School Facilities

Questions (508)

Seán Haughey

Question:

508. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education if it will be ensured that a protected structure in the possession of her Department (details supplied) is not allowed to deteriorate any further; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38552/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The structure referred to by the Deputy is located on the grounds of the above named school, and is one of a number of protected structures on-site.

The brief for the major building project is to provide a new post-primary school to cater for 1,000 pupils and does not provide for works to this building. However, a Conservation Architect has been appointed to the Design Team to assess the impact of the new school building on the protected structures, and to prepare a Conservation Management Plan.

School Attendance

Questions (509)

Mark Ward

Question:

509. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Education the options available to the parents of a child (details supplied) for the child to be able to attend school. [38567/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Each child has a right to education to enable them to live a full life as a child and to realise his or her potential as a unique individual. All pupils who are enrolled in a school should attend school for the full day, unless exempted from doing so for exceptional circumstances, such as medical reasons.

Where schools apply a shorter school day in relation to a child, such arrangements should only be put in place in exceptional circumstances in order to assist a pupil to return to a school, where a pupil has been experiencing an absence due to a medical or behavioural related condition. Reduced timetables should not be used as a behavioural management technique, or as a de facto suspension or expulsion. Any such arrangement should be a transitionary arrangement, which is designed to assist the reintegration of a pupil to a school environment.

In making any such arrangements, school authorities should be mindful of the best interests of the child and of the child's right to a full day in school. Schools should seek the advice of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) before implementing such arrangements.

In relation to the particular case raised by the Deputy, I understand that the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) are currently engaged with the Parents, the school and the relevant support services and agencies with a view to ensuring that the child can return to school on a full time basis.

School Accommodation

Questions (510)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

510. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education the status of the new school building for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38600/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Negotiations regarding a site acquisition to accommodate a permanent school building for the school to which the Deputy refers, are at an advanced stage. The school patron has been informed of the proposed location and discussions are ongoing with the landowner with a view to acquiring this site. Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (511)

Johnny Mythen

Question:

511. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 504 of 10 November 2020, the plans in place to mitigate the impact that Covid-19 will have on dealing with capacity adaptation actions for dealing with pressure points in relation to second level school places for September 2021 in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38605/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, on 27 July last, the Government published the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, along with details of a significant financial package to support the implementation of the measures in the roadmap, following approval by the Government. The package of supports were expected to cost in excess of €437 million in the 2020/2021 school year. Revised public health advice to reduce the capacity on school transport led to further additional costs of €15 million in 2020.

The range of supports being made available to schools includes financial supports to provide for additional staffing, management supports, enhanced cleaning, hand hygiene and personal protective equipment costs under the Covid-19 response plans, school transport, the continuation of additional educational psychological services to provide for well-being supports, etc.

The Government also approved a package of minor works grants amounting to €75 million as part of the July Stimulus to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening. An additional €105 million was subsequently announced for 2020 which will facilitate the bringing forward of an ICT grant for all schools and early payment of minor works grant for primary schools planned for 2021. The additional funding of €25m for payment of an exceptional Minor Works Grant at post primary school level for school year 2021/2022 will be paid out in December 2020. This will support schools managing in the Covid environment and greatly assist schools in creating additional capacity to support physical distancing arrangements through enabling more substantive reconfiguration work in buildings.

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.

School Enrolments

Questions (512)

Johnny Mythen

Question:

512. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Education when parents who are affected by capacity issues in County Wexford will be informed of potential second level school places for September 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38606/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998. In schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary.

The selection process used by schools and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, it may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

In accordance with the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, all schools have drafted new policies to be published on the school’s website.

The act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria for application in the event of oversubscription, in their admission policies. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

Further information on the new admission process is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/School-Enrolment.

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.

School Enrolments

Questions (513)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

513. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 464 of 17 November 2020, if she will address the further information provided (details supplied). [38647/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I would like to again reassure the Deputy that ensuring that every child has a suitable school placement is an ongoing priority for my Department.

The National Council for Special Education is responsible for planning and coordinating education provision at a local level. The Council through its national network of SENOs work with schools and parents to ensure that every child is supported and is given access to education.

The Deputy may be aware that the NCSE has advised that it is experiencing difficulties in securing special school placements in certain areas in Cork, but that they are continuing to work as a matter of urgency in accommodating students who require such placements.

I want to acknowledge that there are some schools where places will not become available until September, 2021.

The local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) continue to have regular contact with the family. They also continue to liaise with schools to identify suitable provision.

