Schools Building Projects

Questions (408)

Alan Dillon

Question:

408. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education the steps she is taking to provide a new primary school for an area (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the conditions in the existing facility and capacity issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8296/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers was established under the patronage divesting process in 2016.

Under the patronage divesting process, a school can be opened where a school building became, or was due to become available as a result of an amalgamation/closure of an existing school. In some areas, including in the case of Castlebar, in responding to demand for diversity where existing patrons were unable make school properties available, my Department also included an examination of properties held in public ownership.

It was in this way that Marsh House, the current location of the school to which the Deputy refers, was identified and leased for this purpose from Mayo County Council. My Department arranged for the necessary works to be undertaken and for planning permission to be secured in this regard.

Given the duration of the planning permission and lease, my Department recently reviewed the position in Castlebar in relation to any potential alternative suitable accommodation for this school. The Department understands that the school patron undertook a similar review. However, neither the Department nor school patron have identified a feasible alternative option that could be progressed under the patronage divesting process for this school.

In the circumstances, the Department is making arrangements to facilitate the property being continued to be used by this school.

Oideachas Gaeltachta

Questions (409)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

409. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais cén tacaíocht bhreise idir múinteoirí agus tacaíochtaí eile atá ar fáil do scoileanna dara leibhéal atá aitheanta mar scoileanna Gaeltachta faoin bPolasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta a thionscain an Roinn le blianta beaga anuas; cé mhéid scoil atá ag fáil buntáiste as na tacaíochtaí seo, agus iad briste síos de réir ainm na scoile, an chontae in a bhfuil siad agus na dtacaíochtaí atá siad ag fáil; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [8310/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Is í príomhaidhm an Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta 2017-2022 ná an soláthar oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge a neartú i limistéir phleanála teanga Ghaeltachta. Ó cuireadh tús le feidhmiú an Pholasaí in 2017, tá maoiniú thart ar €14m breise curtha ar fáil chun gníomhartha an pholasaí a chur bhfeidhm. I measc na ngníomhartha sin, bunaíodh an Scéim Aitheantais Scoileanna Gaeltachta chun acmhainní spriocdhírithe breise a chur ar fáil do scoileanna sna limistéir phleanála teanga Ghaeltachta chun na critéir theangabhunaithe a chomhlíonadh ar mhaithe le haitheantas a bhaint amach mar scoil Ghaeltachta.

- Tá gach ceann den 29 iar-bhunscoil Ghaeltachta sa Scéim ag fáil idir 7 agus 10 n-uaireanta breise in aghaidh na seachtaine, de réir rollúchán na scoileanna, do thacaíocht na Gaeilge. Ó 2018 ar aghaidh íocadh deontas €1200 le gach iar-bhunscoil Ghaeltachta chun acmhainní teagaisc Gaeilge a cheannach.

- Tá ceardlanna agus seimineáir oiliúna breise curtha ar fáil go leanúnach ag COGG do gach iar-bhunscoil Ghaeltachta ó 2017 i leith chun tacú leo na critéir theangabhunaithe a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá an tacaíocht seo ag leanúint go fíorúil ó dúnadh na scoileanna de bharr COVID-19.

- Ó cuireadh tús leis an Scéim in 2017, fuair gach iar-bhunscoil Gaeltachta 4 chuairt chomhairleacha ó chigirí chun treoir shonrach a sholáthar do scoileanna maidir lena bpleanáil gníomhaíochta do phróisis feabhsúcháin d’fhonn an tumoideachas a threisiú. Fuair na scoileanna seo seisiúin chomhairleacha eile freisin chun tacú le leanúnachas agus soláthar sábháilte scolaíochta in 2020.

- Ó 2019 ar aghaidh tugadh an deis d’iar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta páirt a ghlacadh sa tionscadal píolótach ríomh-mhoil a bhaineann leas as soláthar foghlama cumaisc ar líne chun an raon roghanna ábhar atá ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge do scoláirí in iar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta a leathnú. Cuireadh acmhainní breise ar fáil do na scoileanna rannpháirteacha, lena n-áirítear maoiniú aon uaire (€5,000) do gach scoil chun trealamh teicneolaíochta a cheannach. Cuirtear uaireanta teagaisc breise ar fáil do na hiar-bhunscoileanna seo chomh maith – 15 uair in aghaidh na seachtaine do na hiar-bhunscoileanna ina bhfuil ríomh-Mhúinteoirí bunaithe agus 4 huaire in aghaidh na seachtaine do na scoileanna leis na ríomhMheantóirí chun tacú leis na scoláirí.

