Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme

Questions (246)

John Brassil

Question:

246. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of national schools implementing the Gaeltacht education policy, Polasaí Thumoideachas, that are in danger of losing a teacher in the coming academic year 2019-2020; the number in the Gaeltacht areas of County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27484/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

105 primary schools are currently participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme to strengthen the provision of Irish-medium education in these schools. 14 of the primary schools are located in Co Kerry Gaeltacht areas and while one of these schools was due to lose a classroom teacher for the 2019/20 school year due to falling enrolments, the school have successfully appealed this loss and have been approved to retain the teacher on a provisional basis, pending confirmation of enrolments in September.

Schools participating in the Scheme are allocated additional Irish-language support hours relative to pupil enrolment.

Physical Education Facilities

Questions (247)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

247. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy on playing pitches and other recreational facilities at schools. [27539/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the provision of play space, where site conditions and circumstances allow, is one of the issues considered in the architectural design of new schools and major extensions.

My Department's design guidelines for schools include guidance in the provision of P.E. Halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas such as basketball courts. Other P.E. facilities e.g. pitches are provided, where appropriate and in the context of available resources and site conditions, under my Department’s school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan. The provision of playing pitches is not part of the specification for primary schools. However, in certain circumstances and where the site conditions allow, the project scope may include the levelling and grassing of an area which schools may decide to use for playing fields. At post primary level, an area may be developed as a practice playing field where site conditions and resources permit.

As the Deputy is aware my Department is committed to a PE Hall build and modernisation programme, starting in the second half of the Project Ireland 2040 period (2018 -2027), that ensures that students in all post-primary schools have access to state of the art facilities to support PE provision, particularly also in the context of the roll-out of P.E. as a leaving certificate subject.

Physical Education Facilities

Questions (248)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

248. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to develop playing pitches at a school (details supplied). [27540/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a playing pitch is being provided at the education campus in question.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (249)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

249. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grant support available to persons seeking to commence a course outside the State that is postgraduate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27541/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based SUSI grant scheme. The scheme supported circa 78,000 students in 2018/19. Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme funding outside of the State is only available at undergraduate level.

Details regarding the student grant scheme can be accessed at www.susi.ie.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie.

Education Costs

Questions (250)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

250. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the provision of free primary education to children, including the provision of free schoolbooks and learning aids; if he will consider moving towards a free primary school system in the context of budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27564/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I strongly support any measures that can be put in place to reduce back to school costs for parents.

It is important that we work to make life easier for families and this is a priority for this Government.

In the Action Plan for Education, I have committed to the restoration of capitation payments. My Department has commenced the process of restoring capitation this year with a 5% increase in capitation funding that will apply from the start of the 2019/2020 school year.

As the Deputy may be aware, my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D., has recently announced an increase to the back to school allowance for the 2019/2020 school, bringing the total budget provision for the scheme to over €56 million this year.

I also want to give parents a strong voice in ensuring costs are always kept to a minimum. My Department published a Circular in 2017 which details the measures to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs. In addition, work on the drafting of the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 is close to being finalised and I intend to seek Government approval shortly for its publication. Under the Bill, each school will be required to prepare, publish and implement a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines to be published by the Minister after consultation with the education partners. The charter legislation will include requirements for consultation and engagement with parents and students on matters relating to school life and will include provision for full transparency in relation to costs and the use of any voluntary contributions sought by schools.

I believe that these actions will also significantly strengthen the focus on reducing back to school costs for parents.

Student Data

Questions (251)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

251. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of third-level students in each of the past ten years by the number of students born here; the number of EU, Swiss, EEA students and others; the percentage of each nationality in each of the years total student population in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27573/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

For the Deputy's information I set out in the following link disaggregated data for the period 2008/2009 - 2017/2018 as collated by the Higher Education Authority on the composition by nationality of the third level student population in the State, including both full time and part time students. HEA data is compiled by reference to the student’s domicile of origin and permanent address prior to entry onto a programme of study, rather than by country of birth. The data does not include international students who enrol in Irish higher education institutions for semester programmes such as Erasmus+.

2008/2009 - 2017/2018

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (252)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

252. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a project (details supplied). [27575/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that a project to deliver a permanent building for the school to which the Deputy refers is included on my Department's capital programme and the acquisition of a site is required to facilitate this project.

