Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Schools Building Projects

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

6. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the delivery of a non-denominational co-educational second level school in the Ashtown and Dublin 7 areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19843/19]

My question is about the ongoing lack of a secondary school in Dublin 7 and Ashtown whereby people can choose to send their children to a school that is not segregated by gender or religion. We have a changing society but the establishment does not appear to be willing to change at the same pace. Thus there is no inclusive education at secondary level available to people in the area.

In April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years, 2019 to 2022. This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools throughout the country, and the four-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the Cabra-Phibsborough-Dublin 7 school planning area, it was announced that a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school was to open in 2022 in the adjacent Drumcondra-Marino-Dublin 1 school planning area.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under ongoing review and in particular will have regard for the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. 

The Cabra-Phibsborough-Dublin 7 school planning area is currently served by eight post-primary schools, including Cabra community college, which is under the patronage of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, CDETB. Cabra community college is multidenominational in nature, provides for the local community and could potentially bring additional capacity of this nature to the area. As I indicated to the Deputy recently, I understand that CDETB and Educate Together have started discussions with regard to possible partnership with a view to Educate Together involvement in existing school provision at second level in the Dublin 7 area.  I am supportive of this initiative, which has the potential to add to and enhance the availability of additional choice in the area, and my Department is engaging with the bodies concerned as required.

Regarding how this issue could be resolved in the immediate term, I agree that Cabra community college is an extremely viable option. I visited the school last week. I met the principal and was shown around, together with Rita Harrold, who is our representative in that area. I was really pleased with the principal's openness. One could see the potential for the people of Cabra to really benefit from a school that would be enhanced and be able to deliver more subjects and more options for their children so it is a really good option. However, if this is to be the site, and CDETB and Educate Together are having discussions, which is really good, we need a definite commitment from the Government that it will fund a new school building that would be required in addition to the existing building that is there. Obviously, we would need other resources as well. Could the Minister tell people, particularly those in the Dublin 7 and Ashtown Secondary Options campaign, which has done great work in progressing this issue, whether the State is willing to fund this immediately if CDETB and Educate Together's discussion is successful?

I, together with Deputies Coppinger and Jack Chambers, attended another packed public meeting regarding getting a second-level multidenominational and, very importantly, co-educational school for this part of the Dublin 15 and Dublin 7 area. I should explain to the Minister that this is my home area. I am very pleased by his comments about St. Dominic's College, Cabra. He could have added Stanhope Street girls secondary school and other schools, which are fantastic schools. However, all of those schools such as St. Declan's College, which is just between those two convent schools, are single denomination schools and there is a very strong demand for a multidenominational and co-educational offering at second level.

The offer relating to Cabra west and Kilkieran Road is an excellent possibility. Obviously, the parties must come to an agreement on that. As a public representative for the area, I can say that there is a need and I will give it all my support, as I have done since the campaign started some time ago. I hope the Minister can recognise and acknowledge it and confirm that we will get this as soon as possible.

I thank both Deputies for their intervention. I assure Deputy Coppinger that we are not redesigning the wheel. We have form here and a history involving Clonturk community college in 2016, which was a partnership between Educate Together and CDETB and has 200 students for the 2018-19 school year. Most schools, particularly those in the Deputy's area with all its population pressures, will continue to grow. Regardless of whether it is Clonturk community college or the ongoing discussions regarding St. Kevin's College in Crumlin, which is another potential CDETB-Educate Together solution, investment does follow as the numbers grow. If there is a need for any investment at an early stage, that is something our Department is willing to look at. However, I do not want to pre-empt any decisions in that regard at this stage because we must find a solution to get to an agreement in the first instance.

We know Educate Together and CDETB have done it before so they are well disposed to doing it again. The difference is that there is an existing building here but one that needs significant enhancement. Interestingly, the school is as sturdy and solid as the day it was built in the 1940s, unlike many buildings we see going up. It would need far more capacity and state-of-art laboratories and so on. I do not think CDETB or Educate Together would be upset if the Minister came out today and said that he is willing to put funds into something they are discussing. It should not be up to patrons to come together and do this. The State should be identifying a need and saying that it will provide it. We have a mad situation - a time lag in this country - because of the interconnection between church and State. It is scandalous that people cannot send their children to a non-segregated gender school in that area that is not run by a religious patron when there is clearly such a demand. This is happening all over Dublin and the country. I would encourage the Minister to give this commitment now. I would tell people to use the local and European Parliament elections to get these sort of commitments from Members and the Government. Solidarity will certainly be holding meetings to expand on this issue.

