School Accommodation

Questions (491)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

491. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education when a decision will be made in respect of an appeal lodged by a school (details supplied) in County Galway against a decision to refuse sanction for an extension; the reason for the delay in making a decision on the appeal; if her attention has been drawn to the urgent need for an extension to the school in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38124/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that my Department received an application for capital funding under the Additional School Accommodation (ASA) scheme, from the school referred to by the Deputy. On completion of the assessment process, it was determined that the school has sufficient permanent accommodation on site to cater for their existing staffing cohort.

The school authority has appealed this decision and this is currently under consideration. Once the review has been completed, my Department will communicate the outcome directly to the school authority.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (492, 493)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

492. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Education the number of students in primary school mainstream classes in County Louth that have ASD and associated needs in which there is no ASD special class provision in their school. [38144/20]

View answer

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

493. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Education the number of students in primary school mainstream classes in County Louth who have ASD and associated needs in which there is no ASD special class provision in their school and would require access to ASD special class in post primary school. [38145/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 492 and 493 together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. Next year, over 20% of the total Education budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special educational needs.

This investment will support the provision of over 1,200 additional special class places.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. Through better planning at both national and local level, it is my objective that specialist education places should come on stream to meet emerging demand on a timely basis.

The NCSE is actively working with schools in Louth to establish special classes. It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE to open a special class. The active collaboration of school communities is vital to the effective inclusion of students with special educational needs.

The NCSE has advised that there are currently 25 ASD classes in primary schools and a further 12 at post primary level giving a total of 37 ASD classes supporting students with autism in Louth. Information on special class provision can be found on the NCSE website at:

https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/List-of-Special-Classes-September-2020.15.09.2020-1.pdf.

Parents should also be advised to contact their local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) if they experience any difficulty in getting a suitable placement. SENO contact details are on the NCSE website at: https://ncse.ie/regional-services-contact-list.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (494)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

494. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education when the next instalment of the PPE and cleaning grant will issue; if this is the second instalment of two or the second instalment of three; and the amount this instalment of the grant entails. [38153/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's approach is to align the grant payments to each of the three terms of the school year.

Grant payments will reflect the duration of each school term and other factors e.g. the PPE grant payments for the first term included provision for once off set up costs for installing sanitizer dispensing units.

The next tranche of grant payments will issue in early January.

School Admissions

Questions (495)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

495. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education the steps that can be taken to ensure a secondary school placement in September 2021 for a student (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38214/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It is the responsibility of my Department to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. Parents/guardians can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to draft, publish and implement a school admission policy in accordance with the Education Acts 1998 to 2018. In schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

The admission policy, including the selection criterion to be used where the school is oversubscribed, must comply with the Education Acts 1998 to 2018, be non-discriminatory and be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Where a board of management makes a decision to refuse admission, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998, and an independent appeals committee will be appointed to consider the appeal. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a student, except in circumstances where an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 has been allowed and the appeals committee directs that the school admit the child concerned.

A section 29 appeal must be made no later than 63 calendar days from the date of the school’s decision to refuse admission.

If a student has been refused admission due to the school being oversubscribed, and the parent/guardian of the student wishes to appeal this decision they must firstly make a written request to the school seeking a review of the board of management’s decision. This request for a review to the board of management is time bound and must be made within 21 calendar days from the date of the decision by the school to refuse admission to the student.

If a student has been refused admission for a reason other than the school being oversubscribed, the parent/guardian may, but is not required to, request a review by the board of management within 21 calendar days from the date of the decision by the school to refuse admission to the student. Where refused admission is for a reason other than the school being oversubscribed and the parent/guardian does not choose to seek a review by the board of management, an appeal may be made to an independent appeals committee no later than 63 calendar days from the date of the school’s decision to refuse admission.

Full details on the section 29 appeals process are available on my Department’s website at the link below:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/Appeals.html.

