Special Educational Needs

Questions (133)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

133. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if a request for a SNA can be looked at again for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26014/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The NCSE has responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs including the allocation of SNAs and reviews. My Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations. Accordingly, the question has been referred to the NCSE for direct reply.

The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme is designed to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated.

It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

Schools were notified of the arrangements for the allocation of SNA support in respect of students in mainstream classes for the current school year. The arrangements include the following provisions:

- 2019/20 mainstream class SNA allocations were frozen, from the date of issue of Circular 0030/2020, and have automatically rolled over into the current school year. This means that no school will receive an allocation less than that which they have on the date of issue of this Circular and existing SNAs currently in standard SNA posts were allowed to continue in these posts for the current school year in the normal way.

- A diagnosis of a disability, or a psychological or other professional report, is not be necessary for this process.

- The role of the SNA to support the care needs of students in mainstream classes, as set out in Circular 0030/2014, remains unchanged.

It is expected that schools will review and reprioritise the deployment of SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources to ensure those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support. Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DES Circular 0030/2014.

Schools may apply to the NCSE for additionality where they can demonstrate that the current allocation does not meet additional care needs within the mainstream classes in the school. Applications for additionality arising from significant new or emerging additional care needs, which cannot be catered within existing allocations, are dealt with by way of the exceptional review process.

The exceptional review process for mainstream allocations is available to schools throughout the current school year.

Detailed information on the NCSE exceptional review process is published on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

A school can appeal the outcome of an exceptional review and details of how to do this are here

https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/GuidanceSchoolAppealing-Exceptional-Review-outcome.docx

State Examinations

Questions (134)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

134. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education her plans to set up a formal appeals process for students that have had their leaving certificate results downgraded by her Department as against the grade awarded to them by their teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25997/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisation process. The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

Some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes to the marks leading to a change in the grade that would have been awarded based on the school estimates in one or more of their subjects.

In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades are lower.

Every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics, either at the level of the student or the school and the standardisation process has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school.

I appreciate that some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved. This is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published.

Students, at an individual level, had access to an appeals process the closing date for which has now passed. The appeals system is, by design, restricted to looking for technical errors in the data provided on behalf of students and in the processing of that data. The nature of this appeal process has been part of the system of Calculated Grades from the outset. The appeal process will involve a technical appeal focused on looking for errors in the transmission of the data through the process. An example of this would be whether any mistake has been made in entering the information to any of the systems used in the process.

It was fundamental to the adoption of a system of Calculated Grades that the professional judgement of the school (teachers and principals) would be outside the scope of the appeals process.

The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

Students dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeals process can invoke a searate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

Students who consider that their appeal has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

Students dissatisfied with their results will also have the opportunity to sit written Leaving Certificate examinations in November (subject to public health advice). Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (135)

Michael McNamara

Question:

135. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education when after-school facilities such as homework clubs may open in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26033/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The position is that decisions on the use of school facilities lies with the relevant school authority in consultation with the property owner and priority has to be given to the interests of the school, teachers and pupils.

My Department's policy is to encourage the use of school facilities, where possible, for community, training and education related activities such as homework clubs. My Department would encourage schools to facilitate the opening of after-school facilities wherever possible but on the basis that it would not impede the school's capacity to provide for education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To assist schools in considering applications for use of their facilities my Department, in consultation with representatives of schools, has drafted general guidelines on the use of school property outside of school hours which is available on my Department's website at

https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/guidelines-on-the-use-of-school-buildings-outside-of-school-hours.pdf

In addition to the general guidelines above, during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school in considering applications should carry out a risk assessment to ensure that any organisation using the school’s facilities can guarantee the school that all public health requirements will be adhered to.

School Staff

Questions (136)

Bríd Smith

Question:

136. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 424 of 15 September 2020, if a school, having previously appealed a reduction in staff under grounds contained in circular 0018/2020, can now appeal this reduction under different grounds or grounds not captured in the circular but connected to new difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and taking the necessary public health measures advice by her Department (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26046/20]

View answer

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 30 September. The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location.

The staffing schedule includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Information on the appeals process is contained in Circular 18/2020. My Department has not received a staffing appeal from the school referred to by the Deputy.

Schools wishing to submit an appeal should do so using the application form contained in Circular 18/2020. As part of the appeal process the Appeals Board will consider appeals where schools clearly demonstrate how their enrolments were negatively impacted by COVID-19.

