School Services Staff

Questions (187)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

187. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full-year cost of bringing secretary pay in line with those employed directly by his Department. [51340/19]

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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 staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries; schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two secretary posts filled, and schools of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers. 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 The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008. These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.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.

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies. My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars. Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take. Secretaries and Caretakers who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management.

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0076_2018.pdf.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0077_2018.pdf.

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. Accordingly, the Department is not in a position to issue the figures requested by the Deputy.

School Transport Fees

Questions (188)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

188. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of waiving fees paid by students for school transport via the school transport scheme at primary and secondary level, respectively. [51341/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. In the 2018/19 school year there were over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a cost of over €200m in 2018.

The purpose of the School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

The annual charge for school transport services is €100 per annum for primary children and €350 for post primary children with a maximum family charge of €220 for primary children only or €650 overall.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) are exempt from paying the annual charge. In addition, there is no charge for children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for children with Special Educational Needs.

In general the unit cost for transporting mainstream children is some €1,000 per annum, while the unit cost for transporting children with special educational needs is €7,000 or €9,000 when the provision of escorts are included.

In 2018, receipts from school transport charges amounted to some €15.9m or about 8% of the total cost of the scheme provided by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The school transport scheme is a demand-led service based on the number of eligible children who apply to avail of transport.

Education and Training Boards Staff

Questions (189)

Seán Crowe

Question:

189. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the staff shortage in the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the shortage is severely impacting on the service it provides and persons seeking to avail of its services are being directed to other DDLETB centres due to the shortages in south-west County Dublin; the reason for the staff shortage; the way in which he plans to ensure the shortage is ended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51343/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I understand that this question relates specifically to the employment of Guidance Counsellors in Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB).

Guidance is provided in the Further Education and Training sector through the Adult Education Guidance Service (AEGS) and through the guidance allocations to Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) Colleges.

SOLAS provides funding to the 16 Education and Training Boards for the provision of an AEGS that provides a comprehensive, professional and quality guidance and information service to the returning adult learner. This service is open to those who;

- are currently on Literacy, BTEI, Community Education and VTOS programmes

- wish to return to learning but do not know what to do or where to start looking

- left school early and wish to continue with their education and training

- are in receipt of social welfare benefits or who are dependent on someone who is in receipt of social welfare benefits

My officials have contacted DDLETB in relation to your question. The ETB have stated that they are not aware of any referral to other services or areas as a result of a staff shortages.

The ETB reported that in Dublin South East, the ETB employs two Guidance Counsellors and one Information Officer. In Dublin South West, they employ 2 Guidance Counsellors and 2 Information Officers, one of which is currently vacant as a result of a very recent retirement. I understand a recruitment process is underway to fill this vacancy.

School Transport Eligibility

Questions (190)

Denis Naughten

Question:

190. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 210 of 26 November 2019, when Bus Éireann will commence liaising with the family in relation to the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51347/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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 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.

Children are eligible for school transport where they reside 3.2 kilometres or over and are attending their nearest primary school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

The pupil referred by the Deputy is deemed eligible for transport under the terms of Primary School Transport Scheme. Bus Éireann have advised that they have been in contact with the family in regard to transport arrangements.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (191)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

191. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new secondary school for the Malahide and Portmarnock areas of County Dublin as announced in November 2015; if he has identified locations for the proposed schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51356/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project for Malahide Portmarnock Educate Together Secondary School is being delivered under my Department's Design & Build programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Management team to progress the project through the stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction.

The procurement process for a bundle of projects has commenced, with the publication of a contract notice to determine a short-list of interested contractors. The new school building for the school referred to by the Deputy is part of this bundle of projects. The procurement process (and the associated tendering to short-listed contractors) for this bundle of projects will be ongoing during Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. It is anticipated that construction of this school building project will commence in Q2 2020. The first phase is planned to facilitate occupation of the new permanent school building in the 2020/2021 school year. The site is located in Drinan, Swords.

Training Support Grant

Questions (192)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

192. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person who is unemployed and wishes to undertake an ETB course is eligible for a social welfare payment while partaking in the course (details supplied). [51362/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Training allowances are available to social welfare recipients participating on most full time ETB further education and training programmes. The rate is generally the same as the rate of their social welfare payment. A training allowance is not paid on the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme but prospective participants in receipt of a social welfare payment can apply to their INTREO office for the Back to Education Allowance.

