Higher Education Authority Funding

Questions (447)

Brendan Smith

Question:

447. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to the issues raised in a budget 2020 submission by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36383/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I would like to thank USI for their detailed pre-budget 2020 submission on Higher Education.  The recommendations outlined in the submission along with other relevant submissions received in advance of budget 2020 are being considered as part of the  overall budgetary discussions on higher education provision for 2020.

To date significant progress has been made in increasing investment in Higher Education and putting in place a sustainable funding model for Higher Education.  Following the announcements in Budget 2019 Higher Education spending has increased by 25% compared to 2015, an increase of almost €350 million.

I am always open to consider inputs from a wide range of stakeholders and I will be continuing to work for increased investment in Higher Education for 2020 and beyond.

School Patronage

Questions (448)

John Curran

Question:

448. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide an Educate Together national school in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36397/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The patronage divesting process arises from the recommendations of the 2012 report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, following which the Department undertook surveys of parental preferences in 43 areas of stable population in 2012 and 2013 to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas.  Analysis of the parental preferences expressed in each area surveyed indicated that there was sufficient parental demand to support changes in school patronage in 28 areas, including in  Palmerstown/Ballyfermot/Chapelizod/Cherry Orchard.

Under the patronage divesting process, a school can be opened where a school building became, or was due to become available as a result of an amalgamation/closure of an existing school. 

To date, it has not been possible to secure a school property to facilitate a new school being established in Palmerstown/Ballyfermot/Chapelizod/Cherry Orchard. However, the Department is continuing its efforts in relation to identifying a suitable solution under the patronage divesting process, which would facilitate a new Educate Together school being established to serve the area.  It is not possible at this stage, however, to give a timeframe for the establishment of such a school.

In addition, the requirement for new schools to meet emerging demographic demand is kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

Teaching Council of Ireland

Questions (449)

Michael McGrath

Question:

449. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a matter raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) in County Cork regarding registering with the Teaching Council will be examined; if the issue will be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36410/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession in Ireland including the registration of teachers in the State.

The Council has established standards for post-qualification professional practice, as set out in Droichead, the new model of induction and probation for newly qualified primary and post-primary teachers.

The person in question should continue to liaise with the Teaching Council in relation to their requirements for registration.

Where a person has obtained their teaching qualifications in another Member State of the EU, Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications applies. This Directive deals with the recognition of professional qualifications across Member States. Where a person has obtained their teaching qualifications and is eligible to practice the profession in another Member State, they may apply to the Teaching Council to seek recognition of their qualifications in accordance with the provisions of the Directive. Once recognition is granted, the person may proceed to complete the remaining requirements to register with the Teaching Council.

School Transport Provision

Questions (450)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

450. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to providing additional transport for students travelling to nearby schools in County Donegal on a route that is oversubscribed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36411/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.  

The purpose of my Department’s 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.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process on time have been 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 has confirmed that there were a number of children in the area referred to by the Deputy who did not complete the application process within timelines and therefore were not allocated a ticket for the 2019/20 school year.  Bus Eireann has also confirmed that the service in question is operating to capacity.

School Transport Provision

Questions (451, 460)

Brendan Smith

Question:

451. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the additional financial allocation has been made in respect of school transport provision as he identified as being necessary to provide a comprehensive service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36431/19]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

460. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the conditions attaching to the award of concessionary tickets on school transport in view of the difficulties that arise for many families at the commencement of each school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36498/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 451 and 460 together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.  In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres 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 have been 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.

Minister McHugh has sanctioned an additional €1m on the school transport budget to allow for temporary alleviation measures to address a shortage of school transport capacity on the post primary scheme in 2019. The cost of these measures is to be given to those areas where there is a significant concentration of post-primary children who have paid on time for the 2019/2020 school year and who are attending their second closest school.  A number of measures have been confirmed to alleviate some of the capacity issues in the areas of highest demand in some parts of the country.

Bus Éireann continues to work with the Department of Education and Skills to process applications and design routes to ensure that all eligible pupils who paid on time are facilitated with school transport. In doing this they are endeavouring to facilitate as many concessionary pupils as possible where capacity exists. Work is also ongoing with Bus Éireann to assess where limited resources can be invested to ease pressures in other parts of the country.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (452)

Brendan Smith

Question:

452. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve class sizes and the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36433/19]

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 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year.  Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period. 

Any change 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.

Weight of Schoolbags

Questions (453, 454, 455)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

453. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanism by which the weight of school bags is monitored by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36446/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

454. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department consults with schools on the weight of school bags in the context of the setting of textbooks and timetables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36447/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

455. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanism by which his Department ensures that surveys of the weight of school bags are undertaken by schools in accordance with circulars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36448/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 453 to 455, inclusive, together.

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998 the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school.

Circulars were issued to all primary and post-primary schools in 2005 to highlight the potential health hazard of overweight schoolbags and to outline a range of local measures that could be put in place to help alleviate the problem.