- Chomh maith leis sin, ó 2018 ar aghaidh, tá tacaíochtaí breise ar fáil don dá iar-bhunscoil Ghaeltachta atá páirteach sa chlár Forás. Mar chuid den chlár píolótach seo tugadh múinteoir breise amháin, coibhéis lánaimseartha don dá iar-bhunscoil roghnaithe – Meánscoil San Nioclás agus Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. Is é cuspóir an tionscadail ná cuidiú le scoláirí na sraithe sóisearaí, ar léir gur gá dóibh a scileanna teanga Gaeilge a fheabhsú, le cur ar a gcumas a bheith gafa go tairbheach le curaclam na scoile trí mheán na Gaeilge.

- Cuireadh pacáiste de thacaíochtaí breise ar fáil do gach ceann de na cúig iar-bhunscoil oileánda ó Mheán Fómhair 2018 ar aghaidh. (Tá na tacaíochtaí seo ar fáil sa bhreis ar na tacaíochtaí a fhaigheann na scoileanna mar chuid den Scéim Aitheantais Scoileanna Gaeltachta). Clúdaíonn an pacáiste tacaíochtaí seo:

- leithdháileadh breise múinteora do gach ceann d’iar-bhunscoileanna na n-oileán ón leithdháileadh ag 1 phost ar choibhéis lánaimseartha go 1.5 phost ar choibhéis lánaimseartha

- buiséad €15,000 breise imfhálaithe in aghaidh na bliana do gach scoil

- bunú Choláiste Naomh Eoin, a raibh stádas Aonad Teanga (an tAonad) aige roimhe sin, mar iar-bhunscoil neamhspleách ann féin ar Inis Meáin, Contae na Gaillimhe.

- Mar chuid d’fheidhmiú an Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta agus chun scileanna inniúlachta teanga na múinteoirí a neartú, thosaigh Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál ar an Máistreacht san Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta, ar cúrsa páirtaimseartha foghlama cumaisc é, a sholáthar ó mhí Mheán Fómhair 2018. Bíonn suas le 30 áit nua ar an gcúrsa á soláthar in aghaidh na bliana. Tá an-chuid spéise agus éilimh léirithe ag múinteoirí sa chúrsa iarchéime go dtí seo.

Tacaíochtaí eile atá curtha ar fáil d’iar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta

As an 29 iar-bhunscoil Gaeltachta, is scoileanna DEIS iad 13 acu seo. Is é DEIS (Comhionannas Deiseanna a Sheachadadh i Scoileanna) an clár náisiúnta is déanaí atá dírithe ar fhreastal ar riachtanais leanaí agus daoine óga ó phobail faoi mhíbhuntáiste. Tá fáil ar liosta de na hiar-bhunscoileanna DEIS ar https://www.education.ie/ga/Scoileanna-Coláistí/Seirbhísí/Comhionannas-Deiseanna-sna-Scoileanna-a-Sheachadadh-DEIS-/DEIS-Tacú-Faisnéise/Tacaíochtaí-do-scoileanna-DEIS.html.

- Cuireann an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Síceolaíochta Oideachais (SNSO) seirbhís síceolaíochta ar fáil do gach iar-bhunscoil Gaeltachta trí sheirbhís cásobair aonair agus seirbhís tacaíochta agus forbartha araon a sholáthar chun cuidiú le scoileanna tacú le folláine agus le forbairt acadúil, shóisialta agus mhothúchánach gach dalta. Tá cnuasach acmhainní i nGaeilge forbartha ag SNSO chun tacú le scoileanna Gaeltachta. Bíonn na hacmhainní ar líne seo á n-athbhreithniú go rialta, agus is féidir teacht orthu ar www.education.ie .

- Le linn na tréimhse 2017 go 2021, tá deiseanna foghlama gairmiúla curtha ar fáil, agus á dtairiscint i gcónaí, ag an tSeirbhís um Fhorbairt Ghairmiúil do Mhúinteoirí do mhúinteoirí iar-bhunscoile agus do cheannairí scoile thar raon téamaí ábhartha chun tacú le hiar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta. Tá an tacaíocht seo á soláthar trí chuairteanna saincheaptha comhthéacsúla ar scoileanna, ceardlanna roghnacha, pobail foghlama gairmiúla agus cúrsaí ar líne.