Details of ETB courses are available on www.fetchcourses.ie and social welfare recipients can also discuss their options with their INTREO case officer or with the ETB Adult Education Guidance Service.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (193)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

193. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the case of a person (details supplied) will be addressed in which a child has no place for school in September 2020. [51365/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. Accordingly, my Department is not involved in the placement of individual children in school.

The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Kildare alone, there are 75 special classes and 4 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Kildare to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

The NCSE has informed the Department that, in general, they are satisfied that they have planned sufficient ASD post primary special class placements to meet identified need in Kildare for next year.

I understand that the local Special Education Needs Organiser is working with the family and will continue to be available until a suitable placement has been secured.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (194)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

194. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his officials have examined the lack of space at second-level schools in Edenderry, County Offaly, for children in the town and in the catchment area who will require access to special classes at post-primary level from June 2020 onwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51378/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Offaly alone, there are 68 special classes and 1 Special School providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Offaly to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

All schools have the contact details of their local SENO, while Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to identify appropriate educational placements, using the contact details available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, there is a range of supports including capital funding available to the school.

As the Deputy's question relates to the NCSE planning for special class provision in a particular school area I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (195)

Carol Nolan

Question:

195. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in DEIS band one schools will be urgently prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51390/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The DEIS programme allows for a reduced class size in Urban Band 1 primary schools with the application of a preferential staffing schedule to these schools of 20:1 at junior classes and 24:1 at senior classes to support those students at the highest risk of educational disadvantage.

As the Deputy may be aware, DEIS Plan acknowledges the allocation of teaching resources to DEIS primary schools with the highest concentrations of children at risk of educational disadvantage has served to improve learning outcomes. It also commits to the evaluation of the level of teaching resources for schools participating in DEIS to be undertaken to inform future policy in this area.

In order to facilitate this a Class Size Working Group was established comprising representatives from the Education Partners, the Educational Research Centre and the relevant Business Units in my Department. This group has met on a number of occasions to consider class size in the context of improved learning outcomes of those most at risk of educational disadvantage.

A report on the work of this group is currently being finalised, and will take into consideration the feedback and observations of the working group members. It is intended that this will be finalised in the coming weeks and its findings will inform future policy direction in this area.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (196)

Carol Nolan

Question:

196. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions taken to increase the number of ASD units at primary and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51391/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,355 are ASD special classes, including 133 ASD Early Intervention classes, 852 Primary ASD classes and 370 Post Primary ASD classes.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

The NCSE has planned a further expansion of special class and school places nationally for next year.

The extent of new classes being opened in recent years shows the willingness of schools to open special classes and normally this is the case.

However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

The legislation was activated twice following a report by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which identified a shortage of special school and special class places.

The law contains a procedure through which the NCSE can test the capacity of schools in an area to provide more special education places and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education places available.

The necessary steps in the Admissions Act process, will continue to be expedited to ensure that children with special needs are provided with access to a suitable education.

I am concerned that engagement with schools in some areas has not secured sufficient special education provision but I am also conscious that schools need to be properly supported to provide special education.

I appreciate the concerns of principals and their staff but my message to them is this – I am committed to ensuring that a partnership approach will ensure we provide sufficient special education school places in south Dublin.

It would be preferable to see schools offering to provide more places for these children rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

School Management

Questions (197)

Carol Nolan

Question:

197. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider granting one administrative release day each week to teaching principals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51392/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals and I appreciate the pressures they face. Earlier in the year, I hosted a symposium on Small Schools which gave me an opportunity to restate the Government’s commitment to small schools and to open a dialogue with all the key stakeholders. The purpose of this work by the Department is to develop a policy proposal to help support and strengthen small primary schools throughout the country.

Budget 2020 is the third successive budget to provide for an increase in the number of principal release days. One additional release day will be allocated to each school with a teaching principal with effect from 1st September 2020. This will bring the number of release days to 19, 25 and 31, depending on the size of school. This is an increase from 14, 18 and 22 days since 2015. In addition, a further four additional release days are allocated to schools with special classes.

There are arrangements in place for schools to cluster their principal release days into a full-time post which will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

In addition to the increase of release days, the Government lifted the moratorium on middle management posts in 2017. In total almost 1300 leadership posts have been invested in our primary schools since 2017 which has led to 1 in 3 teachers now holding promoted positions. My Department has committed to revising the number of available Posts of Responsibility to take account of retirements during the school year. This ensures that the current level of Posts of Responsibilities are maintained in the school system.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Questions (198)

Niall Collins

Question:

198. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches planned by his Department for the first six months of 2020; the budgeted costs of these campaigns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51408/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department is currently in the process of planning its advertising campaigns and event launches for the first six months of 2020. As these are not yet fully planned a breakdown with budgeted costs is not available at the moment. A response will issue directly to the Deputy once all the information is collated.

