Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (407)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

407. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31769/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school to which he refers is included in my Department’s School Building Programme to be delivered under the National Development Plan (NDP).

I can confirm that the acquisition of a site to provide permanent accommodation for the school is currently at an advanced stage of conveyance.  In tandem with this, my Department has undertaken a  visit to the site in the context of the preparatory work required to advance the project. My Department will continue to liaise directly with the school authorities regarding the next steps to be taken to advance the project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (408)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

408. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding progress on a permanent school building project for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31770/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning, Stage 2b - Detailed Design, which includes the application for statutory approval and the preparation of tender documents.  All statutory applications have been secured.

Following the appointment of a replacement consultant architect, the Design Team has reviewed the previous Stage 2(b) documentation and is currently upgrading the 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 Building Regulations.

The Design Team is also finalising the detail in relation to the provision of temporary accommodation and playground facilities during the construction of the new school building.

The Design Team will then complete the tender documents and submit the Stage 2b report to my Department.  Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) submission, my Department will revert to the Board of Management regarding the further progression of the project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (409)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

409. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new secondary school for the Swords area of County Dublin, as announced in November 2015; if he has identified locations for the proposed school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31771/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that planning permission has been secured for a Post-Primary school (Swords Community College RN 76475D) on a site in North Swords (Mooretown) 

A building contractor has been appointed and construction commenced in April 2019.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (410)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

410. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new secondary school for the Malahide and Portmarnock areas of County Dublin, as announced in November 2015; if he has identified locations for these proposed schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31772/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a project to provide permanent accommodation for the school in question is included on my Department's capital programme.

With the assistance of officials from Fingal County Council a suitable site at Drinan has been identified and planning permission has been granted for the construction of the new post primary school thereon.  It is intended to deliver this school building project as part of my Department's Design and Build programme.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (411)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

411. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a permanent site for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31773/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to deliver the permanent accommodation for this school is on my Department's Capital Programme.

My Department is working to progress the proposed acquisition of a site at Broomfield, Malahide to accommodate the school and this is currently at the conveyancing stage.

Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (412)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

412. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding progress on a new school building project for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31774/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to deliver the permanent accommodation for this school is on my Department's Capital Programme.

My Department is working to progress the proposed acquisition of a site to accommodate the school and this is currently at the conveyancing stage.

Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (413)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

413. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new site for a school (details supplied) as announced in November 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31775/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to deliver the permanent accommodation for this school is on my Department's Capital Programme.

My Department is working to progress the proposed acquisition of a site to accommodate the school and this is currently at the conveyancing stage.

Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (414)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

414. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that the works to provide a new school building for a school (details supplied), in addition to the associated refurbishment works, commence as a matter of urgent priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31776/19]

View answer

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.

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 appointment of a Design Team – (Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Civil & Structural Engineer, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer and Project Supervisor for the Design Process) for the school in question has commenced. The closing date for Tenders was 9th July 2019. The tenders are now being assessed. Following the assessment process, a Letter of Intent will issue to each of the proposed Design Team members with a view to finalising the make-up of the Design Team.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (415)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

415. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a new school (details supplied); the stage at which the project is at; when construction will commence on the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31777/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project 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.  All statutory approvals have been secured.

Following the appointment of a replacement consultant architect, the Design Team has reviewed the previous Stage 2(b) documentation and upgraded the 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.

 A revised Stage 2(b) submission has recently been received and is currently under review within my Department. Following this review my Department will revert to the Board of Management regarding the progression of the project.

Autism Support Services

Questions (416, 417)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

416. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the primary schools in Kinsealy, Malahide and Portmarnock, County Dublin that have autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31778/19]

View answer

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

417. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish additional autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units in primary schools in Kinsealy, Malahide and Portmarnock, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31779/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 416 and 417 together.

I want to assure the Deputy and Parents that concerns regarding a shortage of appropriate school places for next September are being taken very seriously.

The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes.  It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a class. In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned.   In this regard, the SENO may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.

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

Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advice parents whose children have special needs.  Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.

SENOs are also available to assist and advise schools on special education supports and planning.

The number of ASD special classes in County Dublin have increased from 66 in the 2011/2012 school year to 197 in the 2018/2019, a threefold increase.  There are 15 ASD classes in the areas referred to by the Deputy: 2 Early Intervention classes, 8 Primary ASD classes and 5 Post-primary ASD classes.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available in tabular form by county on the NCSE website at https://ncse.ie/special-classes

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.