I am happy to work with the Deputy on this. The last thing I want is to be accused of making a big announcement on the eve of local elections.

But you never did that before.

It is not my form. I do not do it. I do not think it is right to give details regarding what I will do in the future when I do not have any basis to make that decision. We are looking at a school that the Deputy mentioned was built in the 1940s and which is still standing the test of time. In respect of one of the policies that has been changed, although not in my time in the Department, rather than always going for the greenfield site, some schools have been standing for a few hundred years. The school mentioned by the Deputy has been standing since the 1940s. If we can adapt that traditional structure, extend it for new modern laboratories and do up the existing school in an environmentally sustainable way, that is something with which I am in agreement. Certainly I would be happy to work with all the hard-working Deputies in that area.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

7. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied with the level of access to education for children with special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19837/19]

Baineann an cheist seo le páistí le riachtanais speisialta oideachais agus leis an easpa oideachais do a lán dóibh. Bhí agóid taobh amuigh den Dáil an tseachtain seo caite. Tá a lán scéalta sna meáin maidir leis an ábhar seo.

There are many children out there. There was a protest last week involving children with special educational needs who are simply not being given their constitutional right to free primary education or indeed secondary education. They protested outside the Dáil last week. We also saw the AsIAm survey. I was on Newstalk last summer where I had to make an intervention on behalf of two seven year olds who had no school place. I do not see how the Minister can be satisfied or how he can answer this question in the affirmative.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as an cheist. Aontaím leis faoin éileamh atá ann maidir le feitheamh agus faoin éileamh atá ann i measc tuismitheoirí i ndáil leis an cheist seo. Tá sé iontach tábhachtach go mbeidh réiteach ar an cheist seo san am atá amach romhainn.

My Department's policy aims to ensure that all children with special needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in mainstream school settings. In 2018, in the region of €1.75 billion was invested in special education, nearly one fifth of the overall education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

This funding includes provision for over 13,400 special education teachers in mainstream schools. It also provides for 15,000 special needs assistants, SNAs, to support the care needs of pupils with disabilities in an educational context, up 42% since 2011.

Provision is also made for special school and special class placements for pupils who require more specialist interventions. There are now 1,459 special classes with over 140 new special classes opened for the 2018-19 school year. This compares to 548 special classes in 2011.

I am satisfied that the level of provision we have made in recent years has ensured that all children with special educational needs can participate in education and that most children with special needs have been able to be enrolled in the school or placement of their choice. I am also conscious that there are gaps and that there are parents and children for whom we need to continue to be vigilant and for whom we need to find places as well. There are circumstances where it can be difficult for parents to obtain the school or special class placement of their choice where increases in population or other issues have led to pressure on school places.

The National Council for Special Education is actively engaging with schools, patron bodies, parents and other staff to try to ensure each child has a school placement appropriate to his or her needs for the 2019-20 school year. Ensuring every child has access to a suitable school placement is a priority for me and my Department and we will continue to ensure that this can be provided for.

I often wonder whether there should be a unit in the Department of Education and Skills whose sole purpose is to implement the constitutional guarantee of free primary education, because in many cases it is not being implemented and people are not getting their rights.

Last week at the protest I was shocked, especially by the number of parents from deprived parts of Dublin who are simply outside of the system, as are their children. It is totally wrong. My colleague, Deputy Lahart, raised the issue of the lack of autism spectrum disorder classes in Dublin 6, Dublin 6W and the surrounding areas. We have the outrageous situation in some cases of pupils being sent home too early. Parents have been telephoned and told to collect their children or children are only going in for a couple of hours each day. In a written response on the matter the Minister gave a clear answer to the effect that this is not permitted. My advice is to leave the children in school because they are entitled to it, but of course it must be in an appropriate setting. The AsIAm survey found that one third of parents have been waiting between one and two years for a school placement while one in ten have been waiting between two and three years. Moreover, 7% of parents are waiting for more than three years for a suitable school place for their child. This cannot go on. These children are seriously losing out and yet they are the children who really need early intervention and support along with an education to which they are entitled.

