Special Educational Needs

Questions (445, 446, 447)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

445. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education if a list of schools in Dublin 9 and 11 with ASD units at primary and post-primary level will be provided; her views on whether this is sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6965/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

446. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education if schools in Dublin 9 or 11 have contacted her Department in the past year about opening up a new ASD unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6966/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

447. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education the efforts her Department and the NCSE are making to forecast the required number of ASD places needed in Dublin 9 and 11; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6967/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 445 to 447, inclusive, 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.

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.

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.

16 special classes provide ASD and ASD Early Intervention placements for students in Dublin 9 and 11 at Primary and Post Primary level. The admission policies of schools are the remit of the Board of Management of each school and, as such, the NCSE has no role in relation to the number of applicants or waiting lists. Once schools notify NCSE of vacancies within their specialist provision, SENOs work locally to ensure parents are made aware of these special class places.

Through ongoing consultation at local level the NCSE is aware of those parents whose children will be seeking placement for the 2021/22 academic year, including mainstream placement with appropriate support, special class placement, Early Intervention and special school placement. The NCSE continues to work at local level to identify any and all relevant suitable placements.

Special classes in the Dublin area generally operate at capacity, and the NCSE is working with a significant number of schools in the county to encourage and support the opening of new ASD classes at all levels. The NCSE has specific plans in place to open a number of additional classes in schools in North Dublin.

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.

Information on the list of schools with special classes together with SENO contact details is available at www.ncse.ie.

School Transport

Questions (448)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

448. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of the school transport review; if the terms of reference have been finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6978/21]

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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 current school year over 113,100 children, including over 14,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

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. Under the terms of the scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms at post-primary and 3.2kms at primary from and are attending their nearest school/post-primary centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

In October 2019, my predecessor announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way to meet the objectives of the scheme. Terms of reference and the scope of the review have been drafted and a Steering Group has been established.

Given the evolving situation with Covid-19 the work of the Steering Group has been delayed.

The Review will build on the proposals in the Programme for Government as they relate to school transport, including examining the options to reduce car journeys and assessing how the School Transport Scheme can work in liaison with the Safe Routes to Schools Programme; examining the options for providing a better value and a better service for students, including and examining issues such as the nearest or next-nearest school.

DEIS Scheme

Questions (449)

Seán Haughey

Question:

449. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education her plans to review the DEIS scheme; if new schools can make an application to be admitted to this scheme on the basis of changed circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6984/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is in the final stages of refinement of the new DEIS identification model, based on school enrolment data and the latest data available from Census 2016 using the HP Deprivation Index. A detailed quality analysis of the data has been carried out by members of the DEIS Technical Group which contains representatives of the Department’s Statistics and Social Inclusion Units, the Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. The work of this group is at an advanced stage and a consultation process with education stakeholder representatives on the technical aspect and implementation of this model has commenced. It is envisaged that this will then provide the basis for development of a DEIS resource allocation system to match resources to identified need.

I am confident that the culmination of this work will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need. Until this work is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (450)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

450. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the status of plans to safely reopen primary and secondary schools for mainstream learning; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7002/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government has always been guided by public health advice in relation to what is safe in schools. NPHET remain of the view that schools are low risk environments but recognise there is a need to reduce societal activity and movement to curb the spread of the virus at this time.

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.

It is regrettable that a pathway for a return to in-class learning for children with additional needs in mainstream schools could not be reached but we will continue to work with our partners to provide a resolution for this cohort of pupils.

The 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.

School Accommodation

Questions (451)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

451. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the timeline for obtaining a permanent premises for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7003/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is committed to providing permanent accommodation to meet the needs of the school to which the Deputy refers.

In this regard, officials in my Department are in active engagement with officials from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to further appraise two potential site options in terms of technical suitability. Once the final preferred site option has been identified, negotiations with the landowner in respect of the proposed acquisition of this site will commence.