Officials in my Department have been working closely with officials from the relevant Local Authority under the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the acquisition of a suitable permanent location for the school in question.

The Department is currently considering a shortlist of site options and is engaging with relevant landowners in this regard. Given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

The acquisition of a suitable site for the school is very active on the programme of site acquisitions and every effort is being made to secure the suitable site for the school as expeditiously as possible.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (253)

Dara Calleary

Question:

253. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full year cost of a proposal (details supplied). [27601/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As a consequence of the economic crisis, there was a need to enact a number of measures to reduce public expenditure so as to stabilise the country’s public finances.

The Government approved a number of measures relating to public service allowances following a public service-wide review of allowances and premium payments conducted by the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As a result of the Government decision, certain allowances were withdrawn for new beneficiaries with effect from 1 February 2012. The details are set out in my Department Circular 08/2013.

Any person who was in receipt of the relevant allowances on 31 January 2012 will continue to be paid that allowance except where that teacher ceases that job role or changes school or employer on or after 1 February 2012. Where a teacher is redeployed under the agreed redeployment scheme, this will not be regarded as a cessation.

The annual cost of restoring the Island allowance from a current date to new entry teachers in Primary, schools would be approximately €20,000 annually.

This information relates to the teachers paid on payrolls operated by my Department. I will arrange to obtain the information relating to the cost of the restoration of the allowance for teachers employed in Education and Training Boards and forward it direct to you.

Oireachtas Joint Committee Reports

Questions (254)

Dara Calleary

Question:

254. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recommendations in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills report on challenges facing island schools published in February 2018; and the details of each recommendation implemented and not implemented to date in tabular form. [27602/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Following the submission to the Department of Education and Skills of correspondence outlining the challenges facing island schools, including the Report on Challenges Facing Island Schools published in February 2018 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills, an intra departmental working group was established within the Department to consider the matters raised. The challenges identified included matters relating to teacher allocation, the curriculum, recruitment of staff, travel and independent and DEIS status for island schools.

As a result of its deliberations, including meetings with representatives from Galway/Roscommon ETB and Donegal ETB, under whose auspices the five post-primary schools located on the islands operate, the working group recommended the provision of an additional package of supports for island post-primary schools from September 2018.

This ring-fenced package of supports for island post-primary schools, which is additional to the supports which are being provided under the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme in which all of the 5 island post-primary schools are participating, is set out in the following table.

In relation to the recruitment of teachers by island schools, as part of the overall implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022, my Department has made arrangements and provided funding for the commencement of two new Irish medium teacher education programmes to increase the supply of teachers who can deliver high quality Irish-medium education. These programmes include a 2 year part-time Irish-medium M.Ed. in Irish-medium and Gaeltacht Education, which commenced in Mary Immaculate College in September 2018 and a 4 year full-time B.Ed Irish-medium initial teacher education programme, which will commence in Marino Institute of Education from September 2019. Funding is being provided for 30 new places per annum on each of the two new programmes. In addition, provision has been made for the secondment of two teaching posts to the Irish-medium Professional Masters in Education at NUIG to work towards increasing the number of teachers who can teach a range of subjects through the medium of Irish.

Another initiative, which is being implemented under the Policy on Gaeltacht Education is the e-hub pilot project, which aims to utilise online delivery to extend the subject range available through the medium of Irish to students in isolated post-primary Gaeltacht schools, commencing with Higher Level Leaving Certificate Physics. 3 of the 5 island post-primary schools will be participating in the pilot project commencing from September 2019. This will enable students in these schools to undertake the Higher Level Leaving Certificate Physics examination in 2021.