In managing a school, the Board is required to comply with the relevant provisions of the Education Act, 1998 and the terms of Circulars issued by my Department.

My Department is aware that positive action has been taken by many schools on these issues. Actions consist of a range of measures, including the provision of lockers and in the case of second level school the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods, active liaison with parents and the co-ordination of homework by subject teachers.

Ultimately it is a matter for each individual school to determine which particular measures are most suited to its individual circumstances and to how the school concerned organises teaching and learning.

Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level (mainly in the case of language subjects) school textbooks are not approved or prescribed by the Department at first or second level. Decisions on which books to use in schools are taken at school level.

I intend to publish the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill shortly. The aim of the legislation is to improve how schools engage with students and their parents.

Among the key concepts in the Bill include the need for a school to consult with, and encourage the participation and engagement of, students (to the extent appropriate to their age and experience) and their parents, and respond as appropriate, to comments and suggestions made by students and their parents, in respect of the development, review and updating of school plans and policies of the school (other than admission policies) and the activities of the school.

The charter guidelines will set out the procedures that school must develop for consulting with students and their parents and inviting and responding to comments and suggestions from students and their parents.

Parent and Student Charter

Questions (456)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

456. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress of the education (parent and student charter) Bill. [36449/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The development of an Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill reflects the commitment contained in A Programme for a Partnership Government to introduce a stronger complaints procedures and charter for parents. I believe that the Bill constitutes an important step aimed at improving the experiences of both students and parents in their engagement with schools.  

The Bill will require that every school must prepare, publish and implement a Student and Parent Charter. Every school's Charter must adhere to national guidelines published by the Minister after consultation partners.  

I intend to publish the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill later this month and I look forward to working with both Houses of the Oireachtas to ensure that the Bill is enacted.

School Transport Provision

Questions (457)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

457. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if school transport will be provided for a student (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36465/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.  In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres 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 have been 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 has advised that the information requested for the case in question is not readily available and and in this regard, Bus Éireann has been requested to respond directly to the Deputy.

Schools Amalgamation

Questions (458)

Brendan Smith

Question:

458. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will meet with a deputation, as requested by local community groups (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36468/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron/Trustees of the schools, and this is then subject to the approval of my Department.

In this regard, consultations with the various stakeholders are held with the Patrons in question and I understand that this has taken place locally.

School Transport Provision

Question No. 460 answered with Question No. 451.

Questions (459)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

459. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that can be taken to assist a student (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36473/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.  

The purpose of my Department’s 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.

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 Eireann have advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy is concessionary. Their application had been registered as 6th year for the 2018/19 school year and therefore their application did not roll forward to the 2019/20 school year.  

Following a reorganisation of services, this pupil has been accommodated on a service and Bus Éireann have been in contact with the family to inform them of same.

Question No. 460 answered with Question No. 451.

School Staff

Questions (461)

Brendan Smith

Question:

461. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the conditions of employment of school secretaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36507/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. 

These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

Officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives in May 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.

School Patronage

Questions (462)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

462. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the provision of funding for an Educate Together school in Palmerstown, Dublin 20. [36509/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The patronage divesting process arises from the recommendations of the 2012 report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, following which the Department undertook surveys of parental preferences in 43 areas of stable population in 2012 and 2013 to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas.  Analysis of the parental preferences expressed in each area surveyed indicated that there was sufficient parental demand to support changes in school patronage in 28 areas, including in Palmerstown/Ballyfermot/Chapelizod/Cherry Orchard.

Under the patronage divesting process, a school can be opened where a school building became or was due to become available as a result of an amalgamation/closure of an existing school. 

To date, it has not been possible to secure a school property to facilitate a new school being established in Palmerstown/Ballyfermot/Chapelizod/Cherry Orchard. However, the Department is continuing its efforts in relation to identifying a suitable solution under the patronage divesting process, which would facilitate a new Educate Together school being established to serve the area.  It is not possible at this stage, however, to give a timeframe for the establishment of such a school.

In addition, the requirement for new schools to meet emerging demographic demand is kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

School Placement

Questions (463)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

463. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review the Kilcock school planning area to include Johnstownbridge and Kilahanroe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36523/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. 

The school planning areas are used in the demographic exercise as a basis for the assessment of areas of growth and to inform recommendations on the establishment of any new schools required in that school planning area.  There are no current plans to revise school planning areas.

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including a new 500 pupil post-primary school for Enfield (Kilcock school planning area) to be established in 2020.

New schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required, in the first instance, to prioritise pupil applications from within the designated school planning area(s) which the school was established to serve.  This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the school planning area where they have sufficient places.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

Apprenticeship Data

Questions (464, 465)

Brendan Smith

Question:

464. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the new apprenticeship programmes available since 2017; the estimated cost for such allowances; the estimated additional costs that will be incurred in ensuring equality of allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36526/19]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

465. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce similar allowances for all apprenticeships; if so, the estimated cost for such allowances; the estimated additional costs that will be incurred in ensuring equality or allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36527/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 464 and 465 together.

