Defence Forces Deployment

Questions (389)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

389. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Army Ranger Wing personnel deployed with the German armed forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7340/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

Government and Dáil approval was received in June 2019 for the deployment of a contingent of up to 14 Defence Forces personnel, drawn primarily from the Army Ranger Wing, to participate in MINUSMA, the United Nations authorised operation in Mali.

MINUSMA was established on 25 April 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2100 to stabilise the country after the Tuareg rebellion (2012). The role of the mission is to ensure security, stabilization and protection of civilians; supporting national political dialogue and reconciliation; and assisting the re-establishment of State authority, the rebuilding of the security sector, and the promotion and protection of human rights in Mali.

Currently, there are 2 officers deployed in MINUSMA Force Headquarters in Bamako and an additional 12 personnel, including members of the Army Ranger Wing, deployed with the German Armed Forces at Camp Castor in GAO, Mali. All deployed personnel are currently embedded within the larger German company and are carrying out assigned tasks in accordance with the mission mandate.

The Department of Defence reviews the deployment of Defence Forces Personnel overseas on an ongoing basis. Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Defence Forces Funding

Questions (390)

Gerald Nash

Question:

390. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Defence if he has considered the expected cost to the Exchequer and the spending of his Department in view of the proposal by the European Commission for a new regulation establishing the European defence fund under the 2021-27 multi-annual financial framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7420/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The European Commission proposed a new regulation establishing the European Defence Fund (EDF) under the draft Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027. The Regulation has been agreed by the Council and the EU Parliament and funding of approximately €8 billion has been provided for the instrument under the MFF 2021-2027.

The EDF aims to trigger co-operative programmes that would not happen without EU contribution and, by supporting research and development activities, to provide the necessary incentives to boost cooperation at each stage of the industrial cycle, contributing to the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB).

Member State contributions to the EU Budget (Own Resources) are currently calculated annually by the EU Commission in line with the provisions outlined in Own Resources Decision (ORD) Regulation (2014/335). This includes contributions through traditional own resources (primarily customs duties), a VAT-based contribution with a call rate of 0.3% of a notional harmonised rate, and a Gross National Income (GNI)-based contribution, calculated by taking a Member State’s GNI as a share of EU27 GNI.

EU Budget revenue is general, and is not assigned to any particular fund. As such, the European Defence Fund (EDF) does not have a defined cost to the Exchequer; rather, Ireland’s contributions go into the general pool of revenue that funds all EU budget expenditure, including the EDF. The EDF is encompassed within the funding being provided for the MFF which is funded directly by the Exchequer. As such, no charge arises for my Department's Vote as a result of the establishment of the EDF.

It is also important to note that participation in the EDF does not broker any consideration or obligation in respect of a common or mutual defence commitment or participation in a military defence alliance. As such, participation in the EDF will not compromise Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.

Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge

Questions (391)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

391. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais cén uair a dhéanfar faomhadh ar iarratas ón bhForas Pátrúnachta ar Ghaelcholáiste a bhunú i nDún Dealgan chun go mbeidh deis i mbliana glacadh le daltaí sa chéad rang mheánscoile ó Ghaelscoil Dhún Dealgan agus ó scoileanna eile sa cheantar; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [6335/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Is tosaíocht do mo Roinn agus don Rialtas seo oideachas Gaeilge a sholáthar, agus tá tiomantas láidir i bpáirt againn i leith líon na n-áiteanna Gaeilge atá ar fáil a mhéadú.

Bhí teagmháil shuntasach ag mo Roinn leis an bhForas Pátrúnachta maidir lena moladh go mbeadh campas i gContae Lú freisin ag Gaelcholáiste atá faoi phátrúnacht An Fhorais Phátrúnachta. Tá sé tábhachtach a chur san áireamh go mbaineann an togra seo le campas breise a sholáthar i gcás scoile atá ann cheana.

Mar chuid den teagmháil, rinneadh na roghanna éagsúla atá ar fáil i nDún Dealgan a mheas. Le gur féidir an togra agus na costais bhainteacha a mheas go hiomlán, beidh sé riachtanach suíomh an champais atá beartaithe agus na costais a éireoidh as a dhéanamh amach. Mhol An Foras Pátrúnachta cóiríocht áirithe le déanaí agus tá an Roinn i dteagmháil leis An bhForas Pátrúnachta maidir leis. Is mian liom a dhearbhú duit go bhfuil tús áite á thabhairt ag mo Roinn don bhreithniú atá ar siúl aici ar an togra a thabhairt chun críche, agus beidh sí i dteagmháil leis an bhForas Pátrúnachta nuair a bheidh scéala eile ann ina leith seo.

