Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (175)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

175. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 14 May 2019, if there has been further progress on the site acquisition; if a design team will be put in place for the three projects; the estimated timetable for the completion of the education campus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30092/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy has been informed previously, agreement in principle has been reached with a landowner for the acquisition of a site at Donaghcumper, Celbridge. This site is proposed to facilitate the permanent accommodation needs of St. Patrick's National School, Celbridge Community School and St. Raphael's Special School on a campus type arrangement. Work is progressing and is ongoing in respect of technical matters on the acquisition.

It is a priority for my Department to commence the architectural planning process for this site at the earliest possible stage. For the time being, given the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions in general, I am unable to elaborate further.

Schools Building Contractors

Questions (176)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

176. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 276 of 11 June 2019, if tenders have been invited from the shortlist of contractors; if so, the closing date for receipt of tenders; the number of contractors from which tenders have been sought; when construction will commence and expect to be completed on the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30097/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project 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 Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

The Design Team is currently nearing the completion of the process of compiling a shortlist of contractors for tender stage. In the circumstances, it would be inappropriate at this point in time for my Department to comment on the composition of the shortlist.

When the pre-qualification process is complete my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management of the school regarding the progression of the project to the next stage of architectural planning, Stage 3 - tender stage.

Schools Building Contractors

Questions (177)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

177. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 270 of 11 June 2019, the number of tenders received by the deadline of 9 July 2019 for the design team for the project; when construction will commence and a date expected to be completed on the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30098/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The 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. The project will provide new build, extension and refurbishment which will bring the school accommodation up to 16 mainstream classrooms and a 2-classroom Special Educational Needs Base.

This project is one of the school building projects on my Department’s ADAPT 2 Programme. My Department is currently in the process of procuring a Project Manager for the ADAPT 2 Programme, which contains 16 school building projects.

The process to appoint a Design Team – (Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Civil & Structural Engineer, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer and Project Supervisor for the Design Process) for the school in question is ongoing. The closing date for submissions in respect of design team consultants was Tuesday, 9th July on the eTenders website. As the appointment process remains ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment on the make-up of the respective tender lists.

The ADAPT 2 Programme aims for projects to be ready for construction in 36 months from appointment of Design Team. The construction period for this project is approximately 12 months.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (178)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

178. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of 5 February 2019, if approval has issued for the provision of additional mainstream and specialist accommodation for the school in question; the details of the accommodation approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30100/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has received an application from the school in question for additional school accommodation. The application is currently under assessment and once this has been completed, the school authority will be informed of the outcome directly.

Higher Education Institutions

Questions (179)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

179. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 23 January 2019, if there has been progress with the plans for the future campus development plan for Maynooth University; if there has been progress with the application by Maynooth University for funding under the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30102/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

An assessment team led by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has been considering the applications to the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund, including the Maynooth University proposal in relation to the development of the Technology, Society and Innovation Building. The assessment process is now nearing completion and a decision in relation to the Maynooth University application will be communicated to the Institution in the near future.

In making decisions on projects to be funded, account will be taken of the balance of projects across the sector as a whole and the advancement of system-wide objectives.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (180)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

180. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if authority has been provided to a school (details supplied) to seek rental accommodation to ensure that the school will open in September 2019 in view of the decision by Kildare Country Council to refuse planning permission on 21 June 2019 for the temporary buildings for the school; if there has been success in renting accommodation for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30103/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

With regard to the school to which the Deputy refers the local authority refused planning permission on 21st June, 2019.

My Department has been in constant contact with the relevant stakeholders including the Patron Body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, considering a number of interim arrangements to ensure the school opens for September 2019.

An Foras Pátrúnachta have made interim arrangements for the school to open in accommodation in Gaelscoil Ui Fhiaich, Maynooth and have communicated this position to parents of enrolled children.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (181)

Niall Collins

Question:

181. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the building programme at a school (details supplied); the schedule being followed; if concerns raised by the local community have been dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30106/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently nearing completion and subject to no issues arising the new school building will be ready for occupation for September 2019.

School Staff

Questions (182)

Imelda Munster

Question:

182. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Education and Skills if negotiations between his Department and a union (detail supplied) are to bring about improved terms and conditions for school secretaries and caretakers including a change in status for same that do not have public service conditions and protections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30131/19]

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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 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 issued surveys on the 10th of July 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 these surveys. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.

Student Universal Support Ireland Administration

Questions (183)

Seán Fleming

Question:

183. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is appropriate that a person in receipt of a SUSI grant that is over 21 years of age and entered third-level education at a younger age may have to provide detailed personal information in relation to their parents which could include difficult situations regarding family break up, separation or divorce; if changes will be made to the requirements for this information in order to acknowledge the way in which it may be difficult for the student to obtain the information and without same they are not able to receive a SUSI grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30140/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter in the first instance for the grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).

For student grant purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or a legal guardian, or as independent mature students.

A student’s status for grant purposes is defined at their first point of entry to an approved further or higher education course or at their point of re-entry to an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, and continues to apply for the duration of their studies.

Article 21(2) of the Student Grant Scheme 2019 states that where a dependent student's parents are divorced or legally separated, or it is established to the satisfaction of the relevant authority that they are separated, the income to be assessed is that of the student and the parent with whom she/he resides.

The onus is on the grant applicant to provide the necessary documentary evidence as requested by the relevant grant awarding authority. Such documentary evidence will vary from student to student, depending on each individual's particular set of circumstances. Where the student cannot establish to the satisfaction of the awarding authority that her/his parents are separated (legally or otherwise) then the income to be assessed is that of both parents.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer in SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

In addition, 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. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student’s local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (184)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

184. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) has not received a SNA to date; when a SNA will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30141/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The 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.

School Staff

Questions (185)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

185. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the capacity of teachers and staff in a school (details supplied) will be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30174/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has no record of receiving an application for additional accommodation from the school referred to by the Deputy. Any application received will be considered and a response will issue to the Patron directly.