Given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

Schools Refurbishment

Questions (452)

Niall Collins

Question:

452. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education the status of a project (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7043/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the payment in question has been processed and the funds will be paid directly to the school's bank account within seven working days.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (453)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

453. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education the position regarding the transfer of a building project for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7054/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers is devolved for delivery to the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB). Under this arrangement, it will be a matter for the CETB to appoint a Design Team for the design and construction phases of the project.

Following a request from the CETB for a review of the long term projected enrolments, my Department is revising the schedule of accommodation to provide capacity for 600 pupils. This process is currently in train and my Department will be in further contact with the CETB as soon as the revised accommodation brief has been finalised.

State Examinations

Questions (454)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

454. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education if she will engage with organisations (details supplied) in order to hear the voice and concerns of all parents and to ensure that they are represented on all advisory groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7073/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The planning work underway in respect of the Leaving Certificate Examinations in 2021 is being assisted by an Advisory Group of key stakeholders which has met on a number of occasions in recent months. 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, which was initially constituted in April 2020, 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.

Parents are represented at the group by both the National Parents Council – Primary (NPC) and the National Parents Council – Post-Primary (NCPPP). The Education Act puts the recognition of these bodies on a statutory footing as the official parent representative bodies at national level. Both parent organisations represent all parents and guardians in schools throughout the country, irrespective of school ethos or patronage. Both Parents Councils have actively engaged in the work of the advisory group since it was constituted and have ensured that the advice provided by the group to my Department was informed by the voice of parents.

It is understood that, up until recently, both the Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Associations (CSSPA) and the Education and Training Boards Schools National Parents’ Association (ETBsNPA) were constituent bodies of the National Parents’ Council Post-primary. Other constituent bodies of the NPCPP also includes the National Association of Compass – Co-operation of Minority Religion and Protestant Parent Associations (Post Primary) and Parents Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools (PACCS).

My Department has been informed that the boards of the National Parents Council Post Primary and of the National Parents Council Primary have agreed to work together to progress plans to form a new National Parents Council representing all parents in order to strengthen the voice of parents from early years right through to the end of second level education. A single representative body for all parents of Irish schoolchildren will be able to provide advice and services to all parents and engage effectively with all key stakeholders to ensure that the parents’ voice in education is strong.

Legislative Programme

Questions (455)

Carol Nolan

Question:

455. 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. [7097/21]

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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.

Emergency Works Scheme

Questions (456)

Carol Nolan

Question:

456. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education the number of schools in counties Laois and Offaly that have submitted emergency works applications from 1 January 2020 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7098/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I would lke to inform the Deputy that nineteen Emergency Works applications have been received from schools located in Laois and Offaly since the 1st of January 2020 to date.

Information on approved Emergency Works applications is available on my Department's website; this information is updated weekly.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (457)

Neale Richmond

Question:

457. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the details of the work of her Department with the National Development Finance Agency in respect of a project school bundle (details supplied); when the procurement process commenced for the procurement of the design team and project management for the school projects involved; the list of school projects in the school bundle; when this procurement process will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7106/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers has been devolved to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) for delivery as part of a programme of school building projects.

The school projects in Bundle 2 - ‘Project Boyne’ are listed in the table.

The NDFA is currently undertaking the second phase of the process of appointment of multi-disciplinary technical advisors (design teams) for this bundle. We expect the tendering process for this stage to be completed soon.

Thereafter, the NDFA will ensure that the projects progress to design stage, obtain the necessary statutory planning permission, and move the projects onward to tender and construction in due course.

Please be assured that the NDFA is engaging directly with the respective school authorities to keep them informed of progress.

County

Roll No.

School Name

Carlow

61150N

Presentation De La Salle

Kildare

61681V

Patrician Post Primary

Kildare

61690W

Cross & Passion, Kilcullen

Kildare

61730I

St. Mary's Girls' Post Primary

Meath

64420I

Franciscan College

Wicklow

76076M

Colaiste Chraobh Abhann

Special Educational Needs

Questions (458)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

458. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if a July provision programme for children with special educational needs will proceed during summer 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7119/21]

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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 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.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (459, 460)

Paul Murphy

Question:

459. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education the arrangements for the return of children with special educational needs to mainstream schools, including proposed special staffing arrangements and additional resources; the planned phasing arrangements; the proposed dates and timelines for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7120/21]

View answer

Paul Murphy

Question:

460. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education the date for the reopening of special schools and the planned phasing of that reopening; the special staffing arrangements for same; the additional resources she plans to provide to these schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7122/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 459 and 460 together.

