188. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding securing a location for a campus (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52851/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 188-207
188. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding securing a location for a campus (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52851/19]View answer
The process to secure a location for a higher education campus in Wexford, which is being led by IT Carlow, is ongoing. IT Carlow is a member of the Technological University For South East Ireland (TUSEI) consortium, and it is envisaged that the Wexford campus would form part of the multi-campus TU.
My Department has agreed in principle to provide funding for acquisition of a site for the new campus. I can confirm to the Deputy that both IT Carlow and my Department remain fully committed to the development of higher education facilities in Wexford.
189. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of female and male apprentices in training by each employment sector and subsector as of 9 December 2019 for craft based and consortia led apprenticeships, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52879/19]View answer
The latest available data for the information, as requested by the Deputy is for the end of November and is set out in the attached table.
190. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills if home tuition hours will be extended for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [52914/19]View answer
The purpose of the Home Tuition Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for children who, for a number of specific reasons, are unable to attend school.
Home tuition is not an alternative to a school placement and is provided in very limited a
Home Tuition grant funding for the applicant referred to by the Deputy, has been extended to the end of the 2019/20 school year.
Correspondence to this effect issued to the family on 6th December, 2019.
191. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the resources provided to primary schools that establish a special class for children with autism; if the full building, alteration and renovation costs plus fittings and materials are fully covered in addition to redecoration necessary; if the full staffing of such a special class is fully covered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52956/19]View answer
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.
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.
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.
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
It is open to any school including special schools 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. My Department works closely with the NCSE in this regard.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation. There are standard arrangements in place for the funding, design and delivery of these projects.
Special classes for students with ASD are staffed with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children.
My Department issues current and capital funding directly to management authorities of schools.
Resources which may be provided to schools to support children with Autism include the following:
- Professional development for teachers
- The National Educational Psychological Service
- Assistive technology
- Access to the Special School transport scheme
- Access to special equipment and furniture where required
- Enhanced capitation grants at primary level
- Adapted school buildings/Additional accommodation
- ICT Grant for new classes
- Start Up grant for new classes
- Access to the extended school year scheme (July Provision)
The NCSE has published guidelines for schools on setting up and organising Special Classes, which are available to download from www.ncse.ie. The guidelines include information on resources which may be provided to schools with special classes and links to information on the how funding is allocated.
192. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a review will be initiated of the school transportation assessment process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52979/19]View answer
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my 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 completed the application process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2019/20 school year.
Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis and are facilitated where spare seats exits after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets using an agreed selection process.
In October 2019, I announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way to meet the objectives of the scheme. Terms of reference and the scope of the review are being considered by my officials and it is expected that a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department will be established shortly to oversee the review.
193. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount provided to schools in County Wexford through the summer works scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53009/19]View answer
The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below. This Table reflects actual expenditure of Projects under the Summer Works Scheme and not the value of approvals sanctioned by my Department as some of these approved projects have not commenced construction.
2019 (to date)Expenditure
Summer Works Scheme (Wexford)
The purpose of the Summer Works Scheme is to devolve funding to individual school authorities to undertake small-scale building works which, ideally, can be carried out during the summer months or at other times that avoid disrupting the operation of the school.
Under the terms of the scheme, school authorities are empowered to manage these works with guidance from and minimal interaction with the Department.
Funding for small scale projects will be allocated in accordance with the prioritisation criteria attaching to the scheme which, in the normal course, include the ability to have the works carried out during the summer.
194. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full-year cost of employing ten new school secretaries. [53022/19]View answer
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 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 that 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.
The circulars in respect of pay for secretaries and caretakers paid by grant-funding and for those paid on a scale are set out in the circulars below:
195. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the Minister of State with special responsibility for higher education or officials on her behalf have ever directly or indirectly canvassed the president of a higher education institution on behalf of a job applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53023/19]View answer
I can confirm that neither the Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education at my Department, Mary Mitchell O'Connor T.D., nor her officials, have canvassed the President of a higher education institution on behalf of a job applicant.
