Occupational Therapy Provision

Questions (174)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

174. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to restore the number of counselling sessions offered to teachers in view of the roll-out of the well-being policy, which is due to be fully implemented in all schools by 2023; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26241/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

An Occupational Health Strategy is in place as a supportive resource for teachers. The aim of this strategy is to promote the health of teachers in the workplace, with a focus primarily on prevention rather than cure. The Occupational Health Strategy comprises of the Employee Assistance & Wellbeing Programme (EAWP) and the Occupational Health Service (OHS) for teachers.

The EAWP is a free confidential service available to teachers and their family members. It is accessible by means of a Freephone dedicated helpline which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing counselling on a range of personal health and wellbeing issues given by qualified clinicians. Where counselling is requested, telephone and face-to-face counselling is offered with a maximum number of 6 counselling sessions available per case.

The Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice 2018-2023 was launched in July 2018. The policy statement provides an overarching structure encompassing existing, ongoing and developing work in the area of wellbeing. It builds on the good work already happening in schools to ensure that best practice in whole-school wellbeing promotion is embedded across the system. The policy outlines a multicomponent, whole school preventative approach to the promotion of wellbeing with interventions at both universal and targeted levels. This policy requires that a Wellbeing Promotion Process is developed and implemented, through the use of the School Self-Evaluation (SSE) process, in all schools by 2023. The Department has identified eight specific indicators of success embedded in the four key areas of wellbeing promotion:

- Culture and Environment

- Curriculum (Teaching and Learning)

- Policy and Planning

- Relationships and Partnerships

An Implementation Plan for 2018-2023 is included in the policy. The initial programme of work includes among other actions the raising of awareness regarding supports for teacher wellbeing.

School Management

Questions (175)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

175. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider allocating a leadership and management day per week for teaching principals to help with workload burdens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26242/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals, including at this year’s IPPN conference, and I appreciate the pressures they face. In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019.

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

Any additional increase in the number of release days will have to be considered as part of the annual budgetary process., alongside the many other demands in the education sector.

Capitation Grants

Questions (176)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

176. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to fully restore the capitation grants for primary and secondary schools that were cut during the recession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26243/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools.

I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year. Over the course of the school year 2019/20, an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post primary schools, of which €4 million will be allocated in 2019.

I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures. Where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year I have to prioritise, especially in the context of increasing enrolments.

It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets.

DEIS Eligibility

Questions (177)

Denis Naughten

Question:

177. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) will be considered for DEIS status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26247/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage. This new model involves a calculation of the level of disadvantage in each school, based on the socio-economic background of their pupil cohort using centrally held data as previously outlined and is based on the geographical CSO Small Areas where the pupil cohort resides. A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.

DEIS Plan 2017 states that the improved data on the socio-demographic of schools resulting from the new identification model will have an impact not only on the assessment of schools for inclusion in the programme but also on the scaling of resources to allow for more graduated levels of support. This is turn allows for the ultimate objective of allocating resources to best meet the identified need of individual schools.

My Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage. All schools, including the one referenced by the Deputy, are being considered using the new identification model. Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

School Transport

Questions (178)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

178. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the Minister that participated in the strategic dialogue with the European Commission regarding the school transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26249/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

The European Commission commenced an investigation on State Aid to Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus in 2007. The Commission's Decision was issued on 16th October 2014 and published on 21st November. It found the School Transport Scheme was existing aid since it is based on a 1975 arrangement and for this reason was not unlawful at the time the complaint was made.

The Commission indicated that it would initiate an informal dialogue with Ireland to agree on appropriate measures to ensure that the School Transport Scheme is compatible with the internal market State Aid rules into the future. Ireland is currently engaged in an informal dialogue with the Commission in this regard.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (179)

John Lahart

Question:

179. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a new build for a school (details supplied); if the new school will qualify as a DEIS school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26267/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The status of the new build for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning (Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design), which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

The design team is currently working on the Stage 2(b) Report which on completion will be submitted to my Department for review. In completing the Stage 2(b) Report the Design Team is required to upgrade the current design to ensure that the new school building is a Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) Report my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage. This new model involves a calculation of the level of disadvantage in each school, based on the socio-economic background of their pupil cohort using centrally held data as previously outlined and is based on the geographical CSO Small Areas where the pupil cohort resides. A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.