- Ina theannta sin, cuireann an tSraith Shóisearach do Mhúinteoirí (JCT) forbairt ghairmiúil leanúnach ar fáil do cheannairí agus do mhúinteoirí scoile ar athchóiriú curaclaim thar gach ábhar de churaclam na Sraithe Sóisearaí trí mheán na Gaeilge lena n-áirítear iar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta. Déantar an FGL seo a sholáthar trí cheardlanna, cuairteanna ar scoileanna agus seisiúin scoile uile, (ar fáil ar líne faoi láthair). Tá tacaíocht leanúnach ar fáil do mhúinteoirí agus do cheannairí scoile trí mheáin éagsúla, lena n-áirítear ríomhphoist, glaonna gutháin agus/nó coir poist.

- I measc na bpríomhthacaíochtaí oideachas speisialta a chuirtear ar fáil do gach iar-bhunscoil, lena n-áirítear iar-bhunscoileanna Gaeltachta, tá:

- Soláthar do Mhúinteoirí Oideachas Speisialta i scoileanna príomhshrutha chun tacaíocht teagaisc breise a sholáthar do dhaltaí le riachtanais speisialta oideachais nó le riachtanais foghlama bhreise.

- Cúntóirí Riachtanais Speisialta chun tacú le riachtanais chúraim leanaí le riachtanais speisialta/míchumais

- Maoiniú do ranganna speisialta agus do mhúinteoirí ranganna speisialta.

Support

Cóiríocht Scoile

Questions (410)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

410. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais cén tacaíochtaí nó deontais atá ar fáil do scoileanna dara leibhéal le forbairt a dhéanamh ar shaoráidí spóirt agus aclaíochta taobh amuigh; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [8311/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Is mian liom a chur in iúl don Teachta go bhfuil hallaí corpoideachais ag go leor scoileanna agus tá áiteanna súgartha lasmuigh ag nach mór gach scoil. Ina theannta sin, úsáideann go leor scoileanna áiseanna áitiúla in aice láimhe, lena n-áirítear hallaí pobail, páirceanna poiblí, páirceanna imeartha agus linnte snámha.

Tá soláthar Hallaí Corpoideachais mar chuid den treoir chóiríochta do gach scoil nuabhunaithe. Féadfaidh na háiseanna sin a bheith mar chuid den sainchúram cóiríochta foriomlán le haghaidh síntí móra caipitil chuig scoileanna atá ann cheana.

Is é príomhfhócas na n-acmhainní le deich mbliana anuas agus don tréimhse atá le teacht ná acmhainn bhreise a sholáthar chun freastal ar dhéimeagrafaic mhéadaitheach. Sa dara leath den PFN (ó 2023 ar aghaidh) beidh fócas méadaitheach ar uasghrádú agus athchóiriú an stoic scoileanna atá ann. Áireofar leis sin clár tógála agus nuachóirithe Hallaí Corpoideachais chun a chinntiú go mbeidh rochtain ag scoláirí i ngach iar-bhunscoil ar áiseanna oiriúnacha chun tacú le soláthar Corpoideachais.

Is é tosaíocht láithreach mo Roinne áiteanna scoile nua agus athsholáthair a chur ar fáil gach bliain, chun a chinntiú go bhfuil áit scoile ag gach leanbh.

State Examinations

Questions (411)

Michael Lowry

Question:

411. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education her views on the provision of reasonable accommodations during State examinations for students with epilepsy, who may experience a seizure during their exams, in order to allow them to complete their examinations at a later date (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8329/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Building Projects

Questions Nos. 413 and 414 answered with Question No. 384.

Questions (412)

Joe McHugh

Question:

412. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education the status of school project works at a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8331/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

This project will enhance the existing permanent school facilities and extend the school by 16 classrooms, a GP room and associated ancillary accommodation which will remove the need for temporary prefab accommodation at the school.

The project for this school is currently at an early stage of architectural planning, Stage 2a (Developed Design Stage), where the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully cost planned and can be prepared to lodge for statutory approvals.

On receipt of the Stage 2(a) submission, a Stakeholders meeting will be arranged to which the school will be invited, and subject to there being no outstanding issues after the Stage 2(a) meeting, the project can be authorised to progress to Stage 2b (Detailed Design Stage) which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Certificate, Disability Access Certificate and the preparation of Tender Documents.

