Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (464)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

464. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education if she has identified a suitable property to locate a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7231/21]

View answer

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.

State Examinations

Questions (465)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

465. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the joint statement by associations (details supplied); if she will engage with both organisations in order to hear the concerns of all parents and ensure that they are represented on all advisory groups in relation to post-primary education, particularly in relation to the leaving certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7234/21]

View answer

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 (NPCPP). 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. 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.

Both the Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Associations (CSSPA) and the Education and Training Boards Schools National Parents’ Association (ETBsNPA) are 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.

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.

Broadband Infrastructure

Questions (466)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

466. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education the reason a school (details supplied) has been waiting so long to be switched to a juniper box; if the provision of same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7252/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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. 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.

In relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, I have requested the schools broadband service desk team to work with the school to assist in troubleshooting the schools internal network. The existing router can deliver speeds up to 30mbs and the Service Desk inform me that they have investigated the connection in to the school and those speeds are being delivered on the connection. That speed should allow for the activities, which as described by the school, cannot take place currently. Therefore it is possible that the problem relates to issues with the internal network within the school and not the broadband connectivity or the router type currently installed..

The school was offered the new router in March, as pointed out in the correspondence, and decided not to progress the installation at that time. This equipment is subject to a public procurement process which is currently underway with the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) given that the previous contract has expired. This process which will put in place, a new contract for the provision of Routers and Associated Services for the Schools Broadband Programme, is nearing conclusion and once this new contract is in place router upgrades will commence. The Schools Broadband Service Desk will engage with the school referred to at that point, to arrange their router install as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the school should continue to work with the Schools Broadband Service Desk with a view to maximising their current provision.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (467)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

467. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education if adequate funding will be put in place for PPE and supervision and so on when schools return; and if a system will be introduced by which returning students must complete a declaration of being Covid-19-free, similar to the staff declaration in secondary school settings. [7254/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government published the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, along with details of a financial package of over €375 million to support the implementation of the measures in the roadmap, following approval by Government.

The roadmap and the funding package recognise the challenges faced by schools in ensuring the safe return of over one million students and approximately 100,000 staff in 4,000 schools in the context of COVID-19. It sets out clear plans and practical guidance on the measures schools need to take to operate safely and minimise the risk of the introduction, or spread, of infection in schools.

The range of supports being made available to all schools in the free education scheme include considerable additional financial supports to provide for PPE, enhanced cleaning and enhanced supervision costs under the COVID-19 response plans.

The first and second instalments of these grants were paid in August 2020 and January 2021 retrospectively.

My Department will be reviewing the funding provided and following this review details of the third and final instalment of these grants for the 2020/2021 school year will be made available in due course.

The HPSC has set out detailed advice in respect of the infection prevention and control measures required for the safe and sustainable operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This advice, aspects of which have been updated throughout the period since from September 2020 to January 2021 has become the basis of the "School COVID-19 Response Plans". The schools plans are also based on the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in compliance with the protocols established by Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Health on "Returning to Work" safely.

The Department of Education’s ongoing oversight and management of schools during this pandemic is also in line with the Government "Resilience and Recovery: 2020 – 2021: Living with COVID-19 Plan" and the successor to the "Return to Work Safely" protocols entitled "Work Safely".

Full details of the range of supports and guidance available to schools, staff and students can be found on gov.ie/backtoschool.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (468)

Neale Richmond

Question:

468. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the status of a proposed school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7283/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application, for additional school accommodation, from the school authority in question.

Officials from my Department have recently corresponded with the school Patron in relation to their application and on receipt of their response the application can be progressed.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (469)

Neale Richmond

Question:

469. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the status of the permanent building for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7284/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school building project referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department’s Design and Build Programme.

A tender process is ongoing for the establishment of a new framework of contractors for delivery of a bundle of design and build projects which is expected to be completed in Quarter 1 of 2021. It is expected that in Quarter 2 of 2021, this school building project will be included in a subsequent bundle of projects to be tendered to the new framework.

Pending delivery of the permanent building project, my Department will continue to address the interim accommodation needs of the school on its permanent site.

School Staff

Questions (470)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

470. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education when the teaching allocations for the 2021-22 academic year will be announced in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7311/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location.

Primary schools are currently provided with class teachers on the basis of one teacher for every 26 pupils which is at its historically lowest level. Budget 2021 builds on this progress by implementing a further 1 point reduction for the appointment of a teacher in the 2021/22 school year and a three point reduction in the retention schedule. These measures will help to ensure that less pupils are required to recruit or retain a teacher.

The staffing schedule for the 2021/22 school year will be published in the coming weeks. It is at this stage that schools will be able to establish their staffing for the coming September and the redeployment process to fill teaching vacancies will begin.