Data Sharing Arrangements

Questions (199)

Jack Chambers

Question:

199. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the data sharing agreements his Department has in place with organisations that are not other Departments or State agencies; the purpose of these data sharing agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51425/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As a controller of personal data, my Department maintains a number of data sharing agreements with other Government Departments and other public bodies but has no data sharing agreements with non-public bodies.

As required by article 28 of the General Data Protection Regulation, my Department does include certain data processing requirements in contracts where its service providers are acting as processors for the Department.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (200)

Jack Chambers

Question:

200. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of freedom of information requests in which his Department made a decision to deny; and the number in which the Information Commissioner overturned the decision of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [51459/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department reports annually to both the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Office of the Information Commissioner on Freedom of Information activity. The Office of the Information Commissioner publish this data in its annual report and the annual reports are available on the OIC’s website - https://www.oic.ie/publications/annual-reports/

The following table outlines the information requested.

FOI Requests - Refused

Year

Total - Refused

OIC - Annulled

2016

92

1

2017

170

2

2018

110

1

2019 - to date 04/12

71

0

Physical Education Facilities

Questions (201)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

201. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a physical education hall will be provided for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51473/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has recently received an application, from the school in question, for capital funding for the provision of a PE Hall.

Under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on the refurbishment of existing school buildings to include the building and modernisation of PE facilities in schools.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place. The focus in the medium will be on the provision of PE halls in post-primary schools.

The School Authority has been informed accordingly.

DEIS Review

Questions (202)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

202. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an ongoing review of the DEIS support scheme. [51475/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, following the review of DEIS, my Department introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merited inclusion in the DEIS Programme.

All schools at both Primary and Post Primary level are being assessed using this new methodology based on their enrolments from 2018/19 and the latest data available from Census 2016 under the HP Deprivation Index. The accuracy of address data is vital to this process and an Eircode lookup function was added to the Primary and Post Primary Online Databases earlier this year to facilitate this.

Following a detailed analysis of the quality of the data, my Department is now in the final stages of further data analysis on the new identification model to allow for the development of a resource allocation model to match resources to identified need. This analysis is being carried out by members of the DEIS Technical Group which contains representatives of the Department’s Statistics and Social Inclusion Units, the Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. The work of this group is at an advanced stage and a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders will follow.

I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need. Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

DEIS Review

Questions (203)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

203. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the ongoing review of the DEIS scheme will take into account issues identified in the measuring of literacy and numeracy by educational research centres in previous analyses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51476/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Educational Research Centre (ERC) administers the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) in nationally representative samples of students aged 15. The study is conducted every three years since 2000, and assesses reading literacy, mathematics and science. The ERC identified an error in the course of a review of PISA 2015 data.

The error referred to by the Deputy involved the ERC using the wrong indicator variable to compare students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in PISA 2015 national reporting. The PISA 2015 national report and its accompanying e-Appendix were published by the ERC in December 2016.

As a result of this error, the published analyses in the PISA 2015 national report, that compare students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools were incorrect. The ERC has recently published the corrected data. While the improvements are somewhat less than previously reported, nevertheless the revised figures still represent improvements on the equivalent data for 2012.

A second consequence of this error was that the post-primary literacy and numeracy targets in the DEIS Plan and in the Interim Literacy and Numeracy Strategy Review document, which are based on PISA proficiency levels, were incorrect. The figures should have presented a lower baseline of achievement than what was published at the time.

My Department has noted the errors and the corrected data now published by the ERC. The ERC has confirmed to my Department that the error related only to one variable indicator, and that no other analysis carried out by it for my Department is affected. The ERC has also confirmed that it is in the process of a broader internal review of its data management processes to mitigate the recurrence of such an error.

In relation to Literacy and Numeracy, and DEIS, the original targets were published in 2017.

The Deputy will be aware the findings from PISA 2018 were published in early December and show that Irish students in Ireland scored higher than the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science.

Consideration is being given to the development of new targets taking into account the outcome of the 2018 PISA report and the corrected baseline of achievement in 2015 that the ERC has now published in relation to DEIS schools.

Evaluation is a key element of the DEIS Programme and PISA findings are considered part of the ongoing evaluation of DEIS. Aside from PISA, there are a number of mechanisms of evaluation of DEIS schools.

