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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 384-400

Education Policy

Questions (384)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

384. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if clarity will be provided in relation to the position of children with dyslexia (details supplied). [61223/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that in May 2021 I requested my Department to arrange for a review of the policy on reading classes and schools.

The review will be informed by the Department's Inspectorate’s research and development work which facilitates thematic review of provision and practice in schools. The work will involve visits to a number of education settings for children with specific learning disabilities and the gathering of evidence in line with the normal Inspectorate inspection model.

It is expected that the Inspectorate's work will be completed during the period October to December 2021, with composite findings becoming available thereafter which will be published.

These findings, together with any relevant recommendations emerging from the NCSE Policy Advice on Special Classes and Special Schools currently in development, will be considered at that stage to determine the actions required to finalise the review.

The outcome of this work will inform future Department policy on supporting children with special educational needs particularly in relation to reading and literacy.

It is important to note at this stage that my Department has not received any recommendations regarding the closure of any special school.

School Enrolments

Questions (385)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

385. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education if she will work with a school (details supplied) to ensure it can expand its intake of students for 2022-2023 given that there is a significant number of children whose principle private residence is in the local catchment area and who are attending the local schools have not received a place in the school. [61232/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is aware of increasing local pressures and demand for additional post-primary school places in a number of school planning areas, including the Malahide school planning area.

However, it is important to note that where enrolment pressures arise, it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:

- Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area

- School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area

- Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school they are not available to all pupils

- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area

My Department is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues through ongoing discussions with the relevant school authorities. Similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies, including patrons in the Malahide school planning area, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming year(s) which may necessitate further action to that already in train.

Malahide & Portmarnock ETSS opened in September 2018 in response to emerging demographic demand in the area. While the school is currently housed in interim accommodation on its permanent site, the Deputy will be aware that a major building project to construct a permanent school building for Malahide Portmarnock ETSS is included in the Department's school building programme.

The first phase of the new school building is due to be completed in 2022 and it is intended that it will be ready for occupation for the 2022/2023 academic year. The Department understands that the school will have a first year admission intake of 96 pupils for September 2022 and sufficient accommodation will be available for this intake.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (386)

Holly Cairns

Question:

386. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education the status of the planning of a new building for a school in (details supplied). [61236/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A building project for the school in question is included in the Department’s ADAPT 3 Programme and a tender competition to appoint a Project Manager for this Programme is currently underway. It is expected that this process will be concluded early in the New Year. The Project Manager, when appointed, will be responsible for initiating the process for the appointment of a Design Team for the ADAPT 3 Programme.

The Department is committed to the delivery of this project, comprising a new 8 classroom school with a 2 class Special Education Needs (SEN) base.

The Department will continue to liaise with the school authorities in respect of further developments during this process.

Weather Events

Questions (387)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

387. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education the person or body that made the decision to close schools in County Meath due to a Met Éireann orange warning; the number of orange warnings that have been issued by Met Éireann in each of the past five years; and the number of times in the past the Minister for Education has closed schools on orange warnings. [61243/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to close schools in counties that were under Met Éireann Orange Alert was made by the Department of Education, following consultation with the National Emergency Co-Ordination Group and informed by the expert advice from Met Éireann of a strong possibility that the status of parts of counties under status Orange Alert were likely to change and escalate to status Red Alert. This decision was based on the very significant nature of Storm Barra, as forecast by Met Éireann, and the potential for significant damage. The colour coding system for weather was introduced by Met Éireann in 2012. Schools have closed for weather-related reasons on a number of occasions in the past, including for Storm Ophelia.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (388)

Charles Flanagan

Question:

388. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education when the appropriate level of capital funding will be provided to facilitate the building of a new school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61252/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes the application for all statutory consents, including Planning Permission, Disability Access Certification and Fire Safety Certification and also the preparation of tender documentation.

The Planning Permission Application was submitted to the Local Authority on June 1st 2021 and a Request for Further Information from the Local Authority is currently being addressed by the Design Team.