My Department is very conscious of the particular strain that school closures place on children with complex special educational needs and their families.

While most children reportedly adapted reasonably well to remote learning, there is a developing body of evidence which indicated that the absence of school and other supports had a disproportionately negative impact on the lives and wellbeing of children with the most complex special educational needs and their families.

It is for these reasons that my Department has prioritised the reopening of schools and classes for children with the most complex special educational needs.

Throughout January of this year, there has been engagements with education stakeholders on a near-daily basis. All of those meetings were focused on the safe reopening of schools. Recently, the engagements were particularly focused on the more specific question of a limited reopening of in-school provision for children with special educational needs.

Following intensive engagement and input from primary and special education partners, a framework has now been developed and agreed with all partners, including unions and management, in order to achieve a phased return to in-school provision for children with the most complex special educational needs.

Under the framework the following phased return to in-school provision has been agreed:

Phase 1: Special schools will reopen from Thursday 11th February 2021. In accordance with this agreement pupils will attend on a 50 per cent basis to allow for attendance of reduced numbers within the school setting. This will be reviewed in line with public health advice.

Phase 2: Primary Special Classes will reopen from Monday 22nd February 2021. These pupils may attend on a fulltime basis.

Guidance documents have issued to schools in advance of this reopening, including updated public health guidance and a framework document which outlines temporary time-bound staffing arrangements, the application of substitution arrangements, time-bound temporary arrangements for pupil attendance, information on school transport options and other matters.

I can also confirm that funding is in place to support implementation of all infection prevention control (IPC) measures required by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) including the provision of appropriate PPE for SNAs and Special Education Teaching staff. Any school who needs additional funding for PPE can get in touch with the Department.

Departmental Properties

Questions (461)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

461. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education the school buildings owned, leased or rented by her Department in Dublin 8, 10 and 12; and if the list of such schools, the annual rent and length of the lease of each, if applicable, will be provided. [7123/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that there are no school buildings leased or rented in Dublin 8, 10 and 12 by my Department.

The following schools are owned by my Department in these Dublin areas:

St. Brigid’s Primary School, The Coombe, Dublin 8 and Gaelscoil Inse Chór, Droichead na hInse, Dublin 8.

Irish Sign Language

Questions (462)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

462. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if an organisation (details supplied) will be recognised as the representative body to implement the Irish Sign Language Act 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7184/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Teaching Council is the independent regulatory body with statutory authority for the professional regulation of teachers in this State.

Registration with the Council is necessary in order to be recognized as a teacher for employment in a state funded teaching post. Registration ensures that standards of entry to the profession are maintained. Teachers may apply for registration in the primary, post-primary, further education and other sectors.

The registration of teachers is governed by Section 31 of the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 and the Council registers teachers under the Teaching Council Registration Regulations 2016. My Department is not directly involved in the registration of individual teachers.

Applicants wishing to register as a teacher in the Further Education sector must meet the requirements for registration under Route 3, as set out in the regulations, which are available on the Teaching Council’s website at www.teachingcouncil.ie/en/Registration/How-do-I-register-/.

I would advise members of the Council of Irish Sign Language Teachers (CISLT) to liaise directly with the Teaching Council regarding their registration.

Very significant levels of financial provision are made to ensure that all children with special educational needs, including children who are deaf/hard of hearing, can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

The total education spend on special education is about €2 Billion - almost a fifth - of the the annual educational and training budget. This represents an increase of over 60% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 Billion per annum was provided.