Questions Nos. 413 and 414 answered with Question No. 384.

Departmental Legal Costs

Question No. 416 answered with Question No. 384.

Questions (415)

Holly Cairns

Question:

415. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education the amount her Department has spent on legal costs arising from litigation involving children with special educational needs on an annual basis since 1 January 2010; the number of cases involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8361/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It should be noted by the Deputy that my Department does not initiate such proceedings and cases are generally only litigated where no potential settlement is acceptable to both sides and the Government's authority to decide issues of education policy is in question. My Department does not take lightly any decision to defend cases concerning children with special educational needs. Therefore, my Department is not complacent in dealing with these cases and attempts, wherever possible, to reduce the potential for litigation and the levels of legal costs that arise.

Legal costs incurred by the State in defending proceedings instigated against the Department, are not met directly by the Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving damages or compensation against the State, costs are generally charged to the Chief State Solicitor's Office Vote as sanctioned by the Attorney General. The Department may be required to meet the legal costs of Applicants/Plaintiffs where there is a settlement or an order for costs against the State in cases where my Department is a named party.

Please see Table below which details any such Legal Cost contributions to Applicants/Plaintiffs for the years 2010 to 2020, which are readily available to my Department.

It should be noted by the Deputy that in some years my Department also received reimbursements of legal costs from various parties, including contributions towards such costs from State co-defendants, involved in the litigation process. These reimbursements have been taken account of in the figures provided, as applicable.

YEAR

Total expenditure for SEN Litigation Legal Costs

2010

€649,239.75

2011

€622,159.30

2012

€172,665.85

2013

€69,888.86

2014

€115,929.90

2015

€117,465.00

2016

Nil

2017

Nil

2018

€69,147.50

2019

€19,875.00

2020

€172,084.51

Question No. 416 answered with Question No. 384.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (417)

Holly Cairns

Question:

417. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education the correspondence and engagement she has had with primary school and secondary school boards of management regarding the operating of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic since 1 August 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8363/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department published The Roadmap for the full return to School on 27 July 2020. This details the ongoing communication arrangements and continued stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the measures set out in the roadmap to support the continued operation of schools. In this regard the Roadmap states that my Department will continue to engage closely with education partners and other key stakeholders, including school management bodies and staff representatives on the implementation of measures set out in the roadmap to support the continued operation of schools. Management bodies provide advice and support to school Boards of Management and are centrally involved in engagements with the Department on all issues relating to schools and COVID-19.

Detailed stakeholder engagement has been a critical factor in identifying the complex challenges that arise for schools and their Boards across a number of areas, including logistical challenges in meeting cleaning and physical distancing requirements, curriculum and assessment matters, and the wellbeing and welfare of the school community on reopening.

Following a period of intensive engagement with the education partners, the Department has agreed a return to in-school teaching and learning for students with special educational needs attending special classes at primary and post-primary level.

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.

Ministerial Briefing

Questions (418)

Holly Cairns

Question:

418. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 153 of 17 September 2020 and 780 of 3 November 2020, if the briefing document provided to her on her appointment as Minister has been published on the website of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8364/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The briefing document provided to me upon my appointment as Minister has been published on my Department's website. It is available at the following link: www.education.ie/en/Publications/Ministers-Brief-/minister-s-brief-2020.pdf.

Medical Cards

Questions (419)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

419. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the progress she has made to ensure that all survivors of institutional abuse receive the Health (Amendment) Act card. [8430/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Health Amendment Act, 1996 (as amended) all individuals who are diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C as a result of the administration within the State of contaminated blood and blood products are entitled to a Health Amendment Act (HAA) card which gives them access on a statutory basis to a wide range of primary care and hospital-based services. The legislation provides clear scientific grounds for the definition of “diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C”. Under the legislation a diagnosis must arise (a) from a positive result from one of three specific tests for the presence of Hepatitis C virus, or (b) from the presence of antibodies to the virus, or (c) based on evidence of jaundice up to 16 weeks after the administration of Anti-D Immunoglobulin. The HAA card is provided to a very discrete cohort of patients.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (420)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

420. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education the status of the provision of the temporary accommodation and the new school building for a school (details supplied); and the timelines for commencement and completion of both projects. [8441/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

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

Pending delivery of the permanent building project, my Department will continue to address the interim accommodation needs of the school. The school opened in September 2020 in interim accommodation in Citywest and will continue in its existing interim accommodation for the 2021/22 school year or until such time as the temporary accommodation currently the subject of a planning application can be provided. In this regard an initial notification of decision to grant planning permission for interim accommodation in respect of the school at it's intended interim location in Rathcoole was granted on 25 January, 2021. The final grant of planning permission is expected week commencing 22 February 2021.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (421)

Bríd Smith

Question:

421. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing sections (details supplied) of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8449/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 have been commenced. The commenced provisions include those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those providing for an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs.