The Disability Access Certificate has been granted. The Fire Safety Certificate application was lodged with the Fire Officer in August 2021 and an extensive additional information request was received in September 2021. The Design Teams response to the Fire Officer was recently submitted, and their response is pending.

Until the final grant of statutory applications has been received from the local authority, it is not possible to give a definitive timeline with regard to the completion of Stage 2(b) and the further progression of the project to tender and construction stage.

This major building project is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

School Accommodation

Questions (389)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

389. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the amount spent on projects carried out under the emergency works scheme in 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [61279/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I would like to inform the Deputy that the information she requested is set out in the table below.

Year

Spend

2020

€34,832,099.00

2021 (to date)

€44,060,835.00

Road Safety

Questions (390)

Pat Buckley

Question:

390. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the case of a school (details supplied); if she will make arrangements to support Cork County Council with funding to address the safety issues identified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61294/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The new permanent building for the school referred to by the Deputy was included in a bundle of projects which were tendered to a newly established Design and Build Contractors Framework. The tenders are currently being assessed by my Department's Project Manager.

The award of the building contract to the successful Contractor is anticipated in Quarter 1 of 2022. Once a Contractor has been appointed, my Department will keep the school informed of the construction programme underpinning the contract.

The matter of road safety measures at the school's temporary site, the road network outside the school including traffic calming measures and pedestrian facilities are the responsibility of the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools to ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.

Teacher Training

Questions (391)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

391. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Education if the Gaeltacht component of primary teacher training will go ahead as normal in January 2022 under current guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61316/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the Teaching Council Standards for initial teacher education (ITE) at primary, all student teachers must complete a 4 week Gaeltacht learning period (2x 2 weeks) as part of their programme. This is compulsory in order to graduate.

The Department is aware that there are students who are due to go on their Gaeltacht learning period in January 2022. Discussions have been taking place between the relevant Higher Education Institution, the Department of Education and the Teaching Council on how best to progress this, in the current circumstances, and all parties are striving to bring the matter to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (392)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

392. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if she will have regard to correspondence from a person (details supplied). [61334/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The most up to date guidance in respect of the higher risk categories, for the education sector staff was published by the HSE in July 2021. As with all other guidelines around public health measures, my Department has been led by expert medical advice provided by the Government through the HSE and other relevant public bodies.

My Department’s Circular Letter 0042/2021 details the current working arrangements and leave arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic for teachers and special needs assistants employed in recognised primary and post primary schools. This Circular should be read in conjunction with Information Note TC 0027/2021 which was published on 6th December 2021.

The HSE advice on the ‘very high risk’ group is at link: www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/people-at-higher-risk.html. Having considered the most up to date HSE advice, if an SNA considers they are at very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19, they may apply to the Occupational Health Service (Medmark) for a COVID-19 health risk assessment to be carried out. Having considered the medical information provided with the OHS Risk Assessment Questionnaire, the OHS will provide the SNA with a ‘COVID-19 Health Risk Categorisation Report’ which advises whether they are at a very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19. The COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessments are performed by a team of qualified and experienced specialists in occupational medicine. Available medical evidence, including reports from treating consultants as well as vaccination status of SNAs, are considered during the OHS COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessment process.

Based on the details provided by the Deputy, Medmark carried out a COVID-19 health risk assessment on the SNA in question and he has been categorised as ‘high risk’. The ‘high risk’ group is defined by the HSE and in accordance with this advice, an SNA in the ‘high risk’ group who is not ill must attend the workplace and should take extra care to practice social distancing and hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment.

An SNA who has been categorised by Medmark and considers that the OHS ‘COVID-19 Health Risk Categorisation Report’ places them in an incorrect risk category, may request a review. Medmark will re-evaluate the medical evidence provided. The SNA may provide additional medical evidence as part of the review process. In a situation where the review outcome is that the COVID-19 health risk categorisation remains the same, a further review will only be undertaken, where additional medical evidence indicates there has been a change in the SNA’s medical status or where there is a change in the HSE guidelines for the ‘high risk’ group.

