School Transport Provision

Questions (209)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

209. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the withdrawal of the school transport resource from a school (details supplied); if transport to the school is only provided for children with special educational needs as opposed to those attending due to mental health issues; if so, the policy this is based on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44337/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's practice has been to respond to the needs of long term or repeat child patients in hospitals and HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) facilities through the establishment of special schools or through the funding of part-time teaching hours.

The purpose of educational provision in HSE CAMHS Units is a short term intervention designed to provide for some continuity of education during the child/young person’s stay as an in-patient. Not all children/young people attending CAMHS are medically fit to avail of education during all of their stay.

Since 2014, my Department’s policy is to provide teaching staff in CAMHS facilities at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 on the basis of the number of inpatient beds in each CAMHS unit. The school referred to by the deputy is one such school.

Current policy does not provide for an additional teaching allocation for CAMHS facilities for children/young people attending as day or out-patients, as young people attending CAMHS as day patients can apply for Home Tuition support to provide for compensatory education in respect of time missed from school, due to medical reasons or attendance at a medical unit.

As not all inpatient beds in CAMHS Units may be filled at any given time, in such instances, subject to prior approval by my Department, CAMHS Units may utilise spare teaching capacity from their allocated 6:1 ratio to offer guidance or support for children/young people attending CAMHS facilities as day patients, and to assist in maintaining some continuity of education from their base school or liaison with their base school on days that they attend the CAMHS Unit.

Students in the special school referred to by the Deputy are attending the HSE CAMHS facility, in the first instance, as in-patients, day patients or out-patients for mental health issues rather than special educational needs.

While the special school in question was originally designated as a special school for Severe Emotional Behaviour Disturbance, since the school’s re-location with the HSE’s CAMHS unit, the teaching staff allocation has been provided on the basis of the policy outlined above for CAMHS facilities.

The CAMHS team may refer patients to the school for short term education intervention, designed to provide for some continuity of education, while a patient of the CAMHS Unit. All students remain enrolled in their base schools while attending the CAMHS unit. Special schools attached to CAMHS Units do not enrol students on a full time basis, as their main education placement. Therefore, their enrolment remains transient.

The purpose of the Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability. Children are eligible when they are attending the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class in mainstream or special school that is or can be resourced to meet their special educational needs. Eligibility is determined in consultation with the NCSE through its network of SENOs.

As students in special schools attached to a CAMHS facility, including the School referred to by the Deputy, are, in the first instance, attending CAMHS as in-patients, day patients or out-patients for mental health issues rather than special educational needs, transport to the HSE CAMHS unit does not come within the remit of my Department’s Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs.

Special School Transport was provided in error to a number of students who attended this special school while day patients of CAMHS. This arrangement was allowed to continue for these students until they completed their time in CAMHS. The school has been advised that no new applications can be considered.

School Transport Appeals

Questions (210)

Niall Collins

Question:

210. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if correspondence forwarded to the school transport appeals office by a person (details supplied) on 10 September 2019 will be acknowledged and replied to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44374/19]

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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.

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann is responsible for the planning and timetabling of school transport routes. Bus Éireann endeavours, within available resources, to ensure that each eligible child has a reasonable level of school transport service in the context of the Scheme nationally.

Where practicable, and subject to considerations of cost and logistics, routes are planned to avoid an eligible child having to travel more than 2.4 kms to or from a pick-up/set down point or to have travel and waiting times in excess of 1.5 hours per day. Routes are planned on the basis of the locations of children who are eligible for school transport only.

Bus Éireann has advised that the family in question is currently being offered a service within the above guidelines.

Bus Éireann has been requested to report on issues raised by the parent of the child concerned in regard to the pick-up point.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (211)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

211. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the building project for a school (details supplied); the status of the issues in relation to the tendering process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44403/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy has recently completed Stage 2(b) of architectural planning and has been progressed to tender stage.

The Department has recently been in contact with the Design Team and advised it of the need to get the tendering process underway as quickly as possible.