My Department respects the autonomy of the institutions with regard to their day to day operations, including the filling of vacancies, which are solely matters for the institution concerned.
196. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a report (details supplied) has been investigated; and if so, if he is satisfied the investigation was independent. [53025/19]View answer
A report setting out a number of alleged shortfalls in governance and oversight in the Institute referred to by the Deputy was submitted to the Department in December 2018.
Issues such as those raised in the report are, in the first instance, subject to assessment and examination by the Department, working closely with the Higher Education Authority (HEA). In that context, the report was the subject of detailed and comprehensive assessment and examination by both Department and HEA officials which included engagement with the Governing Body of the Institute referred to for further information and clarification on specific issues highlighted.
The Department and the HEA are satisfied that on the basis of the examination carried out and the subsequent engagement with the Governing Body, no further action in respect of the matters highlighted in the report is proposed. This position has been communicated to both the Governing Body of the Institute referred to and to the individual who submitted the report. I am satisfied that the investigations undertaken were independent and conducted impartially.
197. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for a new school extension and improvement works by a school (details supplied); the timeframe for the project; when sanction will be given for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53036/19]View answer
The building project for the school in question is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.
This project is one of the school building projects on my Department’s ADAPT 2 (Accelerated Delivery of Architectural Planning & Tendering) Programme. My Department has completed the process of procuring a Project Manager for the ADAPT 2 Programme.
The appointment of a Design Team for this school building project consisting of Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Civil & Structural Engineer, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer and Project Supervisor for the Design Process has recently been completed.
The Department held a briefing session along with the Project Manager, the school’s Board of Management and Design Team on 16th Oct 2019. The Design Team is currently working on Stage 1 of Architectural Planning which includes Site Report, Site Suitability and producing Initial Sketch Schemes.
An interim Stage 1 meeting has been scheduled for 30th January 2020 to review progress to date.
198. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for a new school extension and improvement works by a school (details supplied); the timeframe for delivering the project; when sanction will be given for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53037/19]View answer
My Department received an application for capital funding from the school referred to by the Deputy in 2017 for the provision of four SET rooms. The application was unsuccessful at that time as it was deemed that the school had sufficient accommodation.
My Department will now review the school's long term accommodation requirements and will be in contact with the school authority shortly.
199. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the poor condition of the school building at a school (details supplied); his plans to provide the school with a new school building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53039/19]View answer
200. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the recent fire survey conducted by a school (details supplied) and the indications of the survey that considerable funding would be needed to refurbish the school to standard; his plans to assist the school with such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53040/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 200 together.
My Department has recently approved funding for a Fire Safety Assessment to be carried out at the school to which the Deputy refers. My Department will consider the outcome of this assessment as soon as it is received.
201. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a building project for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53041/19]View answer
The Deputy will be aware that a building project for the school to which he refers is included in my Department's Capital Programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan.
The school authority has recently advised my Department that the legal elements associated with the site portfolio have now been executed and are ready for lodgement with the Property Registration Authority. My Department will be in further contact with the school in the context of progressing the project to the next stage.
202. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made on a school project (details supplied) in County Donegal; the timeline for the delivery of the new school buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53053/19]View answer
The building project referred to by the deputy is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.
The project is currently working through the architectural planning process at Stage 2a (Developed Design) where the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully cost planned and prepared to lodge for statutory approvals.
My Department recently received and reviewed the Stage 2a submission from the Design Team. Following the Department’s review of the submission, a Stakeholders meeting was held recently in the Department with the school, Design Team and Board of Management. Comments will issue to the Design Team and once there are no outstanding issues the project can be authorised to progress to Stage 2b (Detailed Design Stage). This stage includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Certificate, Disability Access Certificate and the preparation of Tender Documents.
203. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made on a school project (details supplied) in County Donegal; the timeline for the delivery of the new school building; when works will commence on site; if a budget is ring-fenced for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53054/19]View answer
A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.