It would be wrong of me to stand up and say that we do not have a problem. We have a problem and an issue. The demand exists and there is extraordinary frustration for parents. Some parents have the uncertainty of not knowing that their children will have a place in September.

I am working with the National Council for Special Education. I have asked those responsible to look at whether there are better ways of communicating messages rather than having parents going around to up to nine different schools where the units may already be full. I think we can be better at communicating. We can do that at one level but I wish to make a public plea again to schools. Ultimately the school will make the decision, but if a school has a need for a special class, we will provide capital funding to that school. I would encourage schools to look at the schools that already have these special classes. It is an enriching experience to be in those schools and to see all the different benefits of having special classes. I was in the Coláiste Gleann Lí in Tralee last week. They have a sensory room and a new special class. It is a wonderful place to be to see that inclusiveness.

I know this issue will remain an issue and will continue to be an issue. It is something that I want to work on together. I believe there are short-term ways of making it more effective from a communications point of view but there is the issue of infrastructure as well.

I do not think it is acceptable to say that this will remain an issue. That sounds like the old religious adage: "The poor you will always have with you". That is not the position. The State is obliged under the laws of this land and the Constitution to provide an education to every child but it is not doing that.

The Minister said he put out a plea to school to take special classes. That is behind the curve. Legislation was passed here last year at the insistence of Fianna Fáil to provide the Minister with the power to force schools to take special classes. It is about time that power started to be implemented because it has been in law since last December. We objected to the passage of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill unless these measures were in it. They are now in it and thankfully the former Minister, Deputy Bruton, accepted that. It is about time the Minister and the NCSE started using these powers to force schools to take special classes and to look at the establishment of special autism schools or other special schools. What is happening now with some special schools is that they are taking children who are at the lower end of special needs. This means children who have the most severe and profound autism are being left on the scrap heap. It is tragic and sad. I encountered parents crying outside the Dáil last week. They came to plead with us as legislators to do something about it. I told them we had done something about it. We have changed the law, but the Minister needs to implement the law and finally do something about the problem.

Deputy Byrne is correct to say there is provision now in the Act to allow the Minister to compel schools in this regard. I am always a believer in working with people, whether it is working with schools or boards of management. I am asking for schools to look at the schools that have made the decision to have special classes. It is the right thing to do in terms of inclusive education. If there are outstanding demands and gaps, then I am fully prepared to continue my engagement with the NCSE. I am also determined to ensure we help the parents who are going through this incredible frustration. It should be a positive experience when young people are going to primary or secondary school. I am concerned about taking away that positive experience. Whether we have to use the legislation through compelling or whether we try to encourage the schools to extend or provide the special classes is a matter for consideration. The special classes and the people who work within them are not simply add-ons to schools. That is one of the things I noticed in Coláiste Gleann Lí in Tralee. The special classes are central to the physical structure of the school. It is a normal road to go.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

8. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills to outline the level of consultation made with the SNA sector regarding the new recommendations made by the National Council for Special Education in respect of changes to the role of SNAs in the classroom that were agreed between the NCSE and his Department following a review in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19798/19]

Deputy Quinlivan is to introduce Question No. 8.

Will the Minister outline the level of consultation undertaken by the Department and the National Council for Special Education with the special needs assistant sector when developing the newly-proposed 13 recommendations affecting and altering the role of SNAs in the classroom? Will the Minister also outline the level of consultation held with the unions regarding the SNA sector in advance of the rolling-out of the new pilot scheme, which is set to commence in September 2019?

I thank Deputy Kathleen Funchion and the Deputy for raising the question orally in the House.

