Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (427)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

427. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education if children who, as a result of the disruption to their education due to the impact of Covid-19, wish to repeat a school year will be permitted to do so; the consideration given to the matter by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6738/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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.

Where possible it is important that pupils move on with their peers and continue on to the next stage of their education. When pupils have started back in school, the principal and teachers can assess their needs and adapt their teaching programme so that any gaps in their learning resulting from the temporary closure of schools can be addressed. For the vast majority of pupils, this will ensure progression is as seamless a manner as possible.

In exceptional circumstances a school may conclude a pupil or student would benefit educationally by repeating a grade level having first consulted with the learning support teacher/resource teacher and class teacher and parents. In such circumstances there should be a clear programme outlined for such a pupil that records precisely what new approach will be used for her/him and what its expected benefit will be. These records should be retained within the school and should be brought to the attention of a Department Inspectorate, by the Principal on visiting the school.

The full re-opening of our schools for all 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.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (428)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

428. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education her plans for the school inclusion model plan (details supplied); if the model will be continued on a pilot basis; if so, when will the findings of the pilot scheme be released; if a decision has been made on whether the model will be rolled-out nationally; if so, the date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6739/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The School Inclusion Model is based on policy advice from the National Council for Special Education based on the principle of providing the right support at the right time delivered by a range of personnel with relevant qualifications and skill-sets. Its purpose is to help students achieve better outcomes. Independent evaluation is a central part of the project and the outcome will inform future policy on extending the SIM. The project includes a number of elements:

- Provision of in-school therapies (speech and language, occupational);

- Allocation of SNAs on a frontloaded basis;

- Additional professional supports for the school including psychology, behavioural and professional development; and

- Training of SNAs.

In February 2019, the Government approved the trialling of the Model for the 2019/20 school year. Initially designed as a one year pilot involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region, it was interrupted by Covid-19 with the closure of schools and the diversion of HSE therapists from the project to Covid related work. It was then extended to the 2020/21 school year which has also been interrupted by Covid.

Progress has been made on aspects of the Model but much remains to be done in terms of in-school implementation and evaluation. The Model will resume once schools are reopened and planning is underway in this regard.

As part of the 2021 Budget measures, funding is being made available to extend the School Inclusion Model (SIM) to two other areas in 2021.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (429)

Marian Harkin

Question:

429. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Education the timeline for the completion of the review by the schools' capital appraisal section for a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; and the details of the next phase of the application process. [6749/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application from the school in question for consideration under the Additional School Accommodation Scheme.

The application is being considered by my officials and once a decision has been reached the school authorities will be contacted directly.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (430)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

430. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education the status of the proposed new build for a school (details supplied); the stage the proposal has reached; when works will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6785/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is currently engaging with the school to which he refers in relation to the school's accommodation needs, including the provision of permanent accommodation as quickly as possible.

Home Tuition Scheme

Questions (431)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

431. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if she will address matters regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6790/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My officials have advised that the home tuition grant application in question was sanctioned. Correspondence to this effect issued to the applicant on the 8th of February 2021.

School Equipment

Questions (432)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

432. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Education if she will initiate a scheme to support schools to install solar panels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6812/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is at the forefront of design with respect to sustainable energy in school buildings and this performance has been recognised at both National and International level with sustainable energy awards for excellence in Design and Specification.

Schools that are designed and built in accordance with the Departments Schools technical guidance documents must achieve an A3 Building Energy Rating A3 and have typically up to 20% higher performance than required by the current Building Regulations, along with 10% of primary energy provided via photovoltaics and infrastructure provision for electric vehicle charging.

All new technologies and approaches are tested to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements. Successful and repeatable results are then incorporated into all new school designs and refurbishments.

My Department's Technical Guidance Documents set the benchmark for sustainable design in school buildings with a clear focus on energy efficiency and they are based on solid energy research projects. The Departments policy is supported by a strong research programme with forty eight research projects at various stages including its joint SEAI partnership energy website project www.energyineducation.ie.

Solar PV is also funded for schools that are having their electrical installations replaced.

My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are involved in an energy efficient retrofit pathfinder scheme for schools since 2017. The longer-term outcome of the pathfinder will be to create an accurate and scalable model for energy efficient retrofits of schools across Ireland. A deep energy retrofit programme for schools built prior to 2008 is due to be rolled out from 2023 onwards and the role of solar PV will be considered in that context.

School Accommodation

Questions (433)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

433. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education the efforts she is making to provide a new primary school for an area (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the condition of the existing facility that is over 100 years old; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6857/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application, from the school in question, for major capital works comprising of a new school building.