The project is currently out to tender, with tenders due back in mid December. Once the tenders are returned the Design Team will prepare and submit a tender report to my Department for assessment.
Subject to no issues arising, during the tender process it is envisaged that works should commence on site in the 2nd quarter of 2020, with a contract duration of approximately 18 months.
204. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for a new school extension and improvement works for a school (details supplied); the delivery timeframe for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53055/19]View answer
The school referred to by the Deputy has been approved funding for a project, under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2019, for one special education teaching room.
A separate project, approved under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme, to extend the GP room and allow for roof repairs has been incorporated into this project. The school has submitted two options to the Department on this element of the project. These options are currently being assessed by Departmental officials. A decision on this matter will issue as soon the documentation has been fully assessed.
205. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made on a school project (details supplied) in County Donegal; the timeline for the delivery of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53056/19]View answer
The major building project for the school referred to by the deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b (Detailed Design). The Stage 2(b) submission has been reviewed by my Department and comments have issued to the school and its Design Team.
At the end of September the project was authorised to commence the pre-qualification of contractors’ process and this process is currently on-going.
When pre-qualification is complete this project will then be progressed to tender stage.
A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.
206. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made on a review of the allocation of special education teaching supports in mainstream classes by a school (details supplied) on the grounds of exceptional circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53064/19]View answer
DES Circulars 0007/2019 for primary schools and 0008/2019 for post primary schools provide details of how the allocations of Special Education Teachers have been updated for schools from September 2019, based on updated profile data.
All schools have now received revised allocations for September 2019.
Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.
Both this Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring that all schools are treated fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.
Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.
A process is in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g., a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.
The criteria for qualification for mainstream developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2019/20 school year.
Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts, in accordance with these criteria, also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.
It is also acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.
These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g., where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.
A process is in place where schools can seek a review of their allocations, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.
This appeal process, which is managed by the NCSE is available at: https://ncse.ie/review-of-special-education-teacher-supports-where-there-are-exceptional-circumstances-or-needs-arising-in-a-school-2.
As applications for reviews of special education teaching supports on the grounds of exceptional circumstances are considered by the NCSE, I have referred this question to the NCSE for its attention and direct reply.
207. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps taken to implement the national positive ageing strategy in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53071/19]View answer
In relation to National Goal One of the National Positive Ageing Strategy, my Department oversees the development and promotion of access to a wide range of further education and training (FET) opportunities for people as they age.
Since 2016 my Department, through SOLAS the Further Education and Training Authority, has funded a national awareness raising campaign, 'Take the First Step' to encourage those, including older adults, with basic skill needs such as literacy and numeracy to return to education and improve their skills. The 'Take the First Step' campaign helps to break down apprehension that may be felt by some older individuals returning to education. The campaign is funded by SOLAS and delivered by NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency. Surveys are conducted each year the campaign runs, and are published in evaluation reports. The evaluations found that awareness in general increases with age, from 29% of 18-24 year olds, to 63% of 65+ year olds, highlighting the campaign’s greater salience and impact with older age cohorts.
Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are requested, by SOLAS, to consider how the needs of priority cohorts are being addressed, including the development of appropriate provision tailored to the needs of older workers. As evidenced by the statistics available, FET is for all ages: in 2018, there were 1,800 learners who were 80 years of age and older. More than 100 learners were over 90.
My Department recognises that, for older workers to remain in the workforce, they may need education and training interventions. Employers, in particular in SMEs, will require support to identify and address the skills needs of employees, including those who are in the older age cohorts, who are engaged in lower skilled work. SOLAS, together with the ETBs, is addressing this through the Skills to Advance and Skills for Work programmes, which both provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities to vulnerable workers.
SOLAS also provides grant funding to Age Action Ireland for the purposes of promoting the active involvement of older people in lifelong learning through the development of personal, social and related skills in areas ranging from IT classes to physical activity programmes.