This process is ongoing and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing ASD classes where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

As a result of these efforts, I expect progress will be made in the coming weeks in ensuring that every child has a placement available to them.

I have asked the NCSE to keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned and advise them of progress.

In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them is a key priority for me and my Department. 

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (418)

Robert Troy

Question:

418. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reduce the average class size in primary schools from the current level of 25 to the EU average of 20; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that primary school class sizes here are the largest in the eurozone. [31798/19]

View answer

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. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.  

It is the annual staffing schedule which determines the allocation of teachers to schools.  For the current school year, it 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 latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio 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.  Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.5 in the same period.  It is expected that the one point improvement in the staffing schedule, implemented in September 2018, will further improve the overall ratio of teacher to students.

Any additional improvement in the pupil teacher ratio would have to be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process, alongside the many other demands from the education sector.

School Staff

Questions (419)

Robert Troy

Question:

419. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce one leadership and management day per week for all teaching principals at primary school level. [31799/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I recently hosted a symposium on Small Schools which gave me an opportunity to restate the Government’s commitment to small schools and to open a dialogue with all the key stakeholders.

The purpose of this work by the Department is to develop a policy proposal to help support and strengthen small primary schools throughout the country.

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 (420)

Robert Troy

Question:

420. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to restore primary school capitation grants to pre-recession levels which would see an increase in the region of €30 million; and his views on whether many schools are struggling to meet day to day costs at the current levels. [31800/19]

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.  The first and full year costs of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

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.

School Transport Availability

Questions (421)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

421. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason there is a perceived lack of school transport (details supplied). [31822/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.  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 at a cost of over €200m in 2018. 

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.  Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/20 school year.  Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated.

Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

Bus Éireann is currently considering applications for the 2019/20 school year.  Services operating for the 2019/20 school year will be determined by the number of children who complete the application process on time and who and are deemed eligible for school transport. 

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

European Court of Human Rights Judgments

Questions (422, 423)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

422. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person who advised that a prior complaint was required based on the interpretation of the judgment of the ECHR in a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31849/19]

View answer

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

423. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it was a legal or political interpretation of the judgement of the ECHR in a case (details supplied) which found, incorrectly, that a prior complaint was necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31850/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government established the Ex Gratia Scheme as part of the implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Louise O'Keeffe v. Ireland and having taken legal advice in relation to the proposed Scheme in the context of that judgement.

The measures taken to implement the ECtHR judgement are set out in the Action Plans published on my Department's website at

https://www.education.ie/en/Learners/Information/Former-Residents-of-Industrial-Schools/ECHR-OKeeffe-v-Ireland/.

Child Abuse

Questions (424)

Joan Collins

Question:

424. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to ensure that all survivors of abuse in day schools will receive redress from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31854/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Taoiseach has requested that my Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, look again at the ex-gratia scheme in the light of the independent assessor's determination in 19 cases.

I'm sure the Deputy will understand the importance of having a more complete awareness of the extent of the problem and an accurate estimate of likely costs before introducing any modifications to a scheme.

School Transport Provision

Questions (425)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

425. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that all students who apply and pay for transportation to schools will be accommodated (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31921/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. 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 scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.  Children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/20 school year.  Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

Bus Éireann is currently considering applications for the 2019/20 school year.  Services operating for the 2019/20 school year will be determined by the number of children who complete the application process on time and who and are deemed eligible for school transport.

Under the terms of the Post-Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. Bus Éireann has confirmed that, in general, pupils who reside in the area referred to are not eligible for transport to the school referred to.  In cases where the Department is satisfied that the nearest school is full, eligibility for school transport will be determined based on the distance that children reside from their next nearest school having regard to ethos and language.  Further information in this regard is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

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

Teacher Redeployment

Questions (426)

Niall Collins

Question:

426. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) was not considered for redeployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31955/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The core function of the redeployment arrangements is to facilitate the redeployment of surplus permanent teachers to other schools where vacancies exist. The redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers is key to the Department's ability to manage within its payroll budget and ceiling on teacher numbers.

A voluntary redeployment scheme has operated on a pilot basis in specific regions in recent years.  Permanent teachers employed in these regions were given an opportunity to volunteer for a transfer to other areas if such a transfer would free up a vacancy that would facilitate the redeployment of a surplus permanent teacher in the region.   

The criteria for the allocation of teachers to post-primary schools for the 2019/20 school year, including the redeployment arrangements, are available on the Department's website education.ie

Digital Literacy Education Programme

Questions (427)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

427. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of establishing a digital literacy education programme at both primary and secondary level in schools. [31982/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Considerable work has been done in the development of curricula on digital literacy.  Costs associated with establishing a digital literacy education programme in schools would for the most part therefore, relate to further development of programmes and, most significantly, investment in supporting and establishing the uptake and implementation of programmes in schools.