My Department has also published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools. Each school is also required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (137)

Niall Collins

Question:

137. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education her views on matters outlined in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26053/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has received the correspondence referred to by the Deputy and is in direct contact with the sender regarding the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (138)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

138. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if a child, who has a letter from a doctor confirming they are unable to wear a mask on medical grounds, can be exempt from wearing a mask whilst at school. [26059/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department received advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on the use of face coverings in educational settings on the 6th August 2020. This advice is available at here

It is a requirement for face coverings to be worn by teachers, staff in schools and students attending post primary school.

However Public health advice also provides that cloth face coverings should not be worn by any of the following groups:

- any person with difficulty breathing

- any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance

- any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.

A medical certificate must be provided to the school where an exemptions is sought on the above grounds. There is no capacity for schools to deviate from either the requirement to wear face coverings or from the limited exemptions that apply.

Advice for schools on the use of face coverings is available in the COVID-19 Response Plans for schools published on the www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (139)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

139. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the position of her Department on whether post-primary pupils should wear masks during PE class. [26060/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Physical Education (PE) is important and students should be encouraged to participate in PE in schools. As part of the return to school plans my Department has published guidance for practical subjects in Post Primary Schools, including guidance for PE.

This guidance is based on Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidance for the return to sports activities for children and adolescents. The guidance provides that, where practical, PE lessons should take place outdoors. If this is not possible, the external PE hall doors should be opened. Face coverings do not have to be worn outdoors. Indoors where physical distancing is not possible, face coverings should be worn by post primary students. Face coverings are not recommended to be worn by primary school children.

However Public health advice also provides that cloth face coverings should not be worn by any of the following groups:

- any person with difficulty breathing

- any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance

- any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.

A medical certificate must be provided to the school where an exemptions is sought on the above grounds. There is no capacity for schools to deviate from either the general requirement to wear face coverings or from the limited exemptions that apply.

Advice for schools on the use of face coverings is available in the COVID-19 Response Plans for schools published on the www.gov.ie/backtoschool

School Staff

Questions (140, 148)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

140. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education her plans to introduce a permanent voluntary redeployment scheme for post-primary teachers to allow for an option for relocation similar to that which is in place for many other public sector workers; if such proposals will be examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26075/20]

View answer

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

148. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education her views on the situation of a teacher (details supplied); and her further views on the lack of panels for secondary school students which makes it is more difficult to transfer to a more local school; and her plans to make changes to the system. [26163/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 148 together.

At second-level, a voluntary redeployment scheme has operated on a pilot basis in specific regions for a number of years as part of the redeployment process of surplus teachers. Permanent teachers employed in these regions were given an opportunity to volunteer for a transfer to other areas if such a transfer would free up a vacancy that would facilitate the redeployment of a surplus permanent teacher in the region. The regions involved are reviewed annually and agreed with Education Partners. The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to primary and post-primary schools, including redeployment arrangements, are published annually.

Further employment opportunities have been provided in individual schools by the provision of additional 1000 post primary teaching posts to post primary schools to assist with the implementation of important public health measures for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools.

School Transport

Questions (141)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

141. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education the reason a child (details supplied) is being refused school transport. [26108/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.

Under the terms of my Department’s School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are eligible for school transport where they have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability and are attending the nearest recognised school/class that is 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.

The pupil referred to by the Deputy is not deemed eligible for transport as he is not attending his nearest recognised school/class that is resourced to meet his special educational needs.

School Facilities

Questions (142)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

142. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education if she will consider a request to part fund a hall for a school (details supplied) that has no indoor recreational areas; and if the funding will be made available soon in order to concur with other building works. [26111/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that capital funding has been approved, for the school in question, to provide essential mainstream classroom accommodation. The project is currently devolved to the school authority.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place.

As the Deputy is aware, 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 post-primary schools.

Under Project Ireland 2040, we will invest €8.4 billion in primary and post primary school buildings. The government is committed to a PE Hall build and modernisation programme, starting in the second half of the Project Ireland 2040 period

Therefore, the school's application for funding towards a GP Hall cannot be considered at this time.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (143)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

143. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education the number of engagements that have taken place with the landowner of a proposed new school site (details supplied) since July 2020; if there has been engagement with the council planners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26114/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project for Gaelscoil an Chaisleain is included in my Department's capital programme. Officials in my Department continue to liaise with officials in Cork City Council in relation to the acquisition of a suitable site for the school. Negotiations with the landowner in respect of the preferred site option to accommodate the school are ongoing.