In relation to the assignation of DEIS status to island schools, such schools are assessed on the same basis as all other schools in the country for the purposes of inclusion in the programme. This assessment is based on data in the DES Primary Online Database (POD) and Post-Primary Online (PPOD) Databases, and CSO data from the National Census of Population as represented in the Pobal HP Index for Small Areas which is a method of measuring the relative affluence or disadvantage of a particular geographical area. A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at 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 Island Schools, 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.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (255)

John McGuinness

Question:

255. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the full salary of a person (details supplied) will be backdated to pre-2011 pay scales. [27605/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Salary scales for teachers are based on the date of their first qualified appointment to an Oireachtas funded post as follows:

A person first appointed to an Oireachtas funded teaching post between 1 January 2011 and 31 January 2012, whose date of first qualified Oireachtas funded teaching service is–

- before 5 December 2011, is paid on the 1 January 2011 qualified pay scale and the qualification allowances applicable to that scale,

- between 5 December 2011 and 28 April 2013, is paid on the 1 January 2011 pay scale and qualification allowances applicable to that scale subject to the maximum value of the honours primary degree allowance applicable to that scale, or

- on or after 29 April 2013, is paid on the 1 February 2012 pay scale with no qualification allowances.

A person first appointed to an Oireachtas funded teaching post on or after 1 February 2012 whose date of first qualified Oireachtas funded teaching service is on or after that date will be paid on the 1 February 2012 pay scale with no qualification allowances.

The records available within my Department show that the teacher in question had his first Oireachtas funded appointment on 14th October 2010 as an unqualified substitute teacher. He qualified as a post primary teacher in 2014 and is registered with the Teaching Council since the 11th August 2014. His first qualified appointment to an Oireachtas funded teaching post was the 1st September 2014. As this date is later than 1st February 2012, as outlined, he is correctly placed on the 1st February 2012 pay scale.

Digital Strategy for Schools

Questions (256)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

256. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if academic standards and attainment levels at State examinations have been examined at schools involved in the digital learning framework compared to those schools not involved in the framework; and if academic performance indicators are available for these schools. [27614/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will appreciate that no one factor can specifically be attributed to the quality of teaching and learning and student academic performance in State examinations and there are no plans to examine the Digital Learning Framework (DLF) in this context.

However the effective use of digital technologies, as outlined in the DLF and which is for use by all schools, will enhance teaching, learning and assessment practices in schools. The use of digital technologies, allows teachers to unlock and deepen learning across all areas including literacy, numeracy, languages, arts education and STEM. Students will be able to recognise the benefits of the online interconnected world as an important source of information to create knowledge and problem solve and not just see the internet as a source of information to be “consumed”. Through the effective use of technology students will learn to collaborate and create with their peers. They will develop research, analytical, creativity and communication skills which will support their future careers and strengthen their lifelong prospects

The Digital Strategy for Schools acknowledges that the embedding of digital technologies in teaching and learning is a complex endeavour. The important focus, as provided for in the Digital Strategy, must be for digital technologies to add value to the learning process as part of a suite of tools in the classroom, such as books and whiteboards, alongside more modern learning devices, to enhance teaching and learning. It was for this reason that the Digital Learning Framework was developed together with the extensive range of CPD programmes for teachers and schools on the effective use of digital technologies in the classroom/schools. The Framework provides a roadmap to help schools embed the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning and in leadership & management. The Framework promotes student engagement in the teaching and learning process whereby students become engaged thinkers, active and discerning learners and where digital interactions are respectful and positive and conductive to well-being.

In the context of the DLF, schools are supported to develop a Digital Learning Plan, and have flexibility to determine how best to embed the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning in their school, taking into account their individual circumstances and contexts. The DLF supports and complements the School Self Evaluation (SSE) process and will allow schools to evaluate their own progress and measure where they stand against benchmarks of effective and highly effective practices in the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning and leadership and management. The Framework does not provide for comparison of academic performances.

The Framework is in its second year of dissemination and is accompanied by an extensive CPD framework for teachers and schools.

My Department has also commissioned the ERC to conduct a more longitudinal study of the DLF of a three year duration. This study commenced in January 2019. The focus of the Evaluation will be the implementation of the Digital Learning Framework from the multiple perspectives of school principals, teachers, learners and Digital Learning Team leaders over a three-year period.

State Examinations

Questions (257)

Michael McGrath

Question:

257. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the policy on students who become ill during the junior certificate or leaving certificate exams and that, for example, need to be hospitalised; the arrangements in place to deal with this scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27615/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Springboard Programme

Questions (258)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

258. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding provided to Springboard since it was created by year; the number of students accepted in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27649/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Springboard+ which incorporates the ICT skills conversion programme, is a targeted initiative which is used to provide funding for higher education courses aimed at meeting the need for in-demand skills in the economy. Springboard+ supports jobseekers to return to employment and those in employment to upskill or reskill.