At both primary and post-primary levels considerable scope for building the capacity of students in the area of digital literacy is provided for through the emphasis on dispositions, competencies and skills as foundational elements of the curriculum.  Specifically, in the newly introduced Framework for Junior Cycle digital literacy skills are promoted through the eight Key Skills (all skills have an ICT/digital component) and through the Statements of Learning. In addition, in the ongoing reviews of the Primary Curriculum and of the Senior Cycle the skills of, or skills closely related to, digital literacy, have featured strongly in all discussions on future provision.

Currently at post-primary level, there are several programmes and courses in ICT and Digital Literacy already in place, particularly the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Literacy and the IT courses in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. To a lesser extent, the recently introduced Leaving Certificate subject in Computer Science also looks at aspects of digital literacy.

In studying the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Media Literacy, students learn to use digital technology, communication tools and the internet creatively, critically and safely, in support of their development, learning and capacity to participate effectively in social and community life.

The Information and Communication Technology module forms part of the core curriculum for all Leaving Certificate Applied students. It is intended to develop the students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding of Information and Communication Technology to enable them to use digital technology in both their current and future lives.

In addition, areas such as Wellbeing and its constituent programmes in Social, Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education and Civic, Social and Political Education also underpin skills of digital literacy in engaging with the subject material in these courses.

Autism Support Services

Questions (428, 429)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

428. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary level autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units by county; and the number of places in each unit in tabular form. [31985/19]

View answer

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

429. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of secondary level ASD units by county; and the number of places in each unit in tabular form. [31986/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 428 and 429 together.

The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes.  It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a class. In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned.   In this regard, the SENO may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.

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

Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advice parents whose children have special needs.  SENOs are also available to assist and advise schools on special education supports and planning.

The NCSE have advised that for the 2019/20 school year there will be a total of 1,353 Autism Special Classes. This includes 134 Early Intervention classes, 849 ASD classes at primary level and 370 ASD classes at post-primary level. Each ASD Special class provides 6 placements.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available in tabular form by county on the NCSE website at https://ncse.ie/special-classes.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Questions (430)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

430. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistant, SNA, allocations by county; his plans to increase the number of SNAs to meet requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31987/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

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

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

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

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 publish statistics on SNA allocations for each school year and this information is available on their website, www.ncse.ie.

Online Safety

Questions (431)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

431. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is examining the potential of adding a structured programme on online safety into the primary school curriculum. [31988/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

At primary level the focus is educating children to keep safe online, being respectful of others online and helping teachers integrate internet safety into teaching and learning in their schools.

There are extensive training and curricular supports available, including through the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) curriculum, to assist schools in the development of policies and practices on the safe use of the internet and to promote students’ mental, emotional, social and physical well-being.

Under the current curriculum at primary, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is the context in which social and emotional learning is addressed.

The SPHE curriculum, implemented from junior infants to sixth class, includes a strand unit Media Education. Through this strand, pupils will:

- become familiar with different media

- explore how prejudice and partiality can distort information

- explore some of the techniques used in the media

- examine how these techniques are used in promoting particular ideas or in selling particular products

- look at the media in a critical way by asking questions, exploring perspectives, and examining bias

- begin to investigate advertising and marketing strategies and practise using some of these approaches for themselves

- become discerning about the messages they receive from different media sources

- examine how families and relationships are portrayed in the media, how conflicts are resolved, and how intimacy and sexuality are represented

- examine the effects of advertising on various aspects of life, for example on purchasing, dietary habits, health behaviour and life-style.

Children are also given opportunities to explore the range of information available to them through information and communication technologies. They can begin to become aware of cultural bias and the dominant perspective that pervades some of these technologies. They are encouraged to make the technology work for them and to become discerning and judicious media users.

