School Transport Administration

Questions (585)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

585. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of removing the nearest school clause for the primary and post-primary school transport scheme and to expand the scheme to all eligible children to a school in which a child is enrolled for 2019-2020 regardless of whether it is the nearest national school or not or if it is nearer than the current agreed distance of 3.2 kilometres. [33713/19]

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 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. 

The cost for the provision of school transport scheme services in 2018 was over €200m.  It is not possible to estimate what the cost would be to expand the scheme in the manner referred to by the Deputy.

School Transport

Questions (586, 587)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

586. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of providing free school transport to all eligible children at primary level. [33714/19]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

587. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of providing free school transport to all eligible children at post-primary level. [33715/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 586 and 587 together.

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. 

In the 2018/19 school year school transport services were provided to primary and post-primary schools for almost 76,000 eligible children. Of these, in the region of 29,000 children held valid Medical Cards and were exempt from school transport charges.

The average cost of providing transport for a child to a primary or post-primary school is estimated at €1,000 per annum.

School Transport Data

Questions (588)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

588. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to secure transport to current concessionary ticket holders for the duration of their education; and the number of children that obtained concessionary tickets for the 2018-2019 school year by level and class. [33716/19]

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.

In the 2018/19 school year there were circa 28,400 children who were not eligible for school transport but who obtained a ticket on a concessionary basis. This comprised  of circa 14,100 primary and 14,300 post-primary children.  Under the terms of the scheme, the number of spare seats varies from year to year, based on the capacity of the buses running on all of the various routes and the number of eligible children accommodated on each route. Hence there is no guarantee that a non-eligible child who received a place in a previous year will receive a seat the following year.  It is included in the terms and conditions on the Bus Éireann online application that availability of seats may vary from year to year and that concessionary transport cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s education. 

The average cost of providing transport for a child to primary or post-primary school is estimated at €1,000 per annum.

School Transport

Questions (589)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

589. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to provide free school transport to all children on medical cards. [33717/19]

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.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid Medical Cards are exempt from paying the annual charge.  In the 2018/19 school year there were circa 29,000 eligible children who held a valid Medical Card and who were exempt from paying school transport charges.  In the 2018/19 school year there were in the region of 28,400 children who were not eligible for school transport but who were allocated a ticket on a concessionary basis.  It is not possible to say how many of these children held a valid medical card or to estimate the cost of providing free transport to those children.

 The terms of the scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.

School Transport Provision

Questions (590)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

590. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if school transport will be arranged for a child (details supplied) who has special educational needs and who requires to attend a special school as opposed to a mainstream school with a special needs class; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the special school the child has registered with is the only school able to offer the placement and that they are being unfairly deprived of school transport. [33719/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

Under the terms of my Department’s School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are generally eligible for school transport where they are attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs.

Eligibility for school transport is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers; decisions regarding transport eligibility are based on the prevailing circumstances at the time of a child's enrolment. 

Officials in School Transport Section of my Department are liaising with the NCSE in regard to the application for transport for the child referred to by the Deputy,

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

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (591)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

591. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a family can qualify for family income supplement but cannot qualify for a student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33720/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The student grant scheme provides for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means.  Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates.  The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, Family Income Supplement (aka the Working Family Payment) is treated as an income disregard and is therefore not included in the calculation of reckonable income. It is also a qualifying payment for the special rate of grant.

If an individual applicant considers that 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 an appeals officer in SUSI. Please note that there are statutory time limits for making an appeal.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his case, an appeal may be submitted by the applicant via www.studentgrantappeals.ie outlining the position to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe.

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. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (592)

Catherine Martin

Question:

592. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the building project for a school (details supplied); if the competition to establish a project manager framework has been completed; when a planning application will be submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33766/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's Design and Build programme.. The competition to establish a project manager framework has been completed, and a project manager is now appointed.

The first step in the process will be the application for planning permission which is expected to be lodged in quarter 3 of 2019. Thereafter, the timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission. My Department is working to deliver the school's permanent accommodation at the earliest possible date.

Multidenominational Schools

Questions (593)

Catherine Martin

Question:

593. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the lack of provision of schools of a non-denominational ethos in the Dublin 12 area; the solution he plans to provide for this issue in order that parents can access local non-denominational schooling in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33778/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

At primary level, there is existing co-educational and multi-denominational education provision in an Educate Together national school in Dublin 12 – Riverview ETNS - which was established in September 2016 under the patronage divesting process.