In circumstances where no placement is available for a child with special educational needs, the Department can provide Home Tuition grant funding towards the provision of 20 hours home tuition per week as an interim measure until the NCSE confirms that a placement is available.

School Enrolments

Questions (514)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

514. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education if she will make enquiries in relation to the lack of school places in schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38655/20]

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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.

My Department is currently assessing an application for additional accommodation from the first named school included in the details supplied by the Deputy and a response will issue directly to the school authority when the assessment has been completed.

A new school building is being provided for the second named school and the project is currently at stage 2b of the architectural planning process with planning permission having been granted. My Department has provided funding to the school for interim accommodation pending construction of the new school building. When constructed, the school will have capacity for 1,000 pupils.

A major building project for the third named school to increase its capacity to 1,000 pupils is currently on site.

School Transport

Questions (515)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

515. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education the position regarding a school transport refund for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38656/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

The decision taken by the Government to close schools with effect from 13th March 2020 was taken in the interest of protecting our pupils, their families, teachers and those members of the wider community and is one of the many measures taken to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Given that the school transport services were not available to children from 13th March, it was decided that at the end of the 2019/20 school year a refund for that period of closure will be issued to parents. Bus Éireann issued refunds regarding these closures during the summer months.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that a refund was issued to the family referred to by the Deputy this week and the family have been contacted to advise them of same.

School Staff

Questions (516)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

516. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education if she will address a matter regarding a school (details supplied) that has been informed it will be losing a teacher which will then lead to class sizes being increased, which will not be possible given social distancing measures required. [38657/20]

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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 mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the 2020/21 school year.

Primary schools are currently provided with class teachers on the basis of one teacher for every 26 pupils which is at its historically lowest level. Budget 2021 has implemented a further 1 point reduction for the 2021/22 school year. In addition, there has been a three point reduction in the retention schedule, which will help to ensure that less pupils are required to recruit or retain a teacher.

The staffing schedule for the 2021/22 school year, which stands at an average of 1 teacher for every 25 pupils, will be published early next year. It is at this stage that all primary schools will be able to ascertain their teacher allocation for the 2021/22 school year.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (517)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

517. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education the progress of a building project (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38666/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the tender process and a preferred bidder has been identified.

Subject to no issues arising during the balance of the tender process, it is anticipated that work will commence on site in Quarter 1 of 2021, with a construction period of approximately 6 months.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (518)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

518. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the status of the proposed development of a new post-primary school campus in Prosperous, County Kildare; and the timeline from design to completion dates. [38739/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB).

I can confirm that a design team to deliver this project has been appointed by the ETB. KWETB has informed the Department that the design team is preparing the Stage 1 report (preliminary design) and it is nearing completion.

While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, KWETB will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (519)

Neale Richmond

Question:

519. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education when a school (details supplied) will go to tender for works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38749/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that there is a tender process ongoing for the establishment of a new framework of contractors for delivery of a bundle of design and build projects which is expected to be completed in Quarter 1 of 2021. This school project will then be tendered to this new framework when established. Pending delivery of the permanent accommodation, my Department will continue to address the interim accommodation needs of the school.

State Examinations

Questions (520)

Seán Haughey

Question:

520. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education the reason estimated marks given by schools to students in respect of the leaving certificate 2020 were upgraded in some cases and downgraded in other cases following the standardisation process; the way in which this standardisation process was applied and operated in practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38779/20]

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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. In the absence of these examinations, every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible.

The process of national standardisation, which forms a key part of the Calculated Grades process, was applied to the information provided by schools in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. In order to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisations process.

These adjustments resulted in the school estimates of subject percentage marks 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.

A standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal. In the system of calculated grades, the standardisation process applied uniformly across all subject and levels and school types. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level. This means that 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 marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects.

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).

The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data, there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year it is approximately 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.

The appeals process for Calculated Grades was open to students who were disappointed with the Calculated Grades they received in one or more subjects. In addition, students had the option to register to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams which commenced on 16 November.

Following the conclusion of the appeals processes, students who consider that their case 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.

State Examinations

Questions (521)

Seán Haughey

Question:

521. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education the method used by her Department in determining appeals submitted by students in respect of calculated grades awarded to them in the leaving certificate 2020; if the reasons for not upholding appeals can be given to the affected students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38780/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The 2020 Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades appeals process has concluded and the appeal outcomes were made available to students at 12pm on Friday 16 October through the Calculated Grades Student Portal.

In the processing of the appeals, a total of 33,301 individual subject records belonging to 12,216 students were reviewed. This number excludes students who initially entered for an appeal but later withdrew their application.