In addition, Tusla Education Support Services (TESS) the Educational Welfare Service is the legal body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. Contact details for TESS are available at the following link https://www.tusla.ie/tess/get-in-touch/ or by email at tessinfo@tusla.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (496)

John Brady

Question:

496. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education the status of plans to provide an extension to a school (details supplied); the estimated timeline for completion; the student capacity of the school at present; and the capacity when the extension is completed. [38215/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to confirm that construction commenced for the school in question on 14th October 2020. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that the works will take approximately 108 weeks to complete.

The works consist of a new four-storey extension plus a stand alone PE Hall, extensive refurbishment of the existing building and all associated site works, to cater for 750 pupils. In September 2019, there were 579 pupils enrolled in the school.

School Admissions

Questions (497)

Patrick Costello

Question:

497. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Education the sanctions in place for schools that fail to honour the legal requirement to include in their admission policies detailed arrangements for those not attending religious instruction; the compliance rates nationwide by year and county in each of the years 2010 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38221/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As you will be aware the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 was signed into law by the President on the 18th July 2018. The overall objective of the Act is to provide a new framework for school enrolment that is designed to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications for admission is structured, fair and transparent.

The measures provided for in the Act make the admissions process more equitable and consistent for all. Schools that are not oversubscribed must accept all applicants.

On 14th January 2020 a number of sections of the Admission to Schools act were commenced introducing new laws around admission to schools which include the requirement for schools to set out arrangements for students that do not wish to attend religious instruction. These new arrangements apply to the admission processes for the 2021/2022 school year onwards.

The manner in which any school ensures that the right to opt out of religion classes is upheld is a matter for the school concerned. Each individual school must determine the particular arrangements which are most appropriate in its individual circumstances having regard to local issues such as available space, supervision requirements and how the school concerned organises classes etc.

My Department does not compile the information requested by the Deputy.

School Transport

Questions (498)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

498. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the supports in place for private bus operators who are providing school transport now that the 50% capacity rules are in place; and her plans to ensure that the additional cost for doubling the fleet is not borne on the operators themselves and then passed onto parents. [38247/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2019/2020 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.

Health advice received from NPHET on the 18th August impacted on the operation of post-primary school transport services. This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings.

Based on the public health advice the Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place including the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing which is using 50 per cent of passenger capacity. Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure that full implementation of the public health recommendation of running buses for post-primary children is achieved as quickly as possible on the post-primary scheme and on the special educational needs scheme for post-primary children.

Commercial contractors who provide transport for schools on a private hire or commercial basis but who are not contracted by Bus Éireann to operate on the Department’s School Transport Scheme do not fall under the remit of the Department of Education. However, the Department has reminded schools and other stakeholders that public health advice is best practice on these services also.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (499)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

499. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education the steps being taken to liaise with patrons in the east County Cork area to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of places for students in 2021 in second level. [38250/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System (GIS). The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit Data from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise.

The process has been strengthened this year through three specific initiatives:

(i) enhanced engagement with local authorities in relation to the information on residential development incorporated in the analysis process;

(ii) additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements. Education and Training Boards, Diocesan offices and national patron bodies such as Educate Together, An Foras Pátrúnachta etc. can also be an important source of local knowledge. This will add to information also provided to the Department by local authorities or individual schools.

(iii) utilising the information gleaned from schools under the national inventory of school capacity completed by individual schools last year as part of POD, P-POD returns process.

Similar to the process adopted for September 2020 readiness, the Department will be engaging further with patron bodies shortly in advance of identifying specific September 2021 capacity pressure points priorities which will necessitate specific action.

In a ‘normal’ year, addressing the increase demands for school places, whilst challenging, is manageable – generally through utilisation of existing spare capacity within schools, rental, temporary accommodation or other short term measures pending the delivery of permanent accommodation.

I wish to advise the Deputy that details of large-scale projects being delivered under the school building programme, including projects in Cork, may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

School Admissions

Questions (500)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

500. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 is designated as a feeder school for any secondary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38255/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to school admissions, it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998 and the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in that area.