DEIS Plan 2017 states that the improved data on the socio-demographic of schools resulting from the new identification model will have an impact not only on the assessment of schools for inclusion in the programme but also on the scaling of resources to allow for more graduated levels of support. This is turn allows for the ultimate objective of allocating resources to best meet the identified need of individual schools.

My Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage. All schools, Primary and Post Primary, are being considered using the new identification model. However, until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (180)

John Lahart

Question:

180. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the ongoing provisions made for children with special needs (details supplied) who are entering post-primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26277/19]

View answer

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 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 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.

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 27th September 2019.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (181)

John Brady

Question:

181. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the construction of a new school building for a school (details supplied); the stage the plans are at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26287/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to Kildare and Wicklow Education & Training Board (KWETB).

I understand from KWETB that procurement of the Design Team for the project will be completed by the end of July 2019. The Design Team will then take the project through the various stages of architectural planning and onwards through the statutory planning requirements and construction.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (182)

John Brady

Question:

182. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of replacing the existing prefabs in a school (details supplied) with a permanent two storey building; the stage the plans are at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26288/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

A tender exercise to establish a Project Manager framework was concluded on 10th April 2019. A tender competition to the newly established framework to appoint a Project Manager for the programme through which this project is being delivered will conclude shortly.

A project brief has been finalised and the scope of this project is to provide a stand-alone extension to the existing post primary school in order to increase capacity of the school to a long term projected enrolment of 850 pupils.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (183)

John Brady

Question:

183. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the request by a school (details supplied) for additional accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26289/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department approved capital funding for the provision of additional accommodation at the school in question.

A further application for increased accommodation was submitted and the school authority was advised that my Department's current priority is the provision of essential classroom accommodation where an additional teaching post has been sanctioned and where there is no suitable accommodation available within the existing school. In this regard, my Department was not in a position to provide the additional funding sought.

Further correspondence has recently been received for the school authority and this is currently under consideration. Once a decision has been made the school authority will be advised directly.

School Transport

Questions (184)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

184. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has control over Bus Éireann that is similar to the control over his Department's functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26295/19]

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.

My Department has responsibility for the overall governance of the scheme regarding policy and financial matters.

Bus Éireann administers the scheme on behalf of my Department. In this regard the company plans and manages the scheme nationally to ensure that services are in line with the specific requirements of my Department.

School Transport Data

Questions (185, 186, 189)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

185. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills when Bus Éireann will recommence charging the maintenance of school buses on a per mile basis as opposed to the charging arrangement it is now using; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26296/19]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

186. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills when it was agreed that Bus Éireann was allowed to change the maintenance charging system for school transport from the per mile basis system set out in the 1975 agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26297/19]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

189. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the maintenance payments to Bus Éireann for school transport are legal or illegal state aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26304/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185, 186 and 189 together.

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 service is delivered using a mix of Bus Éireann, both school transport and road passenger vehicles, and private contractor vehicles.

The health and safety of children and those on board school transport vehicles is the number one priority for the Department and Bus Éireann. In this context, Bus Éireann vehicles are brought into the garage every six weeks for full maintenance checks. The maintenance charges for these vehicles are based on identified required works.

In addition the Bus Éireann contract with private contractors includes a stipulation that requires planned maintenance programmes in place, with vehicle checking intervals of not more than six weeks. Contractors are obliged to ensure that their vehicles have an up to date roadworthiness certificate issued by an RSA accredited test centre when the contract is signed. They are further obliged to keep the roadworthiness certificates current and up to date at all times and provide Bus Éireann with evidence of this.