My Department has always been guided by public health advice in relation to appropriate COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures in place in schools. These measures protect students, their parents and school staff and are very effective to help prevent and control COVID-19 in schools. My Department will continue to work closely with public health officials and the education stakeholders in respect of the safe operation of schools during COVID-19.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (393)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

393. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the status of the delivery of a new school building for a school (details supplied). [61336/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

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

On June 14th 2021, this project was included in a bundle of projects which were tendered to a newly established Design & Build Contractors Framework. The tenders were returned on October 27th 2021 and are currently being assessed by my Department's Project Manager.

The award of the building contract to the successful Contractor is anticipated in Quarter 1 of 2022. Once a Contractor has been appointed, my Department will keep the school informed of the construction programme underpinning the contract.

Road Safety

Questions (394)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

394. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the unsafe conditions for students walking from Cork city to the temporary site of a school (details supplied); and if she will intervene to ensure these students can walk to school safely. [61337/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The new permanent building for the school referred to by the Deputy was included in a bundle of projects which were tendered to a newly established Design and Build Contractors Framework. The tenders are currently being assessed by my Department's Project Manager.

The award of the building contract to the successful Contractor is anticipated in Quarter 1 of 2022. Once a Contractor has been appointed, my Department will keep the school informed of the construction programme underpinning the contract.

The matter of road safety measures at the school's temporary site, the road network outside the school including traffic calming measures and pedestrian facilities are the responsibility of the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools to ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (395)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

395. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the status of the proposed replacement for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61357/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials from my Department contacted the Deputy's office and received clarification that the school in question is St Mologa's National School, Balbriggan.

The major project for this school is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes the application for all statutory consents, including Planning Permission, Disability Access Certification and Fire Safety Certification and also the preparation of tender documentation.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) report, my Department will be in contact with the school and its design team regarding the further progression of this building project.

This major building project is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (396)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

396. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education if a permanent site has been located for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61358/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department are working closely with officials in Fingal County Council under the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the acquisition of a suitable permanent location to meet the needs of the school to which you refer.

Negotiations with a landowner are ongoing in relation to a preferred site. While a site acquisition process is underway, given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

Please rest assured that this project is being given priority attention and we are attempting to bring the matter to a close as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (397)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

397. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the estimated completion date of the new building for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61359/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers has completed the tender process and has recently been authorised to issue a Letter of Acceptance to the identified bidder. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that works could commence on site in early Quarter 1 of 2022 with a construction timeframe of approximately 15 months.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (398)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

398. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the status of the provision of a new site for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61360/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is not pursuing the acquisition of a site for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The project to provide permanent accommodation for this school is being delivered as part of a campus arrangement with St Joseph’s Secondary School on a site located at Kenure, Rush, Co. Dublin.

The project has been devolved for delivery to CEIST, which is the patron body for St. Joseph’s Secondary School.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (399)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

399. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education the future plans for the school hub at Mooretown, Swords in which schools (details supplied) are now located; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [61361/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The post-primary school referred to by the Deputy is accommodated in the new 1,000 pupil permanent school building at the site in Mooretown. The primary school referred to by the Deputy is currently in interim accommodation at the same location which will be the permanent location for the new primary school building.

The project to provide the permanent building for the primary school is in early architectural planning which involves site surveys, school design stages and the preparation of statutory applications.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (400)

Dara Calleary

Question:

400. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education when her Department will respond to correspondence from Mayo County Council in relation to a school (details supplied); and the steps she has taken since meeting with the same school in Spring 2021. [61368/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Mayo County Council have confirmed in correspondence their willingness to engage further with my Department with regard to the proposed site for the school referred to by the Deputy.

My Department is currently finalising its assessment of the options for the school in question, utilising the most recently available data and projected school placed requirements, and will be back in contact with the patrons when this process is complete.

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