School Curriculum

Questions (471)

Emer Higgins

Question:

471. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education if the relationships and sexual education curriculum will be updated to include the way in which to identify and avoid the behaviour of coercive control. [7325/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Programme for Government states that this Government will develop inclusive and age appropriate curricula for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) across primary and post-primary schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) conducted a thorough and transparent review, and published its report, “Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary Schools” in December 2019. This Report was developed on foot of extensive consultation which was conducted between June 2018 and March 2019.

For the purpose of this review and for future work in primary and post-primary curriculum developments, the NCCA describes RSE as a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of relationships and sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to develop self-awareness and self-esteem, realise their health, wellbeing and dignity; develop positive and respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own wellbeing and that of others; and, understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to themselves and others.

The NCCA were asked to look at a number of specific issues in respect of RSE and the curriculum. These included but were not limited to consent; healthy positive, sexual expression and relationships; developments in relation to contraception; safe use of the Internet and social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem; and LGBTQ+ matters.

The NCCA report makes a number of recommendations. These include primarily the development of a single integrated curriculum for RSE and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in schools. Work on updating or developing new specifications for SPHE/RSE commenced in the NCCA earlier this year, beginning with a focus on Junior Cycle. This work includes engagement with all the key education stakeholders as well as a further process of public consultation before any new curriculum specifications are finalised.

The NCCA has established two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee the work in this area and support the development of guidance material for schools. These groups were unable to commence their work as originally planned, due to the COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. However, the NCCA began convening online meetings with these groups as of October 2020 which allows them to review significant work that has been progressed. Both the primary and post primary SPHE/RSE development groups have been meeting successfully via Zoom on a monthly basis since the groups were convened in October last.

The immediate focus of the work is on creating support materials for teachers for publication online as part of the Interim Guidance Toolkit. The toolkit's purpose is to support effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE linked to the current curriculum. This work is progressing well and the first section of the toolkit (a portal repository of teaching and learning resources linked to the Primary SPHE Curriculum, the SPHE Junior Cycle Short Course and Senior Cycle SPHE Framework) is now published.

In tandem with the development of the online Toolkit, preparation for redeveloping and updating the SPHE curriculum has begun, with an initial focus on Junior Cycle. To support this work NCCA are inviting teachers and students to give feedback on their experience of the Junior Cycle SPHE short course specifically. The feedback from students, teachers, and the support services working with them will inform the work of the post primary development group in updating the Junior Cycle SPHE short course. A draft, updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification is due to be available for public consultation by the end of 2021.

Further recommendations in the report in relation to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) regarding SPHE and RSE are being considered by my Department with a view to putting enhanced supports in place.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (472)

Emer Higgins

Question:

472. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education the supports and resources in place for parents of children with dyslexia. [7326/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department provides for a range of supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs, including pupils with dyslexia, in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, she will have access to an appropriate education.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for the provision of special educational needs supports to schools. The NCSE operates within the Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All primary and post primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with special educational needs, including pupils with dyslexia. In September 2017 the Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools and all schools received revised special education teacher allocations for the 2019/20 school year.

The new model differs significantly from the old Resource Allocation Model, in that Special Education Teacher allocation is now frontloaded into schools to support children with special educational needs. Rather than having to make individual application to the NCSE for additional supports schools can now respond to individual needs in a flexible way and pupils do not have to have a psychological assessment, or a diagnosis of a disability, in order to access Special Education Teaching. This means that those with highest level of need can access the highest level of support within the school in a timely manner.

It is a matter for schools to monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with the Department's guidance. The teaching time afforded to each individual pupil is decided and managed by schools, taking into account each child's individual learning needs.

Guidelines for schools on the organisation, deployment and use of their special education teachers have been published on the Department’s website, at www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Pupils-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf Schools are supported in this regard by the National Educational Psychological Services.

Funding is available to schools under the assistive technology scheme for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers and/or software to assist children with special educational needs. In order to qualify for equipment under the scheme, a child must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the child to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs. Equipment may only be provided where medical and/or other professional reports outline that the degree of communicative disability is such that this equipment is essential to allow the pupil to access education and set out how the equipment will provide for this. An assessment indicating that equipment would achieve improvement in performance is not sufficient since this could be true in the case of any child.

Schools apply to the NCSE, through their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) for such support. SENOs make recommendations to the Department where assistive technology is required, in accordance with the criteria set out in the Department's Circular 0010/2013. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child’s special educational needs, using the contact details available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.

Resources provided to schools also include additional training for teachers who support children with special educational needs, through the Special Education Support Service (SESS).