In relation to post-primary provision in Dublin 12, an existing co-educational City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) post-primary school in Crumlin is multi-denominational educational in nature and has the capacity to meet additional demand. CDETB and Educate Together have been working together on partnership patronage arrangements in relation to extending the co-educational and multi-denominational educational provision at existing CDETB schools in Dublin 12 (Crumlin) and Dublin 7 (Cabra). This has the potential to add to and enhance the availability of additional choice in these areas.

My Department keeps the need for additional school places to cater for demographic demand under review on an ongoing basis.

Capitation Grants

Questions (594)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

594. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 264 of 11 July 2019, if the information requested on the number and proportion of schools rewarded with extra capitation grants arising from compliance with circular 0032/2017 will be provided. [33820/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In circular 0032/2017 my Department published measure to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs.

While the circular provided, as resources permit, to reward schools that can provide evidence of having adopted the principles of cost-effective practice, my Department, having regard to the available budgetary resources, has focused on commencing the process of restoration by improving capitation funding for all schools. My Department has not issued a premium in capitation grants under this circular letter.

In 2019, my Department has provided for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post-primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/2020 school year. Over the course of the school year 2019/2020, an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post primary schools, of which €4 million will be allocated in 2019.

It is important that schools consult with parents and the school community, and the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 will require each school to implement a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines to be published by the Minister after consultation with the education partners, including the recognised national associations of parents. One of the key concepts in the Bill is the need for schools to seek to reduce the costs to parents as far as is practicable. I intend to publish the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill in the Autumn.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (595)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

595. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 18 June 2019 and the reply of the NCSE, the clarification made by the SENO in question with a school (details supplied); if the SNA allocation decision is being reviewed; his views on whether the decision should be reviewed in view of the fact that the school management was seeking an immediate review of the decision for cutting the number of SNAs from the school from 3.5 to 3.2 for September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33877/19]

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 27 September 2019.

I have been advised by the NCSE that an appeal has been received in this case and will be processed in due course.  

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

Autism Support Services

Questions (596)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

596. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of implementing the recommendations of the National Council for Special Education on supporting children with autism. [33878/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Enabling children with Special Educational Needs including Autism to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for Government.

There is now unprecedented investment in special education. The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019.

We have significantly increased the availability of specialist placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.

The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016.  The report acknowledges that there has been substantial investment in the education of students with autism over the 14 years since the publication of the last major report on autism in 2001.  The report set out 11 recommendations for further improvement and outlines a range of associated actions to give effect to its recommendations.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered and that a timetable for implementation is prepared.

The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.

A number of the recommendations in relation to school aged provision have been substantially implemented, including those on the development of additional primary and post primary provision, admissions to schools, operating of special classes, additional release days for teaching principals and the use of evidence-informed interventions.

Work is continuing on recommendations relating to on developing teacher knowledge, skills and understanding. My Department intends to publish comprehensive inter agency Good Practice Guidelines on the education of children with Autism by the end of the year.

It is expected that recommendations will be made shortly concerning a revised July provision scheme which would be implemented next year at the earliest.  Before any changes are made, there will be consultations with stakeholders.

The NCSE estimated that implementing the school based recommendations in the report will cost an additional €20m per annum.

Special Educational Needs Expenditure

Questions (597)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

597. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of increasing the low incidence proportion of the special needs allocation to schools by 15%. [33879/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

From September 2017, a new model for allocating special education teachers was introduced. This model allocates special education teachers to schools based on the profiled needs of schools, as opposed to the assessed needs of individual children.

The revised allocation process replaced the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

The previous system which provides allocations of Low Incidence Resource Teaching support for individual pupils in particular disability categories, guided by the Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC Report), therefore no longer applies.

The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

1,000 additional special education teachers have been provided for schools since 2017, while the total number of special education teachers has increased by 37% since 2011, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

Adding an additional 15% to the current level of provision of 13,400 posts, would require the addition of some 2000 extra special education teachers, at an approximate cost of €120 Million per year.

Speech and Language Therapy Staff

Questions (598, 599, 600)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

598. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of introducing permanent in-school speech and language services for schools; and the estimated cost of the employment of an in-school speech and language therapist for each primary and secondary school for one full school year. [33880/19]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

599. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of the permanent employment of an in-school speech and language therapist at primary level on a full-time basis for one school year. [33881/19]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

600. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of the permanent employment of an in-school speech and language therapist at post-primary level on a full-time basis for one school year. [33882/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 598 to 600, inclusive, together.

The estimated cost of the permanent employment of an in-school speech and language therapist at either primary school or post primary school level, on a full-time basis for one school year, would be an average salary cost of €55,000 per annum for a Speech and Language Therapist, or €70,000 per annum for a Senior Speech and language Therapist.