Under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on the refurbishment of existing school buildings particularly in the second half of Project 2040 period. The school authority's application will be considered under the Project Ireland 2040 capital envelope at the earliest opportunity.

In the interim, should the school authority consider that it does not have sufficient capacity, in terms of mainstream teaching accommodation, it is open to them to apply for accommodation under the Additional School Accommodation Scheme, details of which are available on my Department's website www.education.ie. The purpose of the ASA scheme is to ensure that essential classroom accommodation is available to cater for pupils enrolled each year and where the need cannot be met by the school's existing accommodation.

School Accommodation

Questions (434, 435, 436, 437)

Gerald Nash

Question:

434. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education the sites controlled by the Louth Meath Education Training Board, the Drogheda, County Louth and east County Meath areas, respectively, that were assessed for suitability by her Department and the ETB before a decision was made to relocate a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6865/21]

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Gerald Nash

Question:

435. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education if copies will be provided of any formal assessments carried out by her Department on the site of a school (details supplied) which were used by her Department to reach its determination that the current site of the school is unsuitable to meet the needs of the school in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6866/21]

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Gerald Nash

Question:

436. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education when a planning application for the proposed development of an interim school building solution for a school (details supplied) will be submitted to Louth County Council; the full capital cost and budget estimate for the proposed project; if the proposed move to a site will involve the addition of more places in first year for the 2021-2022 school year in order to meet full demand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6867/21]

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Gerald Nash

Question:

437. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education the reason a site in the ownership of the LMETB adjoining a school (details supplied) will not be used to develop a further interim property solution for another school; if it will be ensured that a permanent building for the school will be located in the east County Meath area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6868/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 to 437, inclusive, together.

The interim move of Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) from its existing temporary location to the Louth Meath Education Training Board (LMETB) owned site at Rathmullen Road, Drogheda (same location as St. Oliver's Community College), is to facilitate Drogheda ETSS ultimately growing to a 1,000-pupil school upon the delivery of its new school building on a permanent site. This is important in the context of addressing the need for additional post-primary school places in Drogheda and Laytown School planning areas for the next 3 years including September 2021.

The level of accommodation to be provided will be in excess of 6,800m² and will consist of 13 general classrooms, 14 specialist rooms, 2 special classes, pastoral rooms and other ancillary accommodation. Providing enhanced facilities for Drogheda ETSS and the capacity to cater for increased enrolments over the next 3 years, including for September 2021, are particularly important aspects of the project.

The existing temporary Drogheda ETSS site on the Mill Road is too small to facilitate the proposed accommodation and St. Oliver's Community College site is the only LMETB owned site in the vicinity that has capacity for this level of accommodation. The school will remain on the ETB-owned site until its new permanent school building is provided. LMETB has agreed to deliver the project and a planning application will be submitted as quickly as possible. The cost will only be known when tenders are received and assessed.

In relation to a permanent site for Drogheda ETSS, the Department has undertaken and continues to undertake a site identification process in respect of suitable sites in the South Drogheda area. To date it has proven challenging to identify suitable available sites in the area. Currently, the Department is undertaking an assessment of two potential sites. Due to commercial sensitivities it is not possible to provide further information at this stage.

The Department envisages that the new permanent school will be provided under a Design & Build contract and has procurement frameworks in place to deliver this as quickly as possible. A typical construction period for a 1,000 pupil school is 18 months. However, the identification and acquisition of a permanent site and the associated design and planning permission processes are key first steps in facilitating construction of the new permanent school building.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (438)

Gerald Nash

Question:

438. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education the most recent data on the amount spent to date by her Department, in capital terms, on providing accommodation and facilities at a location for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6869/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that when the accommodation for the school in question was being planned in late 2018/early 2019 it was intended to provide a level of interim accommodation for the school based on a limited enrolment intake of 48 pupils each year (2 class intake) as it was envisaged that a permanent site would be secured in the short-term. As the Deputy is aware to date it has proven challenging to identify suitable available sites in the area and giving increasing demographic pressure in Drogheda and Laytown school planning areas as well as pressure from the school in question to grow their intake, my Department allowed the school grow for September 2020 (72 pupils – 3 class intake). It is now clear that the current site is not large enough in the context of addressing the need for additional post-primary school places in the two school planning areas for the next 3 years including September 2021.

The cost to date of providing interim temporary accommodation for the school in question at their current location is €2.12m (€0.36m rental of land and prefabs and €1.76m capital costs).

Special Educational Needs Staff

Question No. 440 answered with Question No. 410.

Questions (439)

Michael Creed

Question:

439. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education if SNAs will be invited to take part in the 2021 home-based summer scheme called the July Provision 2021 thus enabling them to provide home tuition to students. [6871/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A significantly expanded Summer Programme was provided in 2020 for children with the complex needs as a discrete response to Covid-19. The programme included a number of strands and options from which parents could choose, involving either in-school, or home-based supports by teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to help to prevent regression among children with SEN.