Through the Media Education strand unit, at Fifth and Sixth Class curriculum in SPHE, the child should be enabled to:

- explore and understand how information is conveyed and practise relaying messages using a variety of methods e.g. information and communication technology, letter, telephone, picture, poster, sign, film, book

- explore the role of newspapers and other forms of print media in transmitting messages, the techniques used and the types of information included e.g. identifying information that may be deliberately excluded, the role of bias

- recognise unequal treatment of sexual roles and other issues in literature, advertising, drama, magazines and other media

- identify the audiences at which different aspects of the media are aimed the approaches used, e.g. the content

- become aware of the different forms of advertising, its purpose and the messages it promotes e.g. advertising messages—slim always means healthy, beautiful people smoke and drink, certain diets are safe, beauty is physical hidden links between body-image and certain products—you will belong if you use this product what I need versus what I want

- become increasingly critical and discerning in his/her own attitude to advertising and the techniques used to promote products, life-styles and ideas techniques: e.g. beauty and glamour to promote certain products, the use of music, associating personalities with certain products, giving free gifts on purchase, the use of attractive visual images, the repetition of certain advertisements

- explore various recreation and leisure activities as an alternative to watching television

- explore and use some simple broadcasting, production and communication techniques e.g. lighting, voice-over, interview, camera work, using different kinds of music, e-mail.

Given that the SPHE curriculum dates back to 1999, schools typically supplement teaching in this area with more up-to-date materials. Webwise has put together a number of internet safety teaching resources which are available to schools for free. They can be used to help young people to learn about using new media in a safe, secure and positive way. My Department has collaborated with Webwise and other agencies to develop the following range of materials at primary and post-primary level:

- Webwise Primary Teachers’ Handbook (PDST, DES, 2011) This programme provides online resources to support teachers in addressing learners’ safe and responsible uses of the Internet. This programme compliments and extends the messages the Stay Safe programme and it is envisaged that the programme will be taught as part of the SPHE curriculum for children between the ages of 8 and 12 (i.e. 1st to 6th Class).

- My Selfie and the Wider World  (Webwise, PDST, DES, 2015)his Anti-Cyber Bullying Teachers’ Handbook is an SPHE resource developed to engage 5th and 6th class primary school learners on the topic of cyber bullying.

- HTML Heroes Programme (Webwise, DES), is for primary school teachers who wish to introduce internet safety into SPHE for 3rd and 4th classes.

- Lockers (Webwise, PDST, DES, 2016,) This programme aimed at Junior Cycle learners assists schools in coping with and preventing the sharing of explicit self-generated images of minors.

- Up2Us Anti-Bullying Kit (Webwise, PDST, DES, 2014) This post-primary programme address the issue of cyber bullying.

- Be Safe Be Webwise  (DES, NCTE  and SPHE support service) Promotes key internet safety skills among Junior Cycle post-primary learners. The resource complements the mandatory SPHE curriculum.

- ThinkB4UClick supports teachers to help junior cycle learners to explore: online privacy, online rights and responsibilities, how to assert their online rights and how to respect the rights of their peers in a technologically advanced global environment.

The PDST Technology in Education website (www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie) offers the following information and advice in relation to internet safety:

The Internet and digital media can help our pupils learn, create and communicate in ways that we would never have imagined in our youth.  The online world is very much part of their lives, they are “growing up digital” with technology embedded in every aspect of their lives.

Schools have a duty of care to their pupils, and this includes helping children and young people to use new digital technologies safely and responsibly, wherever and whenever they go online.

Digital literacy skills are key life skills for children and young people today.  They need to be media savvy and know how to effectively search for and evaluate online content; know how to protect personal information and reputation; know to respect copyright and intellectual property and know where to get help if problems arise. Schools are well placed to help children and young people to develop these skills, and should look for opportunities across the curriculum to reinforce online safety messages.

The school can:

- Implement and update an Internet Safety Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The school’s AUP and its procedures will need to be accessible to pupils, in a language they can understand, if they are to apply it.  Discussing the relevant parts of the AUP will help pupils draw up and agree Responsible Use Rules for their classroom.

- Educate students on how to be safe online and when using ICT. Internet Safety teaching and learning resources help enable pupils to discuss their use of the Internet and to learn how to safeguard themselves and others when online. Webwise working with primary and post-primary teacher support groups has created classroom resources mapped to the curriculum and the NCCA ICT Framework.

- Be part of a content filtering/monitoring system. While the Schools Broadband Programme (SBP), managed by the PDST Technology in Education, offers all Irish schools content filtered broadband, increasingly, smartphones and other Internet-enabled personal devices are becoming the norm for pupils. Children are able to go online in a wide variety of ways e.g. their games console, their laptop, their phone. While the “computers in their pockets” have great teaching and learning value they will not be part of the school’s network and so will not be subject to the SBP content filtering.  Educating them on the safe, ethical and responsible use of the Internet is the way to prepare them for an always-on “unfiltered” online life.

The school should combine all three of the above strategies rather than over reliance on one in order to help pupils become safe and responsible Internet users and to help them become digitally literate.