The Special Education Support Service (SESS) is part of the NCSE’s Support Service, along with the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI).

The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for teachers and continuing professional development for teachers with additional training needs. The Support Service continues to update current CPD courses and design new CPD courses in response to the needs of teachers.

Schools can apply for CPD courses directly to the NCSE on their on-line application process at www.sess.ie/ncsesupport.

The Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education. Should a parent be dissatisfied with the manner in which supports have been provided to support their child's education they should raise this matter directly with their school Principal or the Board of Management of the school. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's present or future educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Teacher Training

Questions (473)

Emer Higgins

Question:

473. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education the continuous professional development opportunities available to teachers in the area of dyslexia; and the number of teachers who availed of such supports in each of the years 2018 to 2020. [7327/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Inclusive education is at the core of my Department’s policy which requires differentiated teaching approaches to cater for the varying levels of ability in the classroom, including providing additional supports to those experiencing difficulties in learning.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Support Service now include the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI).

The development of this new Support Service within the NCSE means that schools will receive better and more integrated support. The NCSE Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs.

The support service also provides continuing professional development for teachers, and schools, including in relation to the provision of education for pupils who have Dyslexia, or specific learning disability.

As this question relates to the number of continuous professional development opportunities which were made available to teachers in the area of dyslexia; and the number of teachers that availed of such supports in each of the years 2018 to 2020, I have referred this question to the NCSE, for their attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (474)

Neale Richmond

Question:

474. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the additional supports being provided for children with special needs in mainstream classes who are not included in the return to school in February 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7364/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In recognition of the fact that remote learning is particularly challenging for children with complex special educational needs, my Department is putting in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of pupils with complex needs.

Information has been provided to schools who are in the process of contacting the families of eligible pupils to assist them with the application process.

An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible pupils.

This allocation is intended to supplement, and not replace, the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school and can be provided by a teacher or SNA in a student’s home, at evenings and weekends. Participation in the programme is voluntary for families, teachers and SNAs and must be delivered in accordance with Public Health Advice.

It is intended that this programme would be supported by teachers and SNAs who may opt in to participate, on a paid basis, to help ensure a better learning experience for these pupils and to build on the learning taking place as part of the remote provision.

Similar to the Department’s home based summer programme parents will engage either a teacher or an SNA in a private arrangement. My Department will act as a payroll agent for Parents and facilitate direct payment to Teachers/SNAs via the Department’s NTS payroll.

The pupils who will be eligible include -

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes

- Pupils in mainstream schools who are accessing the highest level of the continuum of support (i.e. School Support Plus/for a Few). This will include pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities who were identified for the summer programme of 2020.

- Pupils identified by their school as requiring the highest level of support at any given time. This will ensure that pupils presenting with exceptional needs due to the current school closures can participate in the scheme.

The Department’s approach is intended to be flexible so as to maximise the number of pupils participating.

An allocation of a 5-hour per week home-based teaching or care support programme will be made available to eligible pupils. This allocation is intended to supplement (and not replace) the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school.

It is intended that this programme will operate 4 weeks commencing 11 February but eligible families may utilise the hours at any time before 30 April 2021.

I can also confirm that talks will continue with stakeholders, including within the post primary school sector, on further phases of return, so that a wider reopening can be delivered for children as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (475, 476, 478, 481)

Neale Richmond

Question:

475. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education when students with additional needs in mainstream classes will be returning to the classroom; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7365/21]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

476. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education if she will prioritise the return to school for students with additional needs in mainstream classes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7366/21]

View answer

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

478. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education when children in mainstream primary school classes who are accessing the highest level of continuum support, that is, with Down syndrome will be returning to school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7422/21]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

481. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education her plans for children with additional educational needs who are taught in mainstream classes to return to school in person; the reason this cohort is not included in the partial reopening on 11 February 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7429/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 475, 476, 478 and 481 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.

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 complex 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 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 can attend on a fulltime basis.

I can also confirm that in recognition of the fact that remote learning is particularly challenging for children with complex special educational needs, the Department of Education is putting in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of pupils with complex needs.

Information has been provided to schools who are in the process of contacting the families of eligible students to assist them with the application process.

An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible pupils.

This allocation is intended to supplement, and not replace, the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school and can be provided by a teacher or SNA in a student’s home, at evenings and weekends. Participation in the programme is voluntary for families, teachers and SNAs and must be delivered in accordance with Public Health Advice.

It is intended that this programme would be supported by teachers and SNAs who may opt in to participate, on a paid basis, to help ensure a better learning experience for these pupils and to build on the learning taking place as part of the remote provision.

