Irish Sign Language

Questions (357)

Michael Lowry

Question:

357. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education when section 5 of the Irish Sign Language Act, 2017 will be implemented to provide Irish sign language support for children and young persons attending recognised schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7880/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department of Education provides for an extensive range of resources to support the inclusion of pupils who are deaf or hard of hearing. Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority of the Department. In budget 2021, more than 20% of the total Education Budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special needs, an increase from €1.9bn last year.

The Department's policy is that children with special educational needs access appropriate education intervention in mainstream settings where possible. Many deaf or hard of hearing pupils are included in mainstream classes at primary and post-primary level. Whilst 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.

Funding is provided by the Department for a weekly home tuition service whereby tutors visit the homes of deaf and hard of hearing preschool children and school-going pupils to provide training in ISL for these children and their families including their grandparents.

Many students who are deaf/hard of hearing learn ISL to support their communication needs but ISL isn’t their primary language. These students and their families can also avail of the ISL Tuition Scheme.

The total cost of this ISL tuition scheme is in the region of € 310,000 annually, with approximately 240 children and their families supported under the scheme by approximately 72 tutors.

The scheme is available to deaf / hard of hearing children from diagnosis to leaving post primary school, details on how to apply can be found on the Department’s website through the following link: www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/irish-sign-language-isl-/irish-sign-language-isl-tuition-scheme.html.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published the Comprehensive Review of the SNA Scheme on 30th May 2018 and the Department has noted the contents of the report. The report recommends that ISL qualified assistants should be put in place to support deaf students whose primary language is ISL and that this should be aligned to the requirements of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017. This recommendation is under consideration at present for the introduction of this ISL scheme.

In the interim, these posts are filled, on a case by case basis by the NCSE who allocate a post with similar conditions as SNAs to enable the school to employ someone with an appropriate level of ISL proficiency to meet the needs of the child..

The Department also provides funding for assistive technology for pupils who are deaf or hard of hearing, equipment is provided under this scheme to enable students attend school and engage with the curriculum.

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 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 visiting teachers offer guidance in matters pertaining to the child’s education and overall development and in helping the children to derive maximum benefit from the educational opportunities available.

The NCSE also provides funding for individual teachers and whole school staff in mainstream schools, primary and post-primary, special schools, and special classes to undertake courses in ISL, which are available throughout the country through a variety of providers. The NCSE also provide continual professional development to teachers to enhance the quality of learning and teaching of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

A new undergraduate programme, Bachelor of Education (Irish Sign Language), commenced in 2019 in Dublin City University (DCU) which 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.

The Teaching Council has approved accreditation of the Bachelor of Education (Irish Sign Language) programme. This allowed the B.Ed. to accept ISL as an alternative to Irish for primary teaching from DCU.

State Examinations

Questions (358)

Carol Nolan

Question:

358. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education the status of the timing and format of the leaving certificate examination 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7886/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

On Wednesday 17 February I confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 written examinations will proceed in accordance with the normal timetable, subject to public health advice, and that oral and practical examinations and coursework would run as close to normal as possible. I also announced that students will also have the alternative option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades, which will be issued to students at the same time as the examination results. Students who receive grades from both processes will automatically be awarded the higher grade on a subject by subject basis.

This decision follows intensive engagement with education stakeholders, both bilaterally and through the Advisory Group on Planning for State Examinations 2021.

This decision announced ensures for every student a method to assess their learning and attainment at the end of their post-primary education and to progress to higher and further education, and the world of work.

Putting in place both the examinations and a corresponding measure of SEC-Accredited Grades is essential to ensuring a fair system, having regard to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the loss of learning that has occurred for this group of students due to the interruption of in-person teaching and learning during the periods of school closure.

Students will be required to register for the traditional examinations and/or to receive SEC Accredited Grades. Registration for both will take place through an online Student Portal operated by the SEC. Details regarding registration will be announced as soon as possible.

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published shortly by the State Examinations Commission. As far as possible, access to these examinations will be provided for very high risk students.

Schools will receive guidance, informed by public health advice, on organising examination centres for the June examinations.

Oral examinations will be held during the Easter holidays or shortly after. Practical examinations will be held in most of the subjects where these form a normal part of the examination. In some subjects the holding of practical examinations may not be possible for public health reasons and this will be advised as soon as possible. Guidance on projects will issue to schools and students shortly.

Guidelines and further information on the process of SEC Accredited Grades will be published in the coming days. This will include a full guide for schools and an explanatory guide for students.