In 2016, the National Council for Special Education was requested by the then Minister, Deputy Bruton, to review the special needs assistant scheme and to advise him on what support options are needed to provide better outcomes for students with additional care needs. Following extensive research and consultation with schools, parents, SNAs and other stakeholders a report was submitted last year. The review found that the SNA scheme was working really well, particularly for younger children and for certain type of care needs, for example, mobility and toileting. It also found that a new and more widely-based model of support involving education and health supports was needed to meet the range of student need currently presenting in our schools. The review made a number of recommendations, including the way SNA support is allocated to schools and the need to build school capacity through training. Overall, the council recommended a new service model, the school inclusion model, that would involve the provision of speech and language and occupational and behavioural therapies in schools, as well as the development of a national nursing scheme to cater for children with the most complex medical needs. The overall aim of the model is to improve outcomes for children by ensuring each child receives the right support at the right time. The Government approved a pilot of the new model in 75 schools for the 2019-20 school year. The model will be independently evaluated. A budget of €4.75 million has been allocated to support implementation of the review findings.

Consultation will be a central feature of the development and implementation work. More than 50 people, including SNAs and their representatives, attended an information and consultation last week. Separately, there have been meetings with the union representing SNAs and other meetings are planned.

I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the team and staff at Drimnagh Castle, where I met the teachers, behavioural therapists, HSE representatives, occupational therapists and speech and language specialists who are working on the social inclusion model. I hope that following a proper comprehensive evaluation of this model, we will be looking to extend it after the upcoming year.

Does the Minister agree that SNAs themselves are best placed to advise the NCSE and the Department on what needs to change to maximise the potential of an SNA working in a classroom?

Leaving SNAs out of the conversation will backfire. It is short-sighted and contravenes what the Minister is trying to achieve. Without their valuable input, the Minister is, in effect, imposing new terms and conditions without proper consultation on an already stressed sector in our education system. Under these new guidelines, there are significant issues with job fragmentation and contractual inequalities that need to be addressed. I understand that there will be some agreement to meet with the unions by this September when the new pilot scheme is set to be rolled out. Are there any plans for discussion in advance of that? There is no point in meeting to discuss the new terms and conditions once the pilot has started. This must happen in advance in order to have the sector's input into what will work best and to address many of the problems that the sector can have.

Does the Minister acknowledge that, without this co-operation, he will most likely face a new crisis in the SNA sector? Their numbers will drop and there will be fewer SNAs than before, exacerbating the existing staffing challenges. Ultimately, children with additional needs will suffer. Once again, students will take the brunt of bad decision-making. Children and families who already have to fight every step to get a place in a class might be denied an SNA due to a shortage which could be prevented by proper consultation. Will the Minister agree to meet representatives of the sector as a matter of urgency in advance of the pilot being rolled out?

I will meet the representative of the trade union, Fórsa, and will be happy to discuss this. This pilot is important. The difference to the previous pilot is that behavioural therapy is included within this model. I agree with the Deputy that the central feature of any school that I walk into, whether a primary or secondary school, is the role of the SNAs. Students do not make any differentiation between an SNA and a teacher. They see them as being on an equal footing. However, we also have to give them that certainty and that is why this pilot is important. It looks at changing the profile of the model and at removing diagnostic as a lead to ensure that the profile of the school is there in the first place. We are trying to give more certainty to SNAs about their terms of employment. We are also looking at upskilling and training. There is a major gap in SNAs being afforded the opportunity for continuing professional development. One of the elements of the social inclusion model is to ensure that we have a higher authority for the training of SNAs, to give them the right and proper status that they deserve.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

9. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that children are being taught in schools without the necessary supports needed due to delays in assessments for children attending school that have developmental issues and may require specialised support; the efforts being taken to clear this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19823/19]

My question is about students in primary and secondary school and the lack of necessary supports for those with special needs. We saw the protest outside Leinster House last week with parents who were completely frustrated. I am no different from any other Deputy in this Chamber. Such people come to our clinics regularly. They are the parents of children attending both primary and secondary school. Will the Minister outline his plans to get rid of the backlog which restricts children from accessing those important resources?

In 2017, my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resources.  To back up my previous contribution, that is the type of model that we are trying to bring in under the social inclusion pilot that we just launched. This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

Additionally some pupils with developmental issues may require an assessment of need which is provided by the HSE services. My Department's National Educational Psychological Service delivers a tiered, consultative model of service. Each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with difficulties including those with developmental delay. Teachers consult with their NEPS psychologist for assistance should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts, in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become directly involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological support. I advise that parents of children in schools for whom concerns exist relating to developmental delay should, in the first instance, raise the matter with the principal of the relevant school with a view to involving the assigned NEPS psychologist in the issue where appropriate.