The act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria in their admission policies. Schools have discretion in relation to their admission criteria and how they are applied. Post primary schools may choose to include as part of their selection criteria a priority for certain primary schools as feeder schools. Feeder schools is permitted as a criterion under the act, and schools can apply this as a criterion should they wish to do so. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (501)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

501. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education if the permanent site allocated for a school (details supplied) will be fully available to the school by September 2022; the timeframe for the school temporarily using this site to be given its own permanent location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38371/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Both building projects referred to by the Deputy are being delivered under my Department's Design and Build programme. Planning permission was lodged for the post primary school on the 31st March 2020, the Local Authority subsequently requested further information and this was submitted to the Local Authority last week. As with all school building projects, the exact timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission.

The Primary school building has been granted planning permission. It is anticipated that the project will proceed to tender in the first half of 2021 with construction expected to start in late 2021 and the estimated construction period for the project will be approximately 48 weeks.

My Department officials will keep the Boards of Management fully informed of developments as they occur.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (502)

John McGuinness

Question:

502. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 413 of 22 September 2020, if the grant for the assistive technology required by a student (details supplied) has been paid to the school. [38386/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Assistive Technology scheme, grant funding is provided to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes. Equipment is provided under this scheme for children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment which they do not already have, or which cannot be provided for them through the school’s existing IT provision.

In relation to the particular application raised by the Deputy, I can advise that grant support was approved and a sanction letter issued to the school on 15th September 2020 confirming the level of grant support available.

The next step is for the school to purchase the assistive technology and submit a claim from for a refund of payment from my Department. To date this claim form has not been received by my Department.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (503)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

503. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education when approval will be given to a school for a new build replacement building (details supplied) in view of the fact that the school is in substandard accommodation and has temporary accommodation available to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38412/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a building project to provide improved accommodation for the schools in question is included on the Department's Capital Programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

The options for providing this accommodation are currently being explored and my Department will continue to liaise directly with the school authorities in this regard.

DEIS Scheme

Questions (504)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

504. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education if consideration will be given to granting DEIS status to a school (details supplied) that is serving a disadvantaged area of Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38413/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is in the final stages of refinement of the DEIS identification model, based on school enrolment data and the latest data available from Census 2016 under the HP Deprivation Index.

This work is at an advanced stage and the initial phase of the consultation process with education stakeholder representatives on the technical aspects of the refined DEIS ID model has commenced. It is envisaged that this model will then provide the basis for development of a DEIS resource allocation system to match resources to identified need.

I am confident that the culmination of this work 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 work is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (505)

Alan Kelly

Question:

505. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education if she will consider closing schools for the Christmas period on 18 December 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38427/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The scheduling of the school holiday periods during the academic years is agreed between the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and my Department for the purposes of standardising breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term. This is important to ensure certainty for the school community about the dates of school holidays.

There are no plans to alter the school break at Christmas. It should be borne in mind that it is the view of Public Health that the evidence available to date shows that schools are proving to be safe spaces for children and for staff.

School Transport

Questions (506)

Verona Murphy

Question:

506. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Education the reason for the ongoing delay in payments of the special transport grant; when outstanding payments for the July provision and outstanding payments for term 1 of the 2020-2021 school year are expected to be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38461/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

With regard to transport arrangements for the Summer Programme, my Department committed to providing grant funding to support families with the cost of transport arrangements for those children who were eligible for school transport and who were approved to participate in the school based Summer Programme.

Schools were required to identify children who availed of a School Transport service or who were in receipt of a grant. School Transport Section issued correspondence to schools outlining what was required in order to process such payments.

School Transport Section has commenced processing payment of these grants to families who are eligible and payments will continue to be processed in the coming weeks.

School Admissions

Questions (507)

Neale Richmond

Question:

507. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education her plans to review the admissions policies for secondary level education to ensure that each student can gain access to a school in his or her catchment area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38543/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to school admissions, it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998 and the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in that area.

Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process will be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria in their admission policies. Schools have discretion in relation to their admission criteria and how they are applied, giving a priority to a certain catchment area is permitted as a criterion under the act, and schools can apply this as a criterion should they wish to do so. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves. My Department does not seek to intervene in the selection criterion that is applied by schools.