Courses approved for funding under Springboard+ are in areas of identified skills needs and are selected by an independent panel with industry and educational expertise, following a competitive call for proposals.

Springboard+ courses are open to people irrespective of their employment status. Returners and those in receipt of certain allowances, including Jobseekers Benefit, can access courses free of charge. Level 6 courses are free to all participants and for employed participants on courses NFQ level 7 – 9, 90% of the course fee will be funded by the Government, with participants required to contribute just 10% of the fee.

Springboard+ is funded through the National Training Fund, €34.438m has been allocated to Springboard+ 2019 which represents an increase of €4m over the 2018 allocation.

To date over €192m has been spent on Springboard+ providing free/subsidised higher education opportunities to over 52,000 people.

Springboard+ funding and number of participants 2011 - 2018

Academic Year

Number of Participants

Actual spend on Springboard+ per calendar year

2011/12

4,836

€8,732,503

2012/13

6,335

€20,938,150

2013/14

6,183

€21,699,780

2014/15

5,178

€28,688,000

2015/16

7,800

€27,438,000

2016/17

6,079

€27,818,000

2017/18

6,521

€26,752,814

2018/19

9,225

€30,169,585

2019/20

N/A

N/A

Total

52,157

€192,236,832

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (259)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

259. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to restore the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools to the EU average of 20:1. [27662/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget will have increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including more than 370 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes.

For the current school year, the staffing schedule at Primary level operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

The 2018/19 school year saw an increase of over 6000 teaching posts in our schools compared to the 2015/16 school year.

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data in relation to our schools including pupil teacher ratios and teacher numbers. The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratios show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.3:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2017/18 school year.

Each 1 point adjustment to the primary staffing schedule is estimated to cost in the region of €13.5m per annum.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (260)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

260. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools to 20:1. [27663/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Teacher allocations to all second level schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment and are available on the Department's website. A pupil teacher ratio (ptr) of 19:1 is applied to all second-level schools in the Free-Education System. A ptr of 23:1 is applied to the 52 schools in the fee-charging sector.

Each 1 point adjustment to the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level is estimated to cost in the region of €63m per annum.

Third Level Fees

Questions (261)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

261. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to abolish higher level education fees for both institutes of technology and universities. [27664/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Student Contribution, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. While the student contribution now stands at €3,000, it is important to recognise that there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15.

It is estimated that the net cost to my Department of abolishing the contribution would cost approximately €229 million.

This figure is based on the number of students that qualified for free fees funding in the academic year 2017/18 (and were therefore liable to pay the Student Contribution), and taking into account projected growth in student numbers for 2019 academic year.

It should be noted that this figure incorporates the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget, as the exchequer pays this contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students who are in receipt of student grant assistance.

Tax relief provisions are also available so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost. In addition, higher education institutions have provisions in place to allow students to pay the contribution in two moieties.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (262)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

262. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to include the building of an extra classroom to each planned school build in the next five year period. [27665/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The notional cost of building a classroom, at current building costs, for a primary school is €176,937.50 including VAT and for a post primary school is €165,762.50 including VAT.

The projects that are planned for the next five years are already at various stages of Architectural Planning, many of which have statutory approvals in place such as Planning Permission, Fire Certs and Disability Access Certs. If an extra classroom was to be added to each of these schools, the projects would all have to be redesigned and statutory approvals would have to be obtained again. This would result in significant extra cost, including abortive fees for Design Teams, and would invariably result in a significant slowdown in the delivery of much needed schools on the building programme.

Due to the specificity of each project, the cost of adding an additional classroom to each school on the building programme is not readily ascertainable and would representative a significant administrative burden to attempt to compile. However, if the Deputy wishes to nominate a particular school or schools where it is considered that an additional classroom may be warranted, I would be happy to have my officials examine the feasibility of providing same.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Questions (263)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

263. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made on a summer works programme application by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27666/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

An application for funding to works on the playground of the school referred to by the Deputy was received. Unfortunately, it was deemed that the scope of works for the project was considered to be outside the terms of the Emergency Works Scheme and it could not be considered for emergency funding in that context.