The results of the traditional examinations and the SEC Accredited Grades process are intended to be issued in time for CAO Round 1 offers. Where students opt to receive SEC accredited grades and to take the normal examinations, they will be awarded the better grades across the two forms of assessment, on a subject by subject basis.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (359)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

359. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education the status of the ASD unit for a school (details supplied); the date the first child will take up their place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7900/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the project to which she refers has been devolved to the school for delivery under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2019. Funding has been provided to deliver a 4-classroom SEN base in that context.

I can confirm that a Design Team was recently procured and a Stage 1 report is now due to be submitted to the Department. This Design Team will lead this project through the various stages of architectural planning and onwards through the statutory planning process and construction.

As this is a devolved project, it is a matter for the school authorities to progress it. It is not possible at this stage to give a timeframe as to when works will begin on this project or when children can be considered for enrolment.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (360)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

360. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education the amount her Department paid in fees to a company (details supplied) to manage public relations following the errors found in the leaving certificate 2020 calculated grades system. [7907/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department engaged the services of the Communications Clinic to provide communications services to the Department from September 24 2020 to October 3 2020 to support the Calculated Grades’ projects. The total amount paid was €19,481.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (361)

Seán Haughey

Question:

361. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education if she is satisfied that there are enough special schools and classes for primary school children with additional educational needs including autism in the Howth, Dublin 13, area which is in the Donaghmede, Howth, Dublin 13 school planning area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7916/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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.

There are currently 10 special classes at primary level in the Howth, Dublin 13, Clongriffin area with specialised class placements. These are comprised of 9 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classes and 1 Specific Learning Disability (SLD) class.

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.

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (362)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

362. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education the expenditure by her Department, excluding salaries for teachers and other staff but including site development works, school buildings, annual cost of lease, consultants and so on, for a school (details supplied); the provision in the current financial year for funding to purchase a site for the permanent school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7927/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to the school to which the Deputy refers, the costs to date for the provision of interim accommodation at the location referred to is €2.12m (€0.36m rental of land and prefabs and €1.76m capital costs).

The acquisition of a permanent site to accommodate the school is included in the Departments capital budget.

A number of potential permanent site options have been identified and officials from my Department are currently appraising same in conjunction with officials from Meath County Council. Given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

The acquisition of a new permanent site for the school is a priority for the Department and the patron body will be informed of the location for the school as soon as it is possible to do so.

State Examinations

Questions (363, 364, 365, 366)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

363. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education if alternative results regarding the leaving certificate will be issued first which would allow students to select papers on the traditional paper; and if the bell curve will match the 2020 result. [7935/21]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

364. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education if school profiling will not be applied in 2021. [7936/21]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

365. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education if she plans to include oral examinations and project work for the alternative section of the State examinations; and if it will be ensured that there is ample preparation time for completion. [7937/21]

View answer

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

366. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education the requirements and precautions for traditional exams. [7938/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 363 to 366, inclusive, together.

On Wednesday 17 February I confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 written examinations will proceed in accordance with the normal timetable, subject to public health advice, and that oral and practical examinations and coursework would run as close to normal as possible. I also announced that students will also have the alternative option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades, which will be issued to students at the same time as the examination results. Students who receive grades from both processes will automatically be awarded the higher grade on a subject by subject basis.

This decision follows intensive engagement with education stakeholders, both bilaterally and through the Advisory Group on Planning for State Examinations 2021.

This decision announced ensures for every student a method to assess their learning and attainment at the end of their post-primary education and to progress to higher and further education, and the world of work.

Putting in place both the examinations and a corresponding measure of SEC-Accredited Grades is essential to ensuring a fair system, having regard to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the loss of learning that has occurred for this group of students due to the interruption of in-person teaching and learning during the periods of school closure.

Students will be required to register for the traditional examinations and/or to receive SEC Accredited Grades. Registration for both will take place through an online Student Portal operated by the SEC. Details regarding registration will be announced as soon as possible.

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published shortly by the State Examinations Commission. As far as possible, access to these examinations will be provided for very high risk students.

Schools will receive guidance, informed by public health advice, on organising examination centres for the June examinations.

Oral examinations will be held during the Easter holidays or shortly after. Practical examinations will be held in most of the subjects where these form a normal part of the examination. In some subjects the holding of practical examinations may not be possible for public health reasons and this will be advised as soon as possible. Guidance on projects will issue to schools and students shortly.

Guidelines and further information on the process of SEC Accredited Grades will be published in the coming days. This will include a full guide for schools and an explanatory guide for students.

The results of the traditional examinations and the SEC Accredited Grades process are intended to be issued in time for CAO Round 1 offers. Where students opt to receive SEC accredited grades and to take the normal examinations, they will be awarded the better grades across the two forms of assessment, on a subject by subject basis.