Tá sé tábhachtach a chur san áireamh agus an togra seo á scrúdú, go leanfaidh scoláirí a roghnaigh clarú sa Ghaelcholáiste i mBaile Brigín atá faoi phátrúnacht An Fhorais Phátrúnachta de chóracha iompair scoile a úsáid (faoi réir srianta a bhaineann le Covid agus dúnadh na scoileanna srl. de réir mar a bhaineann siad leis an tír ar fad).

Irish Language

Questions (392)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

392. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if she will address concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6336/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of Irish-medium education is a priority for my Department and this Government, and we share a strong commitment to increasing the number of Irish-medium places available.

My Department has had significant engagement with An Foras Pátrúnachta in relation to its proposal for a Gaelcholáiste under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta to also have a campus in County Louth. It is important to note that this proposal relates to the provision of an additional campus of an existing school.

The engagement has included assessing various options in Dundalk. In order for the proposal and associated costs to be fully assessed, it will be necessary to finalise the location of the proposed campus and costs arising. An Foras Pátrúnachta recently proposed particular accommodation and the Department is engaging with An Foras Pátrúnachta in this regard. I wish to assure you that my Department is prioritising completion of its consideration of the proposal and will be in contact with An Foras Pátrúnachta when there is a further update in this regard.

It is important to note that while this proposal is being worked through, those students who have chosen to enrol in the Gaelcholáiste under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta in Balbriggan will continue to be served by school transport (subject to Covid-related restrictions and school closures etc. as they apply nationally).

Schools Building Projects

Questions (393)

Emer Higgins

Question:

393. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education the status of the progress and timelines for delivery of new school accommodation for post-primary schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6373/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The current status of the projects referred to by the Deputy is as follows:

Holy Family Community School (RN 91301D)

This major building project is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

A revised Stage 2(b) report has been reviewed by my Department. Further comments have issued to the Design Team who have been requested to carry out a final review of all of its tender documentation to ensure compliance with Department requirements and to submit written confirmation from each Design Team member when this work has been completed.

In order to expedite the progression of this project, my Department authorised the Design Team to commence the pre-qualification process to select a short-list of contractors and this process is currently on-going.

Upon receipt of Design Team confirmations and completion of the pre-qualification process and subject to no issues arising, my Department will be in contact with the Design Team and school with regard to the further progression of this project to the next stage of architectural planning, Stage 3 (Tender Stage).

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

St. Joseph’s College (RN 60263V)

This major building project is also at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning, Stage 2b (Detailed Design).

The Stage 2(b) report has been reviewed by my Department. Comments have issued to the Design Team who have been requested to carry out a final review of all of its tender documentation to ensure compliance with Department requirements and to submit written confirmation from each Design Team member when this work has been completed.

My Department has authorised the Design Team to commence the pre-qualification process to select a short-list of contractors and this process is currently ongoing.

Upon receipt of Design Team confirmations and completion of the pre-qualification process and subject to no issues arising, my Department will be in contact with the Design Team and school with regard to the further progression of this project to the next stage of architectural planning, Stage 3 (Tender Stage).

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

Griffeen Community College (RN 76454S)

The permanent school building project for Griffeen Community College has been assigned to my Department’s Design & Build delivery programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tender and construction. Architectural Planning has commenced with site surveys and design development underway. A pre-planning meeting has been held with South Dublin County Council which will inform the design for the project.

The next milestone for the project will be the submission of the planning application to South Dublin County Council. It is not possible to provide an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project to tender and construction stages until such time as the necessary statutory approvals have been secured.

Lucan Community College (RN 70080T)

This major building project is also at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design.

The Stage 2(b) report has been submitted to my Department for review by Dublin Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB), who is the client for the project.

In order to expedite the progression of this project, my Department has authorised DDLETB to commence the pre-qualification process to select a short-list of contractors while the Department is reviewing the Stage 2(b) report.

Upon review, my Department will issue comments on the report to DDLETB and the Design Team will be requested to carry out a final review of all of its tender documentation to ensure compliance with Department requirements and to submit written confirmation from each Design Team member when this work has been completed.