The Design Team Leader has advised that it expects to issue the Invitation to Tender to the shortlisted contractors shortly.

A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Teachers' Remuneration

Questions (212)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

212. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the payroll division will be advised of the situation of a person (details supplied); if it will provide the letter regarding the change to be applied to the point scale of the person in December 2019 for the person's application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44432/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that officials of the Payroll Division of my Department are in the process of issuing the information requested directly to the person referred to.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (213)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

213. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which a student can be refused a SUSI grant when the student is over the limit by €44 as in a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44435/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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 which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means.

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

The assessment of means under the student grant scheme is based on gross income from all sources, with certain social welfare and health service executive payments being exempt.

The terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme, including the means test arrangements, are applied impartially on a national basis, and accordingly it is not possible to make an exception in an individual case, regardless of circumstances.

The student in question has appealed the decision on her grant application to the SUSI appeals officer and subsequently to the statutorily independent Student Grants Appeals Board who both upheld the decision of the awarding authority. The student has exhausted the appeals process provided for in the Student Support Act 2011.

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

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from the applicant’s local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

School Transport Data

Questions (214)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

214. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will provide the Ombudsman for Children with the requested measurement of routes and mileage of the distance between Quin and Ennis, County Clare, and Quin and Tulla, County Clare, in view of the months that have elapsed since the details were sought (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44439/19]

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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. In general, children are eligible for school transport where they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

Distance eligibility is determined by Bus Éireann by measuring the shortest traversable route from the child’s home to the relevant education centre.

In regard to the case referred to by the Deputy, Bus Éireann was requested to carry out a calibrated measurement on the distance from Quin to Ennis and Tulla respectively. The report from Bus Eireann has recently been received and has confirmed that Ennis is the nearest school location. Officials from School Transport Section of my Department will now be in contact with the Ombudsman for Children's Office.

Special Educational Needs Data

Questions (215)

James Browne

Question:

215. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of pupils that warrant an EAL teaching support post; if this is known among the primary allocations section of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44459/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Since the 2017/18 school year the 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 and also encompasses the Language Support (EAL) allocation that schools were allocated in previous years.

Under this allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, including language support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need in each school.

Under this allocation model, schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile, to provide supports immediately to those pupils who need it without delay.

Further additional temporary Language Support is also provided, as necessary, to schools that have high concentrations of pupils that require language (EAL) support. At primary level, these allocations are made on the basis of appeals by schools to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.

The information requested by the Deputy is not collated in my Department.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (216)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

216. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the discussions he has had with the HSE and the Minister for Health to ensure investigations and tests required for a school to submit an application for a special needs assistant will be provided by the required date of February 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44464/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The consideration of professional reports is an integral part of determining the extent of supports to be provided for pupils with special educational needs.

However, whereas health reports provide valuable assistance to education providers in identifying a diagnosis or identifying appropriate interventions, health staff have been directed by the HSE not to include references to the specific quantum of educational resources in their reports, but should state the outcome of assessments carried out and the range of needs of the child as clearly as possible.

This is because, while a medical or relevant professional report can indicate the care needs that a child may have, the Health professional will not have knowledge or awareness of the current resources available to a school to cater for these care needs, will not be aware of the layout of the school, or have had an opportunity to observe the child in class or observe their interaction with their teachers and classmates on an ongoing basis.

It is the role of the The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to process applications from schools for SNA support, taking into account the frequency and extent of the care needs as referenced in the professional report, the manner in which they arise in a school setting and in this regard, the evidence the school can provide to support the application. The NCSE can also consult with other professional e.g. NEPS and will allocate a level of SNA support to a school to ensure that the school has sufficient resources to cater for the significant care needs of the relevant children who are enrolled in the school for whom it has been indicated that there is a care requirement.

The 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.

It is my Department's policy that every child assessed as requiring SNA support will have access to such support.