Bullying in Schools

Questions (367)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

367. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education if allegations of bullying have been investigated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7965/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Responsibility for dealing with bullying in schools is the responsibility of each individual school. School authorities and school personnel are required to adhere to the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools in dealing with allegations and incidents of bullying. The procedures require all schools to formally adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of the procedures. The school's anti-bullying policy must then be made available to school personnel, published on the school website (or where none exists, be otherwise readily accessible to parents and pupils on request) and provided to the Parents' Association (where one exists).

The Code of Behaviour sets out the standards of behaviour that shall be observed by each student attending the school. The Code of Behaviour must also set out any measures that the school may take when a student fails or refuses to observe those standards of behaviour and the procedures to be followed, including those relating to the investigation of any alleged breach of the code.

In accordance with the Anti-Bullying Procedures, where a parent/guardian is not satisfied that a school has dealt with a bullying case in accordance with the procedures the parent/guardian must be referred, as appropriate to the schools complaint procedures.

Under the Education Act 1998 the school Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. Accordingly, whereas my Department provides funding and policy direction for schools, it does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaint cases. This Department's role is to clarify for parents/guardians and students how their grievances and complaints against schools can be progressed. My Department does not comment on individual cases.

Where there is cause for complaint matters would normally be addressed by the parent(s) /guardian(s) to the individual teacher or school Principal as appropriate. If matters cannot be resolved at that level then a complaint can be addressed to the Chairperson of the school's Board of Management.

Where a person is of the view that a school's board of management has failed to investigate or adequately investigate their complaint, they should bring the matter to the attention of the Patron. In the event that, after raising its concerns with the school patron, a parent/guardian still considers that the matter has not been resolved, it is open to the parent/guardian to raise the matter with the Ombudsman for Children.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints about schools recognised by the Department of Education, provided the parent/guardian has firstly and fully followed the school's complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the administrative actions or non-actions of a school has, or, may have, adversely affected the child. The office can be contacted at: Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1; tel. 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 865 6800 or email oco@oco.ie.

Information on Complaints procedures can be found on the Department’s website at: www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Complaints-Bullying-Child-Protection-Discrimination/.

Children First National Guidance and the Anti Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools provide that where serious instances of bullying are regarded as possibly abusive it may be necessary to make a referral to Tusla or An Garda Síochána as appropriate. Details on reporting to Tusla can be found at how-do-i-report-a-concern-about-a-child.

School Inspections

Questions (368)

John Lahart

Question:

368. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education the date by which all MLL inspections completed prior to school closures in March 2020 will be published on the website of her Department. [7972/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

All Whole-School Evaluation – Management, Leadership and Learning (WSE-MLL) evaluations, which were completed prior to the closure of schools in March 2020, have been published on the Department’s website.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (369, 396, 452)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

369. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education the steps she is taking in response to instances in which students with additional needs attending mainstream schools will not currently be able to return to school on 22 February 2021 due to their school not having a special needs class; the plans in place to ensure that these students will be able to return to school in February 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7987/21]

View answer

Martin Browne

Question:

396. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Education the provisions that have been made for the special needs students who will not return to school on 11 February 2021 given that they attend mainstream schools (details supplied). [8230/21]

View answer

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

452. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the status of the return to classrooms for children with complex and additional needs in mainstream settings. [8796/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369, 396 and 452 together.

My Department is conscious of the fact that closing schools has hugely adverse consequences at individual, family and societal level and that the effect on children with special educational needs can be even greater.

Following intensive engagement and input from primary, post-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 special educational needs.

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

Phase 1: Special schools reopened on 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 and Post-Primary Special Classes will reopen from Monday 22nd February 2021. Pupils are expected to attend these classes on a full-time basis.

Special classes at primary and post-primary level will be supported in their return by the enhanced school teams put in place by the HSE and the Department of Education. Updated guidance and information on the supports for schools has been made available to primary schools, and will be made available to post-primary schools in advance of the return.

Recognising that remote learning is particularly challenging for some students with complex needs, the Department of Education has also put in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of students with complex needs at primary and post-primary level.

Eligibility for the programme will comprise:

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in primary schools and post-primary schools

- Pupils in mainstream primary and post-primary schools who are accessing the highest levels of support in school at the School Support Plus/Support for a Few stage of the Continuum of Support. This includes pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities, as well as pupils who were identified for the Summer Provision Programmes of 2020.

- Schools have flexibility to identify pupils that require 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.