The estimated cost of employing one permanent in-school speech and language therapist at each of 3962 primary school, special schools, or post primary schools, on a full-time basis for one school year, would therefore be €218 Million per annum, if Speech and Language Therapist grades were to be employed, or €277 Million per annum if Senior Speech and Language Therapist grades were to be employed. Additional management and administrative costs would also be required.

It should also be noted, that an allocation model of one therapist post to each school would not take into account that schools may have very different enrolment numbers, or different profiled needs.

The Deputy will be aware that a demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services has been introduced for the 2018/19 school year and has been taking place in 75 schools and an additional 75 pre-school settings in the Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow.

The purpose of the project is to test a model of tailored therapeutic supports that allows for early intervention in terms of providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’.

It will provide for a clinical Speech and Language Therapy service delivery model of Specialist, Targeted and universal supports in line with best practice for pupils which will see them receiving supports along a continuum of provision depending on the extent or severity of needs of the child/pupil.

Although initially designed as a one year pilot, a Government decision of 12th February, 2019, in relation to the Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, also agreed to the establishment of a pilot of a new School Inclusion Model for children with special educational and additional care needs involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region over the course of the 2019/20 school year.

The demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services will continue, as part of the School Inclusion Model, over the course of the 2019/20 school year.

Decisions in relation to the extension of the service to other areas or Counties, or to extend the service nationally, will be taken following the evaluation of the existing informed pilot phase.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Question No. 602 answered with Question No. 362.

Questions (601)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

601. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of employing an additional 100 resource teachers for primary school education. [33883/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

From September 2017, a new model for allocating special education teachers was introduced. This model allocates special education teachers to schools based on the profiled needs of schools, as opposed to the assessed needs of individual children.  

The revised allocation process replaced the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

The previous system which provided allocations of resource teaching support for individual pupils in particular disability categories, guided by the Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC Report), therefore no longer applies.

The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

 1,000 additional special education teachers have been provided for schools since 2017, while the total number of special education teachers has increased by 37% since 2011, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

Adding an additional 100 special education teachers to the current level of provision would cost approximately €6 Million per year.

Question No. 602 answered with Question No. 362.

School Playgrounds

Questions (603)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

603. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of ensuring that future school builds being constructed at present or which are in the planning stages include autism friendly playgrounds. [33886/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department currently provides funding with SEN Bases to provide a 100m² sensory play garden and 200m² secure and hard soft play area. An allowance is granted towards this provision which is subject to adjustment based on the specific site conditions. As the costs are site and school specific, it is not possible to give a cost of the provision as requested by the Deputy.

Schools Building Regulations

Questions (604)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

604. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of ensuring that future school builds being constructed at present or which are in the planning stages ensure appropriate wheelchair access. [33887/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that all school buildings being constructed or planned to be constructed must comply with Part M of the Building Regulations (Access for People with Disabilities) and must obtain a Disability Access Certificate (DAC).

The costs associated with complying with Part M of the Building Regulations will vary from school to school depending on site topography. In that context, it is not possible to provide an estimate of cost.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (605)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

605. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the July provision is not available for children with Down's syndrome and other disabilities; the reason it is only available for children with autism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33913/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's July Provision Grant Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with severe or profound intellectual disabilities and students with Autism.

The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which advises the Minister on these matters published its Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism in July 2016 which included a review of the July Scheme.

The review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students. The NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme as currently organised.

These include concerns that the scheme may be inequitable because it is not provided to all students with complex special educational needs.

The Council recommended that the relevant Government Departments consider how an equitable national day activity scheme could be developed for all students with complex special educational needs.

The proposed scheme would provide a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.

There has been consultation with a number of other Departments and State agencies regarding the future direction of the July Education Programme. 

It is expected that the Group will make recommendations shortly concerning a revised scheme which would be implemented next year at the earliest.  Before any changes are made, there will be consultations with stakeholders.

I met with a number of representatives from Down Syndrome Ireland on 3rd July 2019. There was a very fruitful discussion across a range of issues affecting children with Down Syndrome in the education system, including the review of the July Provision Scheme. The Department undertook to continue to engage with Down Syndrome Ireland on a range of education matters.

The policy of my Department is to ensure that all children with special educational needs, including children with Down syndrome, can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

School Admissions

Questions (606)

Martin Heydon

Question:

606. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options open to the parents of a child (details supplied) trying to access a secondary school place for September 2019 in south County Kildare. [33967/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils is the responsibility of the management authorities in each individual school. My Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to  disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent’s choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a school board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where the appeal involves an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, the appeal must be made to the local ETB in the first instance. Further information on the Section 29 Appeals process is available on my Departments website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/

In addition, the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01 7718633 / 01 7718500.