Upon receipt of Design Team confirmations and completion of the pre-qualification process and subject to no issues arising, my Department will be in contact with DDLETB with regard to the further progression of this project to the next stage of architectural planning, Stage 3 (Tender Stage).

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

Schools Building Projects

Questions (394)

Emer Higgins

Question:

394. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education the status of progress and the timelines for the delivery of new school accommodation for primary schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6374/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The current status of the projects referred to by the Deputy is as follows:

Scoil Chronáin (RN 19530H)

The permanent school building project for Scoil Chronáin has been assigned to my Department’s Design & Build delivery programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tender and construction. Architectural Planning has commenced with site surveys and design development under way. A pre-planning meeting has been held with South Dublin County Council which will inform the design for the project.

The next milestone for the project will be the submission of the planning application to South Dublin County Council. It is not possible to provide an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project to tender and construction stages until such time as the necessary statutory approvals have been secured.

St Thomas JNS & Scoil Áine SNS, Lucan (RN 19542R & 19676P)

The replacement Design Team Consultant Architect tender process for this project has been completed and the design team is currently working on Stage 2(b) – Detailed Design, which includes upgrading the design to ensure that new school buildings are Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

Arising from a Due Diligence exercise carried out by the replacement Consultant Architect a submission detailing additional works to the existing school buildings has been presented to the Department. This submission is currently under review. Upon review my Department will revert to the schools and their Design Team regarding the further progression of this project.

Divine Mercy JNS & SNS, Balgaddy (RN 20187H & 19865S)

This major building project is also at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning, Stage 2(b) Detailed Design.

A revised Stage 2(b) report has been reviewed by my Department and comments issued to the school and its’ Design Team. The Design Team Consultant Architect has withdrawn from this project. A tender process to replace this consultant is in progress.

Upon appointment of the replacement consultant, a review of the stage 2(b) documentation will be carried out and the Design Team will then arrange to submit confirmations that they have carried out a final review of the complete package of tender documents.

Upon receipt of Design Team confirmations my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project including pre-qualification of contractors.

Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain & Gaelscoil na Camogie, Clondalkin (RN 19855P & 19991A)

The major building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

These schools are being delivered as a campus project.

The project is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design.

The Stage 2(b) report has been reviewed by my Department and comments have issued to the Design Team.

The pre-qualification process is currently underway.

Upon completion of the prequalification process, my Department will contact the schools with regard to the progression of this project to Stage 3 – Tender and Construction.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (395)

Duncan Smith

Question:

395. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Education the status of the installation and opening of the proposed autism spectrum disorder, ASD, unit in a school (details supplied) that has been in the pipeline for several years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6377/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the tender process, for the construction of a 16 classroom school plus a 2 classroom ASD Unit, with a preferred bidder identified.

Subject to no issues arising during the balance of the tender process, it is anticipated that construction will commence in quarter 2 of 2021 and the work will take approximately 20 months to complete.

Home Schooling

Questions (396)

Emer Higgins

Question:

396. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education if her Department is putting together an online resource site for parents to support them to home school and to ensure all parents have equal access to the same online assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6385/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to facilitate the continuity of learning. My Department has also provided a number of supports and materials to assist parents which are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool. On 12th January 2021 I wrote to all parents of pupils and students providing details of remote learning, and the supports available.

During the current period of school closure, schools are required to put in place their plan of action to enable continuity of learning for all pupils. This involves all teachers who are medically fit to work, including SETs, providing remote teaching and learning to all pupils in their class or on their caseload.

It is crucially important that the learning of all pupils/students, especially those with special educational needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage and/or early school leaving, are supported at this time. These supports include teachers engaging with their pupils/students on a regular basis, through a blend of guided and independent learnings tasks and experiences. Chosen learning tasks provide an opportunity to demonstrate a student’s learning in a clear and concise way. These learning tasks enable teachers to monitor progress and provide constructive, developmental feedback to support learning.

My Department has agreed a plan with the relevant education stakeholders for the phased return to in-person learning for children in special schools and children in special classes in mainstream schools. This phased reopening will commence this Thursday 11th February with children in special schools returning on a 50 per cent shared basis from that date.

The full re-opening of our schools for all pupils and students remains a top priority for Government and I am committed to working on an ongoing basis with all stakeholders to achieve this outcome at the earliest opportunity.