This programme of in-person support is intended to supplement the teaching and learning provided by the student’s school and alleviate the impact of this period of school closure through the provision of 5 hours per week in-person teaching or care support to be delivered in homes.

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

The support programme must be delivered outside of the normal school day (i.e. evenings and weekends), so that the student can continue to engage as fully as possible with the teaching and learning provided by their school.

Any unused hours can be delivered to families at any time before 30 April 2021, including during the Easter holidays.

Intensive engagement is continuing with education stakeholders, towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so.

School Holidays

Questions (370)

Seán Canney

Question:

370. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Education if she has considered moving the two-week Easter break forward to reduce the amount of time that children spend learning remotely; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8011/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The scheduling of the school holiday periods during the academic years is agreed between the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and my Department for the purposes of standardising breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term. This is important to ensure certainty for the school community about the dates of school holidays.

My Department has provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to facilitate the continuity of learning for all pupils/students in a Covid-19 context. These are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

The full re-opening of our schools for all students remains a top priority for Government and my Department is focussing on the safe return of all pupils and students to school on a phased basis in March.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (371)

Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

371. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Education the reason her Department did not inform a special school (details supplied) of the decisions made on the reopening of schools including the reopening dates; if she will resolve the communication issue between her Department and the management of the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8049/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Guidance documentation regarding the partial reopening of special schools and special classes issued to all primary and special schools by email on the 3rd of February 2021. The special education section within my Department has contacted the school directly and they have confirmed that they received the relevant documentation.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (372, 403)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

372. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education when students in special classes in secondary schools will return to school buildings. [8063/21]

View answer

Claire Kerrane

Question:

403. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education the plans in place for the reopening of ASD units at post-primary level; if talks are taking place on the reopening of special education for second-level students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8264/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 and 403 together.

My Department is conscious of the fact that closing schools has hugely adverse consequences at individual, family and societal level and that the effect on children with special educational needs can be even greater.

Following intensive engagement and input from primary, post-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 special educational needs.

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

Phase 1: Special schools reopened on 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 and Post-Primary Special Classes will reopen from Monday 22nd February 2021. Pupils are expected to attend these classes on a full-time basis.

Special classes at primary and post-primary level will be supported in their return by the enhanced school teams put in place by the HSE and the Department of Education. Updated guidance and information on the supports for schools has been made available to primary schools, and will be made available to post-primary schools in advance of the return.

Recognising that remote learning is particularly challenging for some students with complex needs, the Department of Education has also put in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of students with complex needs at primary and post-primary level.

Eligibility for the programme will comprise:

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in primary schools and post-primary schools

- Pupils in mainstream primary and post-primary schools who are accessing the highest levels of support in school at the School Support Plus/Support for a Few stage of the Continuum of Support. This includes pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities, as well as pupils who were identified for the Summer Provision Programmes of 2020.

- Schools have flexibility to identify pupils that require 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.

This programme of in-person support is intended to supplement the teaching and learning provided by the student’s school and alleviate the impact of this period of school closure through the provision of 5 hours per week in-person teaching or care support to be delivered in homes.

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

The support programme must be delivered outside of the normal school day (i.e. evenings and weekends), so that the student can continue to engage as fully as possible with the teaching and learning provided by their school.

Any unused hours can be delivered to families at any time before 30 April 2021, including during the Easter holidays.

Intensive engagement is continuing with education stakeholders, towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (373)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

373. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education when schools will be informed regarding their SNA allocation for September 2021. [8077/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

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

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

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

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

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

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (374)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

374. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education her plans to introduce the front-loaded system for SNAs from September 2021; and the way this will impact on the present allocation to schools. [8078/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

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

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (375)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

375. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Education if the new front-loaded system for SNAs will not be introduced in September 2021, if special education teachers will have their position extended beyond the initial two years; and if current clusters will need to be reconfigured. [8079/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

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

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

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

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

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

In relation to Special Education Teachers, a new model for allocating Special Education Teachers to mainstream schools was introduced from September 2017, based on the profiled needs of schools.

The allocations were updated for schools with effect from September 2019.

DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019, stated that the allocations being made for 2019 would initially remain in place for a minimum of two years.

The NCSE Policy advice ‘A Proposed new Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs (2014)’ on which the SET allocation model is based, recommended that the additional special educational teaching supports be left in place initially for a two-year period, however, as the new model becomes embedded in the system, this may be extended to three years.

The matter as to whether the Special Education Teacher allocations should be updated for the 2021/22 school year, or whether they should be maintained for another year, in order to minimise allocation disruption for schools, is currently being considered.

School Transport

Questions (376)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

376. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education the status of the review of the school transport scheme; the terms of reference, scope of analysis, programme and schedule of work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8093/21]

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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.