While a site acquisition process is underway, and given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time. However, I can assure the Deputy my Department is committed to delivering a suitable site for Gaelscoil an Chaisleain and work is ongoing to achieve this as soon as possible.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (144)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

144. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education the extent of engagement she has had with a school (detail supplied) regarding the new school site over the past year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26115/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has had engagement with the school referred to by the Deputy regarding a site proposed by the school. It is my Department's intention to engage further with the school authorities in this regard.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (145)

Colm Burke

Question:

145. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Education if the building of a new school (details supplied) has completed the tender stage; if the contract has been awarded; if so, when building work will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26118/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major project for the construction of the new school building for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of the tender process. My Department is currently awaiting a Tender Report from the school and its Design Team, which is due to be submitted before the end of this month.

Subject to no issues arising, it is envisaged that construction should commence late this year with a contract duration of approximately 32 months.

State Examinations

Questions (146)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

146. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education if there is an appeals process for leaving certificate students unsatisfied with their predicted grade to appeal the grade rather than the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26138/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisation process. The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes to the marks leading to a change in the grade that would have been awarded based on the school estimates in one or more of their subjects.

In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades are lower.

Every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics, either at the level of the student or the school and the standardisation process has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school.

I appreciate that some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved. This is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published.

Students, at an individual level, had access to an appeals process the closing date for which has now passed. The appeals system is, by design, restricted to looking for technical errors in the data provided on behalf of students and in the processing of that data. The nature of this appeal process has been part of the system of Calculated Grades from the outset. The appeal process will involve a technical appeal focused on looking for errors in the transmission of the data through the process. An example of this would be whether any mistake has been made in entering the information to any of the systems used in the process.

It was fundamental to the adoption of a system of Calculated Grades that the professional judgement of the school (teachers and principals) would be outside the scope of the appeals process.

The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

Students dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeals process can invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

Students who consider that their appeal has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

Students dissatisfied with their results will also have the opportunity to sit written Leaving Certificate examinations in November (subject to public health advice). Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.

School Facilities

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 140.

Questions (147)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

147. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the status of the application by a school (details supplied) for a sports hall. [26160/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that my Department received an application for capital funding, under the Additional School Accommodation scheme, from the school authority referred to by the Deputy.

On completion of the assessment process, the school authority will be contacted directly with a decision.

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 140.

School Staff

Questions (149)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

149. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education when a detailed update sought on behalf of a person (details supplied) from her office on 3 September 2020 will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26168/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that an official from my Department was in direct contact with the person referred to by him recently. A preview of this case has been undertaken and it is a complex issue. The priority for the Payroll Division of my Department at this time of year is to ensure that all new appointees to schools and all retirees are paid as quickly as possible. This priority work will be completed by late October. A comprehensive response will be issued to the person concerned at that time.

State Examinations

Questions (150)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

150. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education the basis under which the results of a leaving certificate student (details supplied) were downgraded; the opportunities they have to appeal this decision and be awarded the grades proposed by the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26169/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisation process. The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

Some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes to the marks leading to a change in the grade that would have been awarded based on the school estimates in one or more of their subjects.

In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades are lower.

Every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics, either at the level of the student or the school and the standardisation process has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school.

I appreciated that some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved. This is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published.

Students, at an individual level, had access to an appeals process the closing date for which has now passed. The appeals process is, by design, restricted to looking for technical errors in the data provided on behalf of students and in the processing of that data. The nature of this appeal process has been part of the system of Calculated Grades from the outset. The appeal process will involve a technical appeal focused on looking for errors in the transmission of the data through the process. An example of this would be whether any mistake has been made in entering the information to any of the systems used in the process.

It was fundamental to the adoption of a system of Calculated Grades that the professional judgement of the school (teachers and principals) would be outside the scope of the appeals process.

The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

Students dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeals process can invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

Students who consider that their appeal has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

Students dissatisfied with their results will also have the opportunity to sit written Leaving Certificate examinations in November (subject to public health advice). Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written examination.

School Transport

Questions (151)

Joe Carey

Question:

151. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education her plans to review the school transport scheme; when the review will commence; if submissions will be invited as part of the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26184/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.

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. Allchildren who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

In October 2019, my predecessor 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 have been drafted and a Steering Group has been established.

Given the current evolving situation with Covid-19 and the continued restrictions the work of the Steering Group has been delayed. It is intended to convene the Steering Group shortly and to agree and supplement revised terms of reference to reflect the Programme for Government.

The Review will build on the proposals in the Programme for Government as they relate to school transport.