School Curriculum

Questions (397)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

397. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education if she will consider restoring geography as a mandatory junior certificate examination subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6387/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has every confidence that, through the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle the place of Geography will be retained and given a new impetus across the Junior Cycle curriculum. As part of the rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle, Geography was one of five new subject specifications that were introduced to schools in September 2018.

The new Junior Cycle has been developed over several years with the final phase of new subject specifications introduced to schools in September 2019. The new Framework for Junior Cycle gives students the opportunity to develop a wider range of knowledge and skills – to equip them for further learning, for work, for responsible and active citizenship, and for healthy living. It gives students better learning opportunities, and rewards and recognises non-academic performance and achievements, with a central focus on the student’s quality of life, wellbeing and mental health.

The Framework for Junior Cycle focuses on active and collaborative learning. It gives greater flexibility and autonomy to schools in terms of subject selection, and new short courses, to tailor a student’s learning to achieve better outcomes for that student. Students are able to study up to 10 subjects for certification through the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement.

We have a dedicated cohort of Geography teachers in our post-primary schools, who will be promoting the inclusion of their subject within programmes provided to students by their schools. Through the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 the curricular significance of Geography will be retained and given a new impetus across the Junior Cycle curriculum.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (398)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

398. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if she will clarify special needs assistant, SNA, allocations in 2021; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Covid-19 situation is ongoing and the important measures put in place in 2020 to maintain SNA allocations at current levels must continue; and if no SNA will lose hours in 2021. [6405/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am aware of the impact of Covid-19 on teaching and learning in our schools. During this period of school closure, students are supported on a remote basis. Later this week we all see the partial return of students in special schools to in-school teaching and learning and special classes in primary schools will resume from next week. A new supplementary programme of in-home tuition/care support commences this week to enhance the learning experience of those students being educated remotely.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) continues to accept applications by schools for exception reviews of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations and each application will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis.

A core recommendation of the NCSE Review of the SNA scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The frontloaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the frontloaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that 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 DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE.

Teacher Training

Questions (399)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

399. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if she will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6407/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I understand that the issue raised in the correspondence referred to by the Deputy relates to the requirements for school placement for a student on a post-primary initial teacher education programme.

The requirements for school placement are set out in the Teaching Council’s policy Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and the Guidelines on School Placement.

School Placement must encompass a school-based element in a recognised school in a minimum of two placement settings and a range of HEI-directed activities. The Guidelines state that the school-based element shall take place only in schools that are recognised in accordance with Section 10 of the Education Act, 1998.

Alternative placement experiences, such as placements in Centres for Education and other educational settings which are not recognised schools may be arranged as part of the HEI directed activities, but these must be in addition to the main placement requirements taking place in a recognised school.

Any student who chooses to undertake a full-time Professional Master of Education programme must fulfil all of the requirements of that ITE programme, including the main requirement of placement in a recognised school, if they wish to register with the Teaching Council as a post primary teacher upon completing the programme.

Child Abuse

Questions (400)

Martin Browne

Question:

400. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Education the supports available for victims of historic abuse in day schools under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Church; and if they have been included in a redress scheme to date. [6414/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The abuse of children in any setting is a heinous crime and every effort should be made to bring the perpetrator to justice through the courts system. All reports of abuse should be reported to the Gardaí who will investigate each reported abuse. There is no time limit on the investigation of cases of historical abuse.

For people who were abused in childhood, there is a National Counselling Service, run by the Health Service Executive. It's a free nationwide service, which provides Face to face, counselling by phone and online video counselling.

An ex gratia redress scheme was established on foot of the specific circumstances arising from and in response to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) relating to Louise O'Keeffe. The scheme, was established in 2015 to provide an effective remedy for a specific category of people, namely those persons who had commenced domestic litigation but who had discontinued those proceedings following High Court and Supreme Court judgments and because of this discontinuation had no domestic remedy.

The Department undertook a review of the scheme in response to a determination by the Independent Assessor, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill that one of the criteria for eligibility is incompatible with the ECtHR judgement.

The review of the ex-gratia scheme is ongoing.

Teaching Council of Ireland

Questions (401)

Michael Ring

Question:

401. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education when a decision will be reached on a Teaching Council application by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact the person applied in August 2020. [6422/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession in Ireland including the registration of teachers in the State.