This Government is committed to the ongoing expansion and development of our national apprenticeship system, as is evident by a year on year increase in the budget allocation. This year’s allocation for apprenticeship training is €142m which represents an increase of over 16% on the 2018 allocation of €122m. Since 2015 new apprenticeship registrations have increased by 80% with 5,648 new registrations by the end of 2018. In addition, following two calls for proposals in 2015 and 2017 by the Apprenticeship Council, to date twenty new apprenticeship programmes have been developed and are now operational to complement the existing 25 craft apprenticeships.

It is important to note that the structure of these new consortia led apprenticeship programmes are different to those in the craft trades. Our new consortia-led apprenticeships offer more flexibility to employers in meeting their skill needs both in the duration of the programme and in terms of the delivery of the off-the-job training. These new apprenticeship programmes vary in length from 2 to 4 years and have different methods of off-the-job training such as one day per week, and on-line blended learning rather than the traditional block release of up to 22 weeks in an education setting, as is the case in the craft trades. While there is no training allowance paid to apprentices undertaking one of our new apprenticeships, I am aware that some employers engaged in the system have raised this as an issue. However, any change in this regard, which has not been fully costed by my Department, would have to form part of the normal budgetary process and be considered in the broader context of competing demands and the overall availability of resources.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (466)

Brendan Smith

Question:

466. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when authorisation will issue to commence the pre-qualification process in respect of a building project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36531/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b - Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been obtained.

The Stage 2(b) submission for this project has been reviewed and the Design Team has completed work on its NZEB submission for this project which will ensure the new school building will be a "Near Zero Energy Building" (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

The Department’s capital programme continues to address the challenge posed by significant increases in the school population particularly in developing areas. To help meet this demographic challenge, during the course of 2019 over 80 large scale projects and 140 projects under the Additional Accommodation Scheme are under construction. 

There are currently 375 large-scale projects for delivery under the school building programme as part of the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027.  The current status of each of these projects is listed on the Department’s website and is updated on a monthly basis. 

To manage this volume of projects within the overall budget the Department must continuously profile projects to progress towards commencing construction and draw down of funding on a scheduled basis. 

In this context, the Department will revert to the school later this month with prospective timelines for the further progression of this major building project, including pre-qualification of contractors and progression to tender stage.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Questions (467)

Brendan Smith

Question:

467. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a summer works scheme application will be approved in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36536/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for external environment projects  (Category 10) under my Department’s multi-annual Summer Works Scheme (SWS) 2020 onwards.

I wish to advise the Deputy that commensurate with the level of funding available for the SWS in 2020 onwards, applications will be assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (0027/2019) is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

School Transport Provision

Questions (468)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

468. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason transport is not being provided in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36543/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.  

The purpose of my Department’s 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.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process on time have been 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 has advised that a payment was not submitted for the child referred to by the Deputy and that the service is now operating to capacity.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (469)

John Curran

Question:

469. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of progress to provide a special needs base at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; the timeline for delivery of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36581/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is providing grant aid to facilitate the construction of a Special Needs Base, at the school in question, and will continue to liaise with the school authority in this regard.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (470)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

470. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available in regard to a higher education grant in the case of a person (details supplied); if they can qualify for a course at level 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36587/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My officials have been advised by SUSI that a decision on her grant application issued on 12 August 2019.

Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

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 an appeals officer in SUSI, not later than 30 days after receipt of the decision. 

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.

School Transport Data

Questions (471, 472, 473, 474)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

471. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria used to distribute the extra funding allocated for the school transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36617/19]

View answer

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

472. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the routes selected in County Cork for the extra funding allocated for the school transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36618/19]

View answer

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

473. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications for the school transport scheme by county, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36619/19]

View answer

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

474. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of funding allocated by county out of the extra funding allocated to the school transport scheme, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36620/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 471 to 474, inclusive, together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.  In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres 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 have been 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.

Minister McHugh has sanctioned an additional €1m on the school transport budget to allow for temporary alleviation measures to address a shortage of school transport capacity on the post primary scheme in 2019. The cost of these measures is to be given to those areas where there is a significant concentration of post-primary children who have paid on time for the 2019/2020 school year and who are attending their second closest school.  A number of measures have been confirmed to alleviate some of the capacity issues in the areas of highest demand in some parts of the country.

Bus Éireann continues to work with the Department of Education and Skills to process applications and design routes to ensure that all eligible pupils who paid on time are facilitated with school transport. In doing this they are endeavouring to facilitate as many concessionary pupils as possible where capacity exists. Work is also ongoing with Bus Éireann to assess where limited resources can be invested to ease pressures in other parts of the country.