School Transport Tendering

Questions (187)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

187. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason he has not put the school transport scheme up for public tender in accordance with EU procurement law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26300/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

The service is delivered using a mix of Bus Éireann, both school transport and road passenger vehicles, and private contractor vehicles. In this regard over 90% of school transport services are provided by private operator vehicles under contract to Bus Éireann.

The Value for Money Review published in 2011 recommended that a single national organiser (separate from the Department of Education and Skills) with a regional dimension should operate the scheme. The Review further recommended that the single national organiser should continue to be Bus Éireann.

Bus Éireann is obliged to tender all works, goods and services in line with the European Directives on public procurement, which includes school transport services performed by contractors under the School Transport Scheme. In this regard, some 20% of services provided by contractors are put out to tender each year and five year contracts are generally awarded following this tender process.

School Transport Tendering

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 185.

Questions (188)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

188. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the expenditure of the surpluses generated from school transport since 2011, by item; if these expenditures will be cross-correlated to public contract notices on tenders and the Official Journal of the EU as required under legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26302/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

Bus Éireann, which operates school transport services on behalf of my Department, maintains a separate account for the School Transport Scheme. This account is audited each year by independent auditors and accounts in respect of the last number of years are available on my Department's website.

The 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements forms the basis of the payment to Bus Éireann for the operation of the School Transport Scheme.

The Department reimburses Bus Éireann for a range of costs identified as being directly incurred in the operation and administration of the scheme, together with an agreed charge to cover all other direct costs and indirect costs attributable to the work carried out for the Department, referred to as the Transport Management Charge.

The Department has invested in enhancements in a number of areas of the scheme in recent years, including IT, customer service and investment in fleet.

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 185.

School Transport Review

Questions (190)

Alan Kelly

Question:

190. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review the school transport scheme which has been in place since 2012; the timelines for a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26306/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

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

Changes to the eligibility criteria for my Department's School Transport Scheme were announced in Budget 2011 and derived from recommendations contained in the Value for Money review of the scheme.

In addition and arising from commitments in the Programme for Government, a review of the Concessionary Charges and Rules element of the School Transport Scheme was undertaken.

The review was published in December 2016 and made recommendations on both the charges and the rules element of concessionary school transport.

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

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (191)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

191. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant, SNA, will be organised in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26324/19]

View answer

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 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 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.

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 27th September 2019.

As this question relates to a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (192)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

192. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) has not been provided with her contribution record prior to 1990 in order to finalise her State pension application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26325/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

An official of my Department has written to the person referred to by the Deputy in relation to the PRSI records requested. The data that is available on the Department database system in relation to the request has been forwarded to her.

I understand that the person referred to has indicated in her correspondence that she had other teaching service. Officials of my Department will contact her in relation to the validation of that other service.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (193)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

193. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision can be expected on a July provision appeal by a person (details supplied); his plans to ensure that provision is granted in view of the specific needs of the person and the supporting documentation provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26327/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The purpose of my Department’s July Provision Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards an extended school year for children with a severe or profound general learning disability or children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) enrolled in recognised schools.

The eligibility criteria for the July Provision Grant Scheme 2019 is set out in the Department's Information Note on the scheme which was published with the application forms and is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

In the case referred to by the Deputy an application for home based July provision was received in the Department. The application was refused as it was outside the terms of the scheme. An appeal, with supporting documentation, was received in the Department on 11th June 2019. The appeal was considered and refused as the child in question does not have the required diagnosis and therefore does not qualify for the July Provision Grant Scheme.

The parent was notified of the decision by letter on 17th June 2019.

School Funding

Questions (194)

Denis Naughten

Question:

194. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is eligible for financial support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26373/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on refurbishment of existing school buildings to include the building and modernisation of PE facilities in schools.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place. The focus in the medium term will be on the provision of PE halls in post-primary schools. Therefore, my Department is not in a position currently to provide financial support to the school in question.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (195)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

195. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the process of allocating special education teaching hours to primary schools when circumstances change significantly from one school year to another will be reviewed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26380/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circulars 0007/2019 for primary schools and 0008/2019 for post primary schools provide details of how the allocations of Special Education Teachers have been updated for schools from September 2019, based on updated profile data.