In October 2019, my predecessor announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to taking a fresh look at the service and its broader effectiveness and sustainability. Given the evolving situation with Covid-19 the work of the Steering Group had been delayed. However, an initial meeting of the Steering Group was held on the 11th of February in order to recommence the process, which will continue over the coming period. The review is being conducted to ensure that the school transport is fit for purpose and that it serves students and their families adequately.

This review will also 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.

Other issues under consideration include the efficiency of the service and to also examine potential scope for a more co-ordinated approach involving other Government departments involved in transport services.

It is planned that the Steering Group will report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report later this year with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (377)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

377. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education the progress that has been made on the acquisition of a permanent site for a school (details supplied); and if the lease on the current site will be extended. [8100/21]

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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.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (378)

Richard Bruton

Question:

378. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education the number of special classes at primary level available in a school planning area (details supplied); if an assessment of under provision has been undertaken by the NCSE; the extent to which new special units have been included in any of the existing school development plans for the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8122/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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.

There are currently 10 special classes at primary level in the Howth, Dublin 13, Clongriffin area with specialised class placements. These are comprised of 9 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classes and 1 Specific Learning Disability (SLD) class.

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.

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.

Programme for Government

Questions (379)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

379. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 715 of 3 November 2020, the progress to date of the programme for Government commitment to expand and prioritise the transfer of viable schools to community national schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8134/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware from the previous Parliamentary Questions on this topic, the Programme for Government commits to expanding and prioritising the transfer of viable schools to Community National Schools, along with achieving a target of at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030 to improve parental choice and to working with communities to ensure the provision of clear, non-partisan information in this regard.

The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process has been developed in order to accelerate the delivery of multi-/non-denominational schools across the country. This Reconfiguration process involves the transfer of existing live schools as opposed to the amalgamation and/or closure model of the patronage divesting process.

My Department officials have been, and are continuing to engage with representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference with a view to developing an agreed approach to the next Phase of the process.

The “Early Movers” provision of the Schools Reconfiguration Process enables school communities which have already decided to seek a transfer of patronage (independent of the survey process envisaged as part of the Reconfiguration process) to engage with their school patron on the matter. A patron may transfer patronage under section 8 of the Education Act 1998. A number of patronage changes have taken place in recent years in this context, resulting in the provision of an additional 11 Community National Schools.

School Transport

Questions (380)

David Cullinane

Question:

380. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education if provisions are being are considered to supplement school transport with concessionary tickets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8149/21]

View answer

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.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

State Examinations

Questions (381)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

381. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education the steps she will take to ensure that students in exam years will not be penalised in their exam grading for loss of teaching hours and the potential drop in performance due to the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8151/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

On Wednesday 17 February I confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 written examinations will proceed in accordance with the normal timetable, subject to public health advice, and that oral and practical examinations and coursework would run as close to normal as possible. I also announced that students will also have the alternative option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades, which will be issued to students at the same time as the examination results. Students who receive grades from both processes will automatically be awarded the higher grade on a subject by subject basis.

This decision follows intensive engagement with education stakeholders, both bilaterally and through the Advisory Group on Planning for State Examinations 2021.

This decision announced ensures for every student a method to assess their learning and attainment at the end of their post-primary education and to progress to higher and further education, and the world of work.

Putting in place both the examinations and a corresponding measure of SEC-Accredited Grades is essential to ensuring a fair system, having regard to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the loss of learning that has occurred for this group of students due to the interruption of in-person teaching and learning during the periods of school closure.

Students will be required to register for the traditional examinations and/or to receive SEC Accredited Grades. Registration for both will take place through an online Student Portal operated by the SEC. Details regarding registration will be announced as soon as possible.

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published shortly by the State Examinations Commission. As far as possible, access to these examinations will be provided for very high risk students.

Schools will receive guidance, informed by public health advice, on organising examination centres for the June examinations.

Oral examinations will be held during the Easter holidays or shortly after. Practical examinations will be held in most of the subjects where these form a normal part of the examination. In some subjects the holding of practical examinations may not be possible for public health reasons and this will be advised as soon as possible. Guidance on projects will issue to schools and students shortly.

Guidelines and further information on the process of SEC Accredited Grades will be published in the coming days. This will include a full guide for schools and an explanatory guide for students.

The results of the traditional examinations and the SEC Accredited Grades process are intended to be issued in time for CAO Round 1 offers. Where students opt to receive SEC accredited grades and to take the normal examinations, they will be awarded the better grades across the two forms of assessment, on a subject by subject basis.