The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

In relation to the roof works referred to by the Deputy, I am pleased to advise you that approval was granted to the school under the 2016 Summer Works Scheme programme for repair works to the roof and these works have now been completed and all funding paid.

It was open to the school to make an application under the Summer Works Scheme (SWS) 2020 for its most urgently required small-scale building works project. I understand that an application has been received in this respect and this was for further roof works.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (264)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

264. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for special education teaching hours review by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27671/19]

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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.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

Questions (265)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

265. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will meet formally with the chief executive officer and chairperson of Caranua before the organisation closes down at the end of August 2019; if staff working within Caranua will be redeployed within the Civil Service when it finishes its term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27780/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Caranua, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, ceased to accept applications on 1 August 2018 and I understand that it expects to have substantially completed the processing of remaining applications and associated payments to or on behalf of former residents by August/September of this year. The organisation will commence its wind down at that stage and will be dissolved when it has completed the performance of its functions. Legislation will be required for its formal dissolution.

All of Caranua's current staff are employed by the organisation on a contract basis and they are not civil servants. Accordingly, the issue of redeployment within the civil service does not arise.

The Chair of Caranua has invited me to attend a meeting of the Board of the organisation and I am giving consideration to this request. Senior officials of my Department meet with the Chair and CEO of Caranua on a regular structured basis to discuss a range of relevant matters.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (266)

Peter Burke

Question:

266. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will request an up-to-date evaluation on progress made in recent weeks regarding the building of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27795/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers is devolved for delivery to Westmeath County Council (WCC).

It appears from the latest programme provided by the contractor for this project that the building will not be fully occupied until this coming October. I am extremely disappointed and frustrated with this latest development. WCC, which is responsible for managing the contract, has also expressed its disappointment with the level of resources on site and the slow progress of the construction programme.

I fully appreciate the anxiety and frustration of the pupils, staff, parents and the local community awaiting the completion of the Curraghmore project that has been caused by the continuing slow progress of the construction programme. However, I can assure them all that WCC, supported by my Department, is continuing to pursue the contractor for as speedy a delivery of the project as possible.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (267)

Gino Kenny

Question:

267. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review and address the cuts to SNA allocation at a school (details supplied) in view of non-reduction of enrolment numbers and the number of children presenting with significant medical and behavioural care needs both currently on roll and in the new junior infant classes for September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27797/19]

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 particular school, I will refer the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

School Costs

Questions (268)

Seán Haughey

Question:

268. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on schools making demands for voluntary financial contributions for items such as school tours, stationery and resource fees from parents who are not in a position to pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27829/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Voluntary contributions by parents are permissible provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay and that, in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.

The manner in which voluntary contributions are sought and collected is a matter for school management, however their collection should be such as not to create a situation where either parents or pupils could reasonably infer that the contributions take on a compulsory character.

Apart from those recognised fee-charging second level schools, recognised primary and post primary schools are precluded from charging school fees. Section 64 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which was commenced in October 2018, explicitly prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for admission to or for continued enrolment in a school. No charge may be made, in respect of instruction in any subject of the school curriculum or for recreation or other activities where all pupils are expected to take part.

When a child is enrolled in a school certain charges may be legitimately requested such as:

- payment for school books, lockers, text messages or photocopied material provided by the school where the charge is reasonable and simply reflects the true costs concerned; or

- charges for meals and refreshments provided pupils are not obliged to purchase same and can bring their own refreshments to school (e.g. lunchbox); or

- payments in respect of extra-curricular activities provided such activities are not obligatory and individual pupils can choose whether or not to participate.

However, as outlined above such charges may not be used as a condition of admission to a school placement. It is permissible for a school to seek payments in respect of extra-curricular activities provided such activities are not obligatory and individual pupils can choose whether or not to participate.

I believe that schools need to be accountable to parents and we need greater levels of communication, engagement and transparency in how schools serve their communities. Work on the drafting of the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2019 is close to being finalised and I intend to seek Government approval shortly for its publication. It is intended that the Parent and Student Charter will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.