Included in this provision is an extensive range of supports to assist students who are deaf or hard of hearing. In line with my Department's policy that children with special educational needs access appropriate education intervention in mainstream settings where possible, many deaf or hard of hearing pupils are integrated into mainstream classes at primary and post-primary level, while other children who are deaf or hard of hearing and have more complex needs may attend special schools or classes, which have lower pupil teacher ratios.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Support Service includes Visiting Teachers, who are qualified teachers with particular skills and knowledge of the development and education of children with varying degrees of hearing loss and/or visual impairment. They offer longitudinal support to children, their families and schools from the time of referral through to the end of post-primary education.

Each visiting teacher (VT) is responsible for a particular region and is allocated a caseload of students. The VT supports children/young people, parents, guardians, teachers and other professionals involved with the child.

The frequency and nature of support takes into account a range of factors based on the individual’s needs.

The NCSE provide direct support to schools and individual teachers in as flexible a way as possible, offering telephone advice, a school visit from a member of the team, an in-service course for individual teachers, or whole-school training. Whole-school training will ensure that all teachers are equipped to cater for the pupils’ educational needs, as they progress through primary and post primary school.

Among the courses towards which funding is provided to schools are courses in Irish Sign Language, which are available throughout the country through a variety of providers.

Additional supports provided by my Department include funding to schools for assistive technology such as radio aids and Soundfield systems, special transport arrangements for pupils, and enhanced levels of capitation in special classes and special schools.

Funding is also provided by my Department for a weekly home tuition service whereby tutors visit the homes of deaf and hard of hearing pre-school children and school-going pupils to provide training in Irish Sign Language (ISL) for these children, their siblings, parents/guardians and grandparents.

Reasonable accommodations and supports are made available to support children with special educational needs, including students who are deaf/hard of hearing, to participate in state exams.

The NCSE published the Comprehensive Review of the SNA Scheme in May 2018. The report recommends that Irish Sign Language (ISL) qualified assistants should be put in place to support profoundly deaf students whose primary language is ISL and that this should be aligned to the requirements of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017..

In line with the recommendations of this review and the requirements of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017, a scheme will be developed to provide Irish Sign Language support for students attending recognised schools, whose primary language is Irish Sign Language. It will take some time to introduce and implement this ISL scheme. In the interim these posts are filled, on a case by case basis, through the NCSE to allocate an additional SNA post with appropriate ISL qualifications. They are employed on similar terms and conditions to SNAs. The purpose of these posts is to enable these students attend school and access the curriculum.

A new undergraduate programme, Bachelor of Education (Irish Sign Language), in Dublin City University (DCU), launched in 2019, enables deaf and hard of hearing people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching.

Previously, there was no entry route to primary teacher education for someone who communicates through ISL and could not meet the minimum entry requirement for Irish in Leaving Certificate. This B.Ed. allows ISL to be accepted as an alternative to Irish. It is an important step towards ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom.

It is envisaged that, when qualified, these students will teach in schools for the deaf or special classes in mainstream schools. These qualified teachers will have a high level of ability in ISL, in-depth knowledge of bilingual education and the ability to teach all of the curriculum subjects through ISL. It will further aid deaf children who use Irish Sign Language in primary school to fully access the curriculum by having teachers who are fluent ISL users.

This new Bachelor of Education (ISL) is approved by the Department of Education and accredited by the Teaching Council.

The duties of the Minister for Education in relation to the implementation of the ISL Act are set out in Section 5 of the Act and the Minister has no role in recognising representative bodies.

Under section 10(3) of the Act, the Minister for Justice shall ensure that persons or organisations that are representative of the interests of the members of the deaf community are consulted on the matters to be considered in a report prepared on the operation of the Act.

Following the transfer of disability policy functions from the Department of Justice to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), DCEDIY have responsibility for the ISL Act. The question regarding the recognition of the CISLT as a representative body in relation to the ISL Act is more appropriate to my colleague the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (463)

Alan Dillon

Question:

463. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education the status of providing a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; the stage of approval the project is at; the remaining stages to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7207/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a building project for the school in question is included in my Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

Detailed consideration is being given to the accommodation needs of this school and how to best meet them.