As a result of the process, a total of 18 increased grades were awarded to 18 individual students. Eleven of these were upgrades following an appeal by the student. A further seven grades were upgraded following quality assurance checks as part of the appeals process which involved checks on the documentation submitted by schools; the entry of that data on to the schools' data collection system; and the subsequent transmission of the data through the various IT systems used in the generation of calculated grades.

The appeals process was a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process. It was not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school. Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school was outside of the appeals process. The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process was also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

The CAO were also notified of changes to students’ results on 16 October. Candidates who are eligible for a new offer as a result of the upgraded mark received following the appeals process will be contacted as soon as possible.

Students unhappy with the outcome of the above process could invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These scrutineers are independent of my Department. The independent Appeals Scrutineers will check to ensure the correct procedures were followed throughout the appeals process. The scrutineers will have access to the records and documentation considered in the appeals process.

The closing date for application to this process was Friday 23 October. Applications for this stage of the appeals process were submitted by 302 candidates in respect of 900 subject results. Every effort will be made to complete this review stage as quickly as possible and to provide the outcomes to students. At this stage, it is not possible to specify the exact timescale for completion of the review process.

Following the conclusion of the appeals processes, students who consider that their case 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 were also given the opportunity to register for the postponed Leaving Certificate examinations which commenced on 16 November.

Schools Data

Questions (522)

Bríd Smith

Question:

522. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the total number of days lost by secondary and primary school teachers due to illness since schools reopened in September 2020, by week; and the comparative figures for September, October and November 2019. [38787/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The terms and conditions of the Sick Leave Scheme for teachers is contained in my Department’s Circular Letter 0054/2019. In line with the Sick Leave Scheme, absences are recorded by the individual employer on my Department’s On Line Claims System (OLCS) which is part of the payroll system.

The attached table details the total number of Sick Leave days currently recorded on the OLCS for primary and post teachers for the period September to November 2019 and for the period September to 23 November, 2020. These figures exclude ETB teachers as they are not paid on my Department’s payroll system.

It is not possible to provide a weekly breakdown of the Sick Leave figures, as requested by the Deputy.

Sick Leave Record for Primary and Post Primary Teachers (excluding ETBs)

Sick Leave Days

Sick Leave Days

Employee Type

01/09-30/11/19

01/09-23/11/20

Primary Teachers

74,822

76,106

Post Primary Teachers

42,694

39,860

Total

117,516

115,966

Schools Data

Questions (523)

Bríd Smith

Question:

523. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the total number of days lost by primary and secondary schools teachers as a result of isolating as a result of close contact with a positive Covid-19 case for the weeks since schools reopened in September 2020. [38788/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The current COVID-19 arrangements in place for teachers are outlined in my Department’s Circular Letter 0049/2020.

The Circular outlines that special leave with pay may be granted to a teacher who has been (a) diagnosed with COVID-19 or (b) has COVID-19 symptoms and has been advised by the HSE/GP to self-isolate whilst awaiting their test appointment and test results.

In addition, the Circular caters for a teacher who has been advised by the HSE/GP to restrict their movements, where they are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or lives with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms. A teacher who has been advised to restrict his/her movements and is medically fit for work, remains available for work and the employer must therefore facilitate alternative working arrangements to the maximum extent possible e.g. working from home.

Circular 0049/2020 also caters for a teacher who has been categorised by the Occupational Health Service as at a very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19. Based on HSE advice, this teacher must not attend the workplace. However he/she remains available for work and the employer should prioritise alternative working arrangements to the maximum extent possible e.g. working from home.

Where a teacher is on COVID-19 special leave with pay, the employer may appoint a substitute, paid by the Department/ETB. Similarly, where a teacher is on restricted movement or categorised in the very high risk group and is working from home, the employer may appoint a substitute, paid by the Department/ETB.

As at 13 November, 2020 a total of 56,883 days have been recorded for the above COVID-19 categories in respect of primary and post primary teachers for the 2020/21 school year. This excludes ETB teachers as they are not paid on my Department’s payroll system.

Schools Data

Questions (524)

Bríd Smith

Question:

524. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the total number of days lost due to illness by pupils in secondary and primary schools since reopening and the comparative figures for the months of September, October and November 2019. [38789/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In accordance with the requirements of the Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019 - 2023 the school principal is responsible for the day-to-day management of the school and is accountable for that management to the school’s Board of Management. One of the important management functions of the principal is the maintenance of records in relation to pupil attendance in accordance with my Department’s circulars and the Education Welfare Act 2000.

These records are retained at school level and my Department does not collect data in relation to pupil absences requested by the Deputy.