Teachers whose applications meet all the necessary requirements are registered by the Teaching Council under Section 31 of the Teaching Council Act and the Teaching Council (Registration) Regulations 2016, as amended.

I am informed the Teaching Council advise that, for teachers qualified outside of Ireland, the assessment and registration process may typically take up to 12 weeks from receipt of all application documentation and depending on the time of year, recommending that applicants apply in advance of their planned return to or commencement of teaching in Ireland. They advise the processing time for standard Irish qualifications is 6-8 weeks.

The Teaching Council inform me that the person referred to by the Deputy is registered with effect from the 04th February 2021. Should the individual have any queries regarding their registration I would advise they liaise directly with the Teaching Council.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (402)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

402. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Education her plans for primary schools outside of the primary schools broadband connection programme that are not in the intervention areas of the national broadband plan and are experiencing difficulties accessing broadband. [6431/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the current primary schools programme, my Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A framework of providers of Broadband Services was put in place in 2017 which has ensured improved solutions are available to primary schools. The Schools Broadband Service Desk providing first line technical support for schools in the broadband programme is managed on behalf of my Department by the Professional Development Service for Teachers - Technology in Education (PDST-TiE). Where schools are experiencing broadband difficulties with their current schools broadband connecting, in the first instance schools should make contact with the Broadband Service desk team at broadbandservicedesk@pdst.ie or by phoning 1800334466 in order to identify any potential issue and also to record their bandwidth upgrade request.

The policy of my Department is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and within financial constraints. Currently investment of some €13m is allocated annually for the provision of internet connectivity to schools. As you are no doubt aware, broadband capacity can vary across geographical locations and is dependent on local infrastructure which can impact on the service that can be provided in individual schools. The primary broadband scheme operates off existing infrastructure on the whole and the providers on the Primary Broadband Framework access this infrastructure to deliver the service to the schools. The Department does not put in place such infrastructure.

In operating the Schools Broadband Programme, my Department is obliged to adhere to procurement regulations, and must engage with the selected providers on the DES Framework of Providers of Broadband Services through a tender process to award services. Having awarded a school service to the highest placed tenderer, my Department is then required to work with that provider to install the service. This is the basis on which all state-funding is utilised to ensure transparency and equal treatment for all schools and providers, and adherence to regulatory requirements. Broadband capacity can vary across geographical locations and is dependent on local infrastructure which can impact on the service that can be provided in individual schools.

The requirements of primary schools with poor/no connectivity, will be kept under review by my Department with a view to addressing requirements, including through continued engagement with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

Special Education Review

Questions (403, 404)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

403. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education if a review of ASD classrooms in the Dublin 2 and 4 areas will be conducted urgently. [6434/21]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

404. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education her plans to conduct a section 37A review of schools in the Dublin 2 and 4 areas. [6435/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 403 and 404 together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. The Department of Education will spend approximately €2 Billion or over 20% of its total educational budget in 2021 on making additional provision for children with special educational needs this year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. It has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. NCSE seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special education placements.

NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and special school places nationally, to meet identified need. This process is ongoing. 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. However, the active collaboration of school communities is essential in this regard.

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

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.

As Minister, I have powers under Section 37A of the Education Act to direct a school to provide additional places but this power is only used as a last resort and where all reasonable efforts have failed.

In 2020, having considered a report submitted by the NCSE which identified a need for special education placements in South Dublin, the then Minister served statutory notices under Section 37A on 39 schools in the area.

This legal process is still underway and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage. However, I would like to reassure the Deputy that progress is being made and my Department will continue to support the NCSE and schools through the provision of the necessary funding and capital investment to ensure all children are successful in accessing an education.

I can also reassure the Deputy that the local SENOs continue to be available to assist and advise parents of children with special educational needs.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (405)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

405. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education if a decision has been made regarding SNA allocations for September 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6440/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) continues to accept applications by schools for exception reviews of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations and each application will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis.

A core recommendation of the NCSE Review of the SNA scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The frontloaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the frontloaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that 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 DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (406)

Noel Grealish

Question:

406. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Education when a new school building will be provided for a school (details supplied) to replace the current dilapidated facilities; the timeline for the provision of a replacement school as promised to school representatives at a meeting on 10 December 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6454/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a building project to provide improved accommodation for the schools in question is included on the Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

The accommodation brief for the project is being developed and my Department will continue to liaise with the schools in this regard.