School Staff

Questions (152)

Michael McNamara

Question:

152. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education the reason a school (details supplied) has not received an additional teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26190/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts is published annually on the Department website. 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 30 September. The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally, irrespective of location.

There is no change to the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy in the current school year.

Department Circular 13/2017 in relation to Special Education Teaching allocation to primary schools sets out that schools should ensure that the additional Special Educational Needs Teaching supports are used in their entirety to support pupils identified with special educational needs, learning support needs, and additional literacy needs. The additional Teaching Resources which are being provided under this model cannot be used for mainstream class teaching, or to reduce the pupil teacher ratio in mainstream classes, or to provide additional subjects for pupils who do not have special educational needs.

My Department has carefully considered correspondence from the school referred to by the Deputy in accordance with the requirements of the public health guidance for reopening primary schools. My Department is satisfied that the requirements of the public health guidance can be implemented in the school within the existing classroom teacher allocation.

My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools including illustrative Primary Classroom Layouts to facilitate physical distancing requirements for primary schools. Each school is also required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

School Transport

Questions (153)

Michael Ring

Question:

153. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education the reason two children (details supplied) in County Mayo are not being allocated school transport in view of the fact that that other children on the route were allocated seats; the criteria used to determine the successful applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26195/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.

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.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020. All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020. This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal re-opened on the 7th September. However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 2020/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.

Bus Eireann has confirmed that payment for tickets for the children referred to by the Deputy was received on the 8th September 2020 for the 2020/2021 school year and as such their payment is late.

Late applications/payments for Post-Primary seats will be only considered when 50% capacity required by new Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (154)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

154. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education her plans to ensure proper ventilation for schools to deal with Covid-19 (details supplied). [26196/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has recently published updated guidance on ventilation in classrooms on the back to school website and this includes guidance on the issue to which she refers. This can be found at the following web address: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7acad-reopening-our-post-primary-schools/

School Accommodation

Questions (155)

Neale Richmond

Question:

155. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the status of the provision of prefabs for a school (details supplied) for the 2020-2021 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26199/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The post-primary school to which the Deputy refers opened in September 2020 in existing vacant interim accommodation in the Department owned Notre Dame Campus in Churchtown.

The permanent site for the school (known locally as the “Glass Bottle” site) has been acquired by my Department. With regard to the intended interim accommodation for Goatstown ETSS on this site, my Department’s planning permission application to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Co. Co. was lodged on 2nd April, 2020. A request for further information (RFI) has been received from the local authority in relation to the planning application and the response to this RFI is currently being completed for submission.

When planning permission for the temporary accommodation is secured my officials will discuss with the school the programme for delivery of this accommodation in conjunction with progressing the planning application for and construction of the permanent school accommodation.

My Department will continue to keep the patron body and the school community updated as the project progresses.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (156)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

156. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education if her Department will move to a compulsory purchase order of land in Buncrana, County Donegal to secure the long delayed sites for new schools and campuses for schools (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the emergency this long delay has created for the teachers, children and students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26202/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware the acquisition of a suitable site to provide new school accommodation has proved to be extremely challenging to date. My Department is working with Donegal County Council under the Memorandum of Understanding for the acquisition of school sites. A preferred site has been identified. Donegal County Council, in consultation with my Department, have appointed an agent to undertake negotiations and engagement with the landowner.

While my Department does not have the power to undertake a compulsory purchase order where this is considered appropriate it can request the local authority to undertake a CPO.

Due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations process it is not possible to comment further at this time.

The priority for both my Department and Donegal County Council is to secure a suitable site for the school campus at the earliest possible date so that the project can progress to design and securing planning permission.

School Accommodation

Questions (157)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

157. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education the status of the plans for a new building for a school (details supplied). [26203/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

In December 2019, my Department received the Stage 2(b) submission for this project. In order to expedite the progression of the major building project, my Department authorised the school and its Design Team to commence the pre-qualification process to select a shortlist of contractors.

The review of the Stage 2(b) submission has been completed and comments have issued to the Design Team requesting the Design team to carry out one final review of the tender documentation taking on board my Department's comments. When this work has been carried out the Design Team will revert to my Department with confirmations that the tender documentation then complies with all Department, Building Control Amendment Regulation (BCAR) and Public Works Contract (PWC) tender documentation requirements.

Upon receipt of these confirmations and completion of the pre-qualification process and subject to no other issues arising, this project will then be ready to progress to the next stage of architectural planning - Stage 3 (Tender Stage).

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