The pupils who will be eligible include -

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes

- Pupils in mainstream schools who are accessing the highest level of the continuum of support (i.e. School Support Plus/for a Few). This will include pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities who were identified for the summer programme of 2020.

- Pupils identified by their school as requiring the highest level of support at any given time. This will ensure that pupils presenting with exceptional needs due to the current school closures can participate in the scheme.

The Department’s approach is intended to be flexible so as to maximise the number of pupils participating.

An allocation of a 5-hour per week home-based teaching or care support programme will be made available to eligible pupils. This allocation is intended to supplement (and not replace) the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school.

It is intended that this programme will operate 4 weeks commencing 11 February but eligible families may utilise the hours at any time before 30 April 2021.

I can also confirm that talks will continue with stakeholders, including within the post primary school sector, on further phases of return, so that a wider reopening can be delivered for children as soon as possible.

School Staff

Question No. 478 answered with Question No. 475.

Questions (477)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

477. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal can expect a refund of deductions that were taken from the person's wages in respect of illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7400/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I will arrange for a reply to issue direct to the Deputy with regard to the matters raised by him regarding the individual referred to.

Question No. 478 answered with Question No. 475.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (479)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

479. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education the details of the supplementary in-person care and educational support programme announced on 1 February 2021 for children with additional educational and-or care needs; the application process for same; if her Department will pay the teachers and SNAs directly; if not, if the parent will be required to pay and be reimbursed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7426/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In recognition of the fact that remote learning is particularly challenging for children with complex special educational needs, my Department is putting in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of pupils with complex needs.

Information has been provided to schools who are in the process of contacting the families of eligible pupils to assist them with the application process.

An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible pupils.

This allocation is intended to supplement, and not replace, the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school and can be provided by a teacher or SNA in a student’s home, at evenings and weekends. Participation in the programme is voluntary for families, teachers and SNAs and must be delivered in accordance with Public Health Advice.

It is intended that this programme would be supported by teachers and SNAs who may opt in to participate, on a paid basis, to help ensure a better learning experience for these pupils and to build on the learning taking place as part of the remote provision.

Similar to the Department’s home based summer programme parents will engage either a teacher or an SNA in a private arrangement. My Department will act as a payroll agent for Parents and facilitate direct payment to Teachers/SNAs via the Department’s NTS payroll.

The pupils who will be eligible include -

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes

- Pupils in mainstream schools who are accessing the highest level of the continuum of support (i.e. School Support Plus/for a Few). This will include pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities who were identified for the summer programme of 2020.

- Pupils identified by their school as requiring the highest level of support at any given time. This will ensure that pupils presenting with exceptional needs due to the current school closures can participate in the scheme.

The Department’s approach is intended to be flexible so as to maximise the number of pupils participating.

An allocation of a 5-hour per week home-based teaching or care support programme will be made available to eligible pupils. This allocation is intended to supplement (and not replace) the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school.

It is intended that this programme will operate 4 weeks commencing 11 February but eligible families may utilise the hours at any time before 30 April 2021.

I can also confirm that talks will continue with stakeholders, including within the post primary school sector, on further phases of return, so that a wider reopening can be delivered for children as soon as possible.

State Examinations

Question No. 481 answered with Question No. 475.

Questions (480)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

480. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education if she will publish the minutes of the meetings of the 2021 State advisory group; and if the membership of the advisory group will also be published. [7428/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The planning work underway in respect of the State 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 on Planning for State Examinations 2021 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.

Details of the Advisory Group have been published, the webpage contains details on the purpose of the group, the terms of reference and the membership of the group. The webpage also includes a link to meeting documentation where minutes of meetings that have been agreed by the Advisory Group have been published. These details are available at: www.gov.ie/en/organisation-information/06f0c-advisory-group-on-planning-for-state-examinations-2021/.

Press releases regarding meetings of the group are available at www.gov.ie/en/publications/?q=&sort_by=published_date&type=press_releases&organisation=department-of-education.

Question No. 481 answered with Question No. 475.

Citizens' Assembly

Questions (482)

Gary Gannon

Question:

482. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the status of the Citizens’ Assembly on the future of education as committed to in the programme for Government. [7441/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Programme for Government - Our Shared Future includes a commitment for a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of education. Experience internationally and here at home of citizen’s assemblies as exercises in deliberative democracy have been extremely positive.

Initial proposals to hold a citizens' assembly on education have been informed by proposals from the Burren College of Art, which called for the Assembly to examine issues such as how to properly position post-primary education for the 21st century and how to encourage greater creativity, student agency and resilience. Citizen Assemblies are run through the Department of the Taoiseach and my Department will be working with thaht Department to advance this commitment.