All schools have now received revised allocations for September 2019.

As the re profiling occurred, some schools gained additional allocations, where the profile indicator data indicates these schools have additional needs. Some schools received slightly reduced allocations, where the data indicates less need, and some schools maintained their existing allocations.

No school has lost a full special education teaching post as a result of the re profiling process.

There has also been be no reduction to the overall number of special education teaching posts within the school system. There are currently over 13,400 special education teachers in schools, an increase of 37% since 2011.

Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

The school referred to by the Deputy has 15.95 special education teaching hours, for an enrolment of 45 pupils at the time the profile was developed.

This represents a proportionately a high allocation ratio, which takes into account the school profile.

It gives an average allocation of 1 special education teacher to every 71 pupils, as opposed to a national average of 1 special education teacher to every 100 pupils in the primary school sector.

Both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring that all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.

Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published details of an appeal process for the 2019 allocation process for schools on their website www.ncse.ie.

Schools were advised that the appeal will consider circumstances where schools considered that their school profile was calculated incorrectly, using the data set out in DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019. An appeal could be submitted for a review of the information used and of the calculation of the allocation.

The NCSE wrote to schools on 31st May, 2019 to advise them of the outcome of the appeals.

A second process will be put in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2019/20 school year.

Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts, in accordance with these criteria, will also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

Finally, it is acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.

These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

A process will also be available where schools can seek a review of their allocations in the coming months, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

This process will recommence in September 2019.

I am satisfied that there are in place a number of processes which can review the special education teacher allocation for schools where necessary.

The very significant levels of additional provision we have made in recent years to provide additional Special Education Teachers means that all schools are resourced to provide for the special educational needs of children in their schools.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (196)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

196. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of freedom of information requests granted, part granted, refused, transferred to an appropriate body, withdrawn or handled outside freedom of information in 2018, in tabular form. [26390/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The following table gives a breakdown of the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted to my Department in 2018, granted, part-granted, refused, transferred to an appropriate body, withdrawn or handled outside of FOI.

Department of Education and Skills - FOI Requests 2018

Requests Granted

Requests Part-Granted

Requests Refused

Requests Transferred

Requests Withdrawn

Requests handled outside FOI

78

139

110

20

159

48

School Staff

Questions (197)

Robert Troy

Question:

197. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure changes are made to the system that sees primary school secretaries paid through the schools ancillary grant; his further plans to ensure that all secretaries are in future paid directly as employees of his Department; and his views on whether the current system is extremely unfair (details supplied). [26413/19]

View answer

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 the 9th of 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 a survey. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.

Schools Amalgamation

Questions (198)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

198. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the amalgamation of schools (details supplied); the timeline for the planned completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26435/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department understands that it is the Patron's intention to amalgamate the schools concerned on completion of the building project.

In that regard, the major building project is currently at stage 3 of the architectural planning process and as this is a live tender process, it would not be appropriate to give a timeline for the completion of the project until the tenders have been assessed and a contractor appointed.

Schools Mental Health Strategies

Questions (199)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

199. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide psychological and counselling supports for children with mental health issues in school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26448/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service and it supports schools in a continuum of support process. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximise positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

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

As the Deputy may be aware my Department launched its Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice 2018-2023 in July 2018. This policy statement provides an overarching structure encompassing existing, ongoing and developing work in the area of wellbeing, which encompasses social and emotional learning across the curriculum. It builds on the good work already happening in schools to ensure that best practice in whole-school wellbeing promotion is embedded across the system. It outlines a multicomponent, whole school preventative approach to the promotion of wellbeing with interventions at both universal and targeted levels.

The Department of Education and Skills does not make provision for therapeutic counselling in schools. When such counselling is considered to be required a referral is made to an outside agency. Schools are advised to have identified appropriate referral pathways in consultation with HSE and other mental health services in their local community. NEPS helps schools in the process of making referrals to external agencies as appropriate for students who require more specialised interventions.