The role of Tutors and Special Needs Assistants engaged by Parents under the home based summer programme are separate and distinct and broadly reflect the role of teachers and SNAs in schools.

The programmes aim was to support children to reintegrate / transition into their planned education setting for the 2020/21 school year with their peers.

Over 14,000 children participated in the special education summer programmes developed by the Department including 3,881 in the school based programme, 9,716 in the home based programme and 450 families in the HSE programme.

My Department is working on developing proposals for Summer Provision 2021 which will be influenced by the current public health emergency.

These proposals will be developed based on continuous engagement and consultation with the education partners, including Parent and Disability groups.

I will make an announcement on this in due course.

Question No. 440 answered with Question No. 410.

Legislative Programme

Questions (441)

Carol Nolan

Question:

441. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education the status of the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6925/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill was published on 10 September 2019 and has been passed by the Seanad. The Bill is currently awaiting an order for second stage in the Dáil.

The overall aim of the legislation is to improve the level of engagement between schools and students and their parents by inviting feedback, comment and observations from students and parents and by developing a listening culture in the school.

The legislation will provide greater clarity for students and their parents on what they can expect from schools and will help ensure that schools and students and parents work in partnership effectively together.

State Examinations

Questions (442)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

442. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education her plans for the junior certificate 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6929/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is acutely aware of the challenges faced by students, teachers and families as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has brought significant challenges to the education system, and I am acutely aware of the impacts that this has had on those students preparing to sit their final examinations. It is recognised that a flexible and agile approach is necessary in light of the continuing fast-moving environment linked to COVID-19.

The planning work underway in respect of the State Examinations in 2021 is being assisted by an Advisory Group of key stakeholders. The advisory group has been convened to advise Government on all of the various issues arising in relation to the holding of the 2021 examinations, including public health considerations and appropriate contingency measures. The advisory group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education, including the National Educational Psychological Service.

The advisory group has met on a number of occasions as has a subgroup formed to consider in greater depth issues relating to planning towards the 2021 examinations, including those identified by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union in their recently published report on the 2021 State Examinations and return to school.

Following the most recent meeting of the subgroup,on Friday 5 February, I announced that I was inviting these education stakeholders to participate in intensive, confidential bilateral discussions with department officials to progress work on two distinct processes for Leaving Certificate 2021: planning for examinations and scoping out a corresponding measure, different to examinations that can also be offered to students. Discussions on Junior Cycle examinations will continue in these engagements.

All partners are committed to acting in the interests and wellbeing of students, who are at the heart of this process.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (443)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

443. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if she will address the concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied); if he will forward these concerns to the advisory group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6931/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is acutely aware of the challenges faced by students, teachers and families as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has brought significant challenges to the education system, and I am acutely aware of the impacts that this has had on those students preparing to sit their final examinations. It is recognised that a flexible and agile approach is necessary in light of the continuing fast-moving environment linked to COVID-19.

The planning work underway in respect of the State Examinations in 2021 is being assisted by an Advisory Group of key stakeholders. The advisory group has been convened to advise Government on all of the various issues arising in relation to the holding of the 2021 examinations, including public health considerations and appropriate contingency measures. The advisory group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education, including the National Educational Psychological Service.

The advisory group has met on a number of occasions as has a subgroup formed to consider in greater depth issues relating to planning towards the 2021 examinations, including those identified by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union in their recently published report on the 2021 State Examinations and return to school.

Following the most recent meeting of the subgroup, on Friday 5 February, I announced that I was inviting these education stakeholders to participate in intensive, confidential bilateral discussions with department officials to progress work on two distinct processes for Leaving Certificate 2021: planning for examinations and scoping out a corresponding measure, different to examinations that can also be offered to students. Discussions on Junior Cycle examinations will continue in these engagements.

My Department has indicated to the education partners that any corresponding process would need to include the following features:

- The State Examinations Commission running both the examinations and the corresponding process;

- Better provision for out-of-school learners in the corresponding process;

- Some cognisance of performance in “additional component” elements of examinations (coursework, orals, practicals, etc.); and

- Timely progression to higher and further education using either examinations or the outcome of any corresponding process.

All partners are committed to acting in the interests and wellbeing of students, who are at the heart of this process.

School Accommodation

Questions (444)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

444. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the case of a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6938/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I would like to inform the Deputy that the school in question should contact their Insurance Provider in the first instance to ascertain what damages are covered under their Policy. If the damages are not covered under their Insurance Policy they should submit an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme that is available via the schools Esinet portal.