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.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (217)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

217. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) is being forced into a conflict of priorities between maintaining teaching posts and complying with health and safety legislation; the reason developing schools are required to have a higher pupil-teacher ratio than developed schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44492/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September. However, the staffing arrangements for primary schools includes the provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional permanent mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment for the following September, in this case September 2019.

The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

The appeal submitted by the school referred to by the Deputy was considered by the Primary Staffing Appeals Board at its recent meeting. The school has been notified of its staffing allocation for the remainder of the school year.

School Transport Provision

Questions (218)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

218. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria used to establish if a school can be resourced to meet the special educational needs of a child in view of the fact that, under the eligibility criteria for school transport with special needs, a child is eligible for transport in circumstances in which he or she is attending the nearest school that can be resourced to meet the child's special educational needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44493/19]

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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 for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

Children are eligible for transport where they have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability and are attending the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs.

Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Questions (219)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

219. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the list of successful applications for the summer works scheme 2020 will be published. [44495/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's multi-annual Summer Works Scheme 2020 onwards is designed to allow schools, on a devolved funding basis, to carry out necessary improvement and refurbishment works that will upgrade existing school facilities.

I wish to advise the Deputy that commensurate with the level of funding available for the SWS in 2020, applications will be assessed 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.

It is my intention to publish a list of successful applications in Q4 2019 for works to be carried out in summer 2020.

School Transport Data

Questions (220)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

220. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of the 52 children that were deemed to have satisfied the eligibility criteria for school transport with special educational needs living nearer to a mainstream school than the schools they are currently attending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44496/19]

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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.

Under the eligibility criteria for School Transport with Special Educational Needs a child is eligible for transport where they are attending the nearest school that is, or can be resourced to meet their educational needs. Eligibility is determined in consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers.

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

If the Deputy has any queries on an individual application he should contact the School Transport Section of my Department.

School Staff

Questions (221)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

221. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the recent staffing appeal by a school (details supplied) has been denied. [44508/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September.

The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. This criteria is available on my Department's website as part of the Primary Teacher Allocation section.

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board and, having considered the appeal, the Board has refused the appeal on the basis that it did not satisfy the criteria outlined in the appeals system. The school will be entitled to an additional mainstream class teacher in the 2020/21 school year based on its latest enrolment returns.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

School Services Staff

Questions (222)

Michael McGrath

Question:

222. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the situation in which many school secretaries receive no holiday pay, sick pay, occupational pension provision and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44524/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools. I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries, and schools with enrolments of 626-699 will be permitted to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two posts filled. These measures will take effect from September 2020.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ 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 terms of employment 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.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action.

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute. As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (223)

Seán Haughey

Question:

223. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reform the July provision scheme for children with special needs; if the scheme will be extended to cater for children with Down's syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44532/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Departments July Provision Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with severe or profound intellectual disabilities and students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

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 me 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. However, the NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme. 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, which might include some children with Down syndrome.

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.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (224)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

224. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made regarding an application by a school (details supplied). [44537/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is in receipt of an application for additional school accommodation from the school referred to by the Deputy. Once the application has been assessed the school authority will be informed directly.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (225)

Denis Naughten

Question:

225. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the planned provisions of the education (miscellaneous provisions) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44552/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is intended to make some necessary technical amendments to education legislation. Consideration is on-going in relation to the matters to be included in the Bill.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions Nos. 227 and 228 answered with Question No. 194.

Questions (226)

Seán Haughey

Question:

226. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding will be provided to a school (details supplied) to allow it to become a single campus school; if his Department has received applications from this school for funding for emergency works, additional accommodation, summer works and minor works; if the applications will be examined favourably; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44562/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application from the school in question for a project under the 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, 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.

It is my intention to publish a list of successful applicants in Q4 2019 for works to be carried out in summer 2020.

I can also confirm that my Department has recently received correspondence from the school in relation to the Additional School Accommodation Scheme (ASA). This correspondence is currently under consideration and my Department will be in contact with the school authority shortly.

Questions Nos. 227 and 228 answered with Question No. 194.