The following sections of the EPSEN Act were commenced in 2005.

Section 1 – InterpretationSection 2 - providing for the inclusive education of children with Special Educational NeedsSection 14 – placing certain duties on schoolsSections 19 to 37 - placing the Council on a statutory footing. Section 39 - placing certain duties on Health BoardsSections 40 to 53 - amending the Education ActSchedule 1 – providing for meetings and membership of the CouncilSchedule 2 providing for the Chief Executive Officer of the Council. The remaining sections of the Act have yet to be commenced. The Sections of the EPSEN Act which have not been implemented are those which would have conferred a statutory entitlement to – an educational assessment for all children with special educational needs.

- consequent development of a statutory individual educational plan (IEP)

- the delivery of detailed educational services on foot of this plan

- an independent appeals process.

The NCSE estimated, in its Plan for the Implementation of the EPSEN Act Report, which was published in 2006, that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act.

The view of my Department, at the time, was that the level of investment required could be significantly greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report. Legal advice also indicated that the EPSEN Act, as it is currently constituted, may not be implemented on a phased, or age cohort, basis.

Revised estimates of the amount of additional expenditure required to fully implement the remaining sections of the EPSEN Act, including the individual sections of the Act referred to by the Deputy, have not recently been conducted. The estimated level of additional expenditure required, to implement the outstanding sections of the Act, would have to take into account annual demographic growth and service developments in the area of special educational needs, pricing adjustments and salary cost differentials on an ongoing basis. Estimates would also have to be made as to the number of pupils who may now currently qualify for the statutory service provisions envisaged by the EPSEN Act.

The Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfil their potential.

In 2021 the Department of Education and Skills will invest approximately €2 Billion in the area of special educational needs support - 1/5 of the Department's budget and up over 42% since 2011.

The Government has committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the EPSEN Act on a non-statutory basis.

A range of consultations with Education Partners and Stakeholders took place in relation to the development of a new model for allocating special education teachers over the course of 2017. The new model was introduced for all schools from September 2017.

Further consultations took place with education partners and stakeholders in the context of the undertaking of a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme and will continue in relation to the implementation of recommendations contained in this report.

Additional powers have also been provided to the National Council for Special Educational to designate a school place for a person with special educational needs, which is now provided for in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.

While awaiting the full implementation of the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has also published a number of policy advice papers which make recommendations aimed at developing a better or more effective alternative to the current resource allocation model, and which aims to move the system towards ultimate implementation of the EPSEN Act.

It should also be noted, however, that since EPSEN was enacted, the Department’s policy on supporting children with special educational needs has changed and evolved on foot of evidence based policy advice from the NCSE which takes account of international perspectives.

Significantly, the focus of special needs education provision has changed from a model that is diagnosis led to one which is driven by the needs of the child. This is a substantially different view to the one underlying the EPSEN Act. The levels of investment by Government in special education has increased to facilitate the underlying reforms required to implement and embed the needs based approach.

This Government will continue to prioritise investment in the area of special education support. Ongoing investment and reform will continue to see improvements made in this area.

I have also indicated that one of my priorities as Minister for Special Education and Inclusion is:

Updating our Laws: Reviewing and updating the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act.

Any review of the Act will take into account the extent of additional investment which has been made in special educational services since 2004, with some €2 Billion per year now being spent of special educational supports.

It will also take into account the range of reforms which have taken place in recent years including the development of new allocation models which are not based primarily on a response to assessment as policy advice has indicated that requirement of diagnosis can create a risk of children being diagnosed as having a special educational need for resource allocation purposes, rather than for health reasons. Also, that as there is a spectrum of ability and disability within every special education disability category, account must be taken of need, as well as diagnosis.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (422)

Bríd Smith

Question:

422. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the estimated amount her Department has spent on legal costs arising from litigation involving children with special educational needs; the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8450/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It should be noted by the Deputy that my Department does not initiate such proceedings and cases are generally only litigated where no potential settlement is acceptable to both sides and the Government's authority to decide issues of education policy is in question. My Department does not take lightly any decision to defend cases concerning children with special educational needs. Therefore, my Department is not complacent in dealing with these cases and attempts, wherever possible, to reduce the potential for litigation and the levels of legal costs that arise.