Since DEIS was first introduced, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and my Department’s Inspectorate have conducted a series of evaluations on aspects of the programme and findings of this work are contained in a series of published reports. Evidence from this research to date demonstrates that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage and is succeeding in improving educational outcomes.

The Educational Research Centre has also been involved in implementing and reporting on National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading (NAMER) on behalf of my Department. Since 2009 NAMER assesses primary pupils in English Reading and Maths at the end of Second and Sixth classes, to coincide with the end of the Junior and Senior cycles at primary level. The ninth NAMER takes place in the spring of 2020 in a nationally representative sample of schools. One of the objectives of this assessment cycle is to evaluate progress towards the revised targets identified after NAMER 2014. NAMER 2020 will incorporate an increased sample of DEIS schools in order to compare the achievements of pupils in non-DEIS and DEIS schools.

Schools Data

Questions (204)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

204. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools in which the use of an application fee has been reported and confirmed by county in 2019, in tabular form; if refunds have been issued; the value of the application fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51477/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department does not hold records regarding payments collected from or made to parents, as the case may be.

Section 64 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which is operational since October 2018, explicitly prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for admission to or for continued enrolment in a school.

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998 the board of management is responsible for the direct governance of the school, including compliance with the appropriate legislation.

Should an individual have a concern regarding admission fees being sought by a school, or they are concerned about the manner in which the school is requesting payment, they can raise this with the principal of the in the first instance.

Should they not be satisfied with their response then the Chairperson of the Board of Management of the school can be contacted school in relation to the concerns.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (205)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

205. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of his actions to date to implement the recommendations of a report (details supplied) of the Children's Rights Alliance home works report. [51478/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is represented on the Homelessness Inter-Agency Group (HIAG) which was established by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to bring about greater coherence and coordination in the provision of homelessness related services across the relevant Government organisations. Actions to support children who are experiencing homelessness are being advanced through this group.

I wish to advise the Deputy that a range of resources are available from my Department to support schools in dealing with identified additional educational needs, including needs which may arise for children who are experiencing homelessness. Such resources include:

- The National Educational Psychological Service NEPS who work through a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to support schools to meet the needs of individual pupils. NEPS psychologists can provide advice and guidance to Principals and teachers in relation to individual students’ needs and in the development of whole school approaches to support inclusion, participation and integration.

- In addition, NEPS psychologists support schools to implement early-intervention and prevention programmes, such as The Incredible Years Programme in Primary Schools and resilience building programmes, such as the FRIENDS Programmes at Primary and Post Primary levels.

- DEIS provides additional supports, through the DEIS School Support Programme, to schools identified as having the highest concentrations of pupils from disadvantaged communities. Schools use these additional resources to meet the identified needs of their pupil cohort, including the additional needs that may arise for pupils experiencing homelessness.

- Schools designated as DEIS can also avail of Home School Community Liaison and School Completion supports provided by Tusla’s Education Support Service (TESS) to assist with school attendance, retention and progression which can be areas of particular challenge to pupils experiencing homelessness.

- The School Meals Programme (SMP) operated by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection(DEASP) is an important component of policies to address the educational and health disadvantages associated with an inadequately nutritious diet in childhood. A pilot hot school meals programme is being rolled out by DEASP in 2019.

- Education Welfare officers, who form part of TUSLA Education Support Service, also support children experiencing difficulties with school attendance. Tusla has published information resources to assist families experiencing difficulties with school attendance arising from homelessness.

Schools Amalgamation

Questions (206)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

206. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he or his officials have had discussions with and received correspondence from a trust (details supplied) or the religious orders in charge of three of the secondary schools in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10, regarding an amalgamation of the three schools moving to a single campus and the creation of a single board; if there will be involvement of parents and teaching staff at each stage prior to decisions being taken; if his attention has been drawn to discussions to date on the fact a third of the pupils at the schools have special educational needs, that none of the three campuses are large enough to contain all three schools and the fact that the population of Ballyfermot, Cherry Orchard, Chapelizod and Bluebell is rising; the level of funding that will be committed to the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51486/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in contact with the patrons of the three schools in question, in relation to a proposed amalgamation of the schools.

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

Any proposed change involves extensive negotiations, by the Patron, at local level and must be well planned and managed in a manner that accommodates the interests of students, parents, teachers, local communities and contributes to an inclusive education system. My Department will continue to liaise with the school Patron in this regard.