraduate

21804

21186

21819

21926

22637

23092

23819

Part-time Postgraduate

12812

14015

14490

15139

15057

15645

16307

Total Postgraduate

34616

35201

36309

37065

37694

38737

40126

Full-time Undergraduate

142483

145451

148545

151360

156717

157518

159823

Part-time Undergraduate

21242

20627

21236

20897

22192

21988

23794

Total Undergraduate

163725

166078

169781

172257

178909

179506

183617

Total Enrolments

198341

201279

206090

209322

216603

218243

223743

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Questions (221)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

221. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 28 May 2019, when funds will be released to a school (details supplied) for the summer works scheme 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23327/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am delighted to confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers was successful in obtaining grant funding under the 2019 Summer Works Scheme.  This project has been devolved to the school authority for delivery. 

Payment of the grant will be made to the School Authority in two moieties. The first payment will be for 70% of the grant amount, when the works have commenced on site, and the second and final payment will be for the remaining 30% of the grant amount. Such payments will be paid subject to compliance with the conditions as set out in Appendix B of the approval letter issued via Esinet to the school authorities.

School Staff

Questions (222)

Michael Harty

Question:

222. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the employment control framework as it relates to the appointment of staff in the primary, secondary and post-secondary education systems; and if appointments can be made by the seven universities without reference to the employment control framework from 1 January 2019. [23344/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In Budget 2015, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that the existing Employment Control Frameworks (ECF) and associated moratoriums would be lifted and replaced with a system of delegated sanction for managing public service staffing numbers, subject to pay ceilings and other controls.  This arrangement was put in place for the Education Sector in November 2015 excluding Higher Education which is still subject to the Employment Control Framework.  My Department will continue to work with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on future staffing frameworks/agreement for Higher Education.

A condition of the ECF is that core staffing levels should be achieved in a balanced manner across the grading structure and should not be concentrated at either the lower or higher grade levels or at either academic or non-academic grades i.e. the framework should not result in 'grade-drift' within institutions. There is no restraint with regard to staffing levels in any particular departments within an institution. As autonomous bodies institutions are responsible for managing the staffing levels within their departments in line with the conditions of the ECF and HR practices generally.

Points System Reform

Questions (223)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

223. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on recent proposals (details supplied) to grant CAO points for students' civic activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23347/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Universities and Institutes of Technology in Ireland are statutorily independent higher education institutions.  Admission is a matter for each individual institution and the Department of Education and Skills does not have the authority to intervene in the admissions process.  The higher education institutions have delegated to the Central Applications Office (CAO) the task of processing applications to their first year undergraduate courses, and this is carried out by the CAO in a manner intended to ensure transparency and fairness for all candidates. The decision to offer a place is made by the HEI in question and not the CAO.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of Senior Cycle, a process informed by Junior Cycle reform. The NCCA is working particularly closely with students, parents and teachers in a representative sample of 41 schools. The feedback from this direct engagement is helping to inform an extensive series of consultation events being held around the country. The first of the consultation processes focused on the purpose of senior cycle and futures thinking, with the second consultation process focusing on pathways and flexibility.

The review will identify:

- the positives and negatives elements of the current system;

- what learners need to gain from Senior Cycle to succeed and actively participate in an ever-changing world;

- how we can ensure that in the future, senior cycle education helps all students achieve their full potential; and

- what learning and experiences should be recognised, reported on and certified.

The final advisory report is due to be completed by the NCCA this month.