Legal costs incurred by the State in defending proceedings instigated against the Department, are not met directly by the Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving damages or compensation against the State, costs are generally charged to the Chief State Solicitor's Office Vote as sanctioned by the Attorney General. The Department may be required to meet the legal costs of Applicants/Plaintiffs where there is a settlement or an order for costs against the State in cases where my Department is a named party.

Please see Table below which details any such Legal Cost contributions to Applicants/Plaintiffs for the years 2010 to 2020, which are readily available to my Department.

It should be noted by the Deputy that in some years my Department also received reimbursements of legal costs from various parties, including contributions towards such costs from State co-defendants, involved in the litigation process. These reimbursements have been taken account of in the figures provided, as applicable.

YEAR

Total expenditure for SEN Litigation Legal Costs

2010

€649,239.75

2011

€622,159.30

2012

€172,665.85

2013

€69,888.86

2014

€115,929.90

2015

€117,465.00

2016

Nil

2017

Nil

2018

€69,147.50

2019

€19,875.00

2020

€172,084.51

School Transport

Questions (423)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

423. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education the status of the review of the current school transport scheme; and when a result can be expected from the review. [8476/21]

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.

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 Building Projects

Questions (424)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

424. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8495/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that the school in question applied for funding under SWS 2020 for the replacement of the windows (Category 7).

The school authorities may be aware that the Minister recently announced details of the schools that will receive funding in summer 2021 in respect of applications submitted for Roof projects and Toilet Facilities projects.

Commensurate with the level of funding set aside for the Scheme, applications are being assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the Scheme. In that regard, applications submitted for other works will be considered under future rounds of the Summer Works Scheme. The school in question will be considered in this regard.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (425)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

425. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8496/21]

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 Gaelscoil Mhuscraí, Blarney, Co. Cork. Officials from my Department have recently corresponded with the school authority and on receipt of their response the application will be progressed and the decision will issue to the school authority directly.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (426)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

426. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8497/21]

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 referred to by the Deputy.

Once the application has been assessed, the school authority will be contacted directly with a decision.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (427)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

427. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8498/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for capital funding, under the Additional School Accommodation (ASA) scheme, from the school authority referred to by the Deputy.

Officials from my Department have recently corresponded with the school authority and on receipt of their response the application will be progressed and the decision will issue to the school authority directly.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (428)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

428. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8499/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school referred to has been approved for a project under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2020. This project will provide two mainstream classrooms with en-suite toilets and a one classroom SEN base.

This project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority and is currently at the design stage. It is now a matter for the Board of Management to advance this project in that context.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (429)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

429. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8500/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has approved an application for accommodation at the school in question and the school has been advised accordingly.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (430)

Pauline Tully

Question:

430. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Education if a school is excluded from applying for assistive technology as outlined under Circular 0010/2013 for a student in a special class or an ASD unit when the assistive technology is deemed necessary on the basis of a professional report and by the teachers concerned and in circumstances in which it is clear that existing equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs without unduly depriving other children of access to the equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8502/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides funding to schools towards the cost of assistive technology for pupils in Primary, Post Primary and Special schools, for equipment and specialist software for educational purposes under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

In order to qualify for equipment under the Assistive Technology 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.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including applications for assistive technology.

Special Needs Organisers (SENOs) make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

It is open to schools to appeal this decision. The appeals process is outlined on my Department’s website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/Grants-and-Additional-Support/Assistive-Technology-Grant/

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 on www.ncse.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (431)

Pauline Tully

Question:

431. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Education the reason a child (details supplied) has been refused a grant for assistive technology even though it is deemed necessary by the child's teachers and occupational therapist and has been signed off by the special educational needs organiser; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8503/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including applications for assistive technology.

Special Needs Organisers (SENOs) make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology 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 IT equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.

An application for equipment in respect of this pupil under the Assistive Technology Scheme has been approved by my Department. An email will issue to the school detailing the level of grant payable.