I applaud the Minister's heartfelt intentions. However, the reality appears to be different in the sense that I have parents coming to me who are completely frustrated with the fact that the HSE has a duty with regard to the assessment of need and children have been waiting for 18 months or two years and still have not been assessed. That has a domino effect regarding the lack of supports provided in schools. It holds the entire system back. The Minister talked about a model that perhaps bypasses it. That is not filtering into schools and that is the reality for the parents on the ground. Not only are the parents frustrated, but so are school principals who are tasked with trying to coax and cajole students into class every day because there are developmental, mental health and learning difficulty issues. They do not have the supports in schools to deal with that. How good is the communication between the Minister's Department and the HSE when it comes to assessment of need? Some 18 months to two years is just not good enough.

Is the Minister aware that many parents and grandparents are being forced to go privately because the waiting list for assessments is so long? In the case of a child who may have autism spectrum disorder, ASD, issues, there is no provision to get an assessment at any time before the child is three and a half. By then, the child may have clear verbal issues and other behavioural issues. I realise the Minister has only come to this recently but I have heard of people spending €1,200 on assessments, with parents, grandparents and the rest of the family banding together to try to get this vital assessment. Unless a child has the assessment, nothing can be done for him or her. Schools are also trying to help. It is a very difficult area. The assessments are meant to cost €200 to €400 but, in practice, many assessments cost much more than that.

The most important time in any child's development is the first 1,000 days. We are talking about early years, the transition to junior primary school, and the process and ongoing progression into senior classes in primary school. I was speaking to a principal in a school this morning and she was talking about a delay when an assessment was given in early years, then there was a delay going into senior infants and then first class. There is an issue with the co-ordination between different stakeholders, including the HSE and officials in different Departments. That is why I am trying to work this pilot in a comprehensive way that does not just look at primary school but at that process from early years onward. Schools will have that information rather than just meeting the student at the front gate. That pilot will start in September. We have allocated €4.75 million to it but I want to see that model developing. It will be evaluated. It will not address the immediate issues of frustration for parents, as the Deputy pointed out, or for teachers, but we have to get the co-ordination and the progress from early years to junior right.

To go back to the initial point I was making, what is the Minister's target for clearing the backlogs that exist with regard to providing supports for students and bypassing the lengthy procedure that they currently go through? I will give another example. There is a second year secondary school student whose mum is exasperated. She cannot get her child to school. There is a developmental issue and a requirement for learning support.

He has now run into a serious number of days of absenteeism which brings a whole raft of other difficulties for his parents. It does not help relations between school management, authorities and parents who are doing their best. The school is doing its best but there is no communication and no link. That child is falling through the net.

There was a big change in 2017. The revised allocation process replaced the need for diagnosis and the school got the profile funding and the first port of call for a student into a primary school for example is not dependent on a diagnosis. In this social inclusion pilot model we are trying to have the same profiling that schools do not follow the diagnosis but an allocation and it is up to them to allocate those resources. It is important to point out that we need collaboration such that in an early year setting if a three year old is diagnosed as needing speech and language support the primary school principal knows that and has that information when they come into junior infants to ensure that support continues rather than having to wait a year or two. It is a big challenge but it is the right thing to do and we need to look at new ways of doing it.

In terms of the money that has come in since 2011, €1.75 billion a year, we are looking at a 44% increase in special needs assistants, SNAs, to 15,000. A lot of work has been done and whether it is special educational needs officers, SENOS, or people who work in the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, they are working very hard. But things are changing and there are different complex issues in homes that we need to be careful of. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that each child irrespective of his or her challenges gets equal treatment.

Schools Inspections

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

10. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the factors driving a decline in the number of full-time equivalent primary district inspectors in 2018; the actions he is taking to address vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19840/19]

Baineann an cheist seo leis an laghdú atá ag teacht ar líon na gcigirí scoile sa chóras bunscolaíochta. Tá mé ag iarraidh a fháil amach ón Aire céard iad na gníomhaíochtaí atá á dhéanamh aige chun an rud seo a stopadh. Iarraim air a rá linn céard é an plean atá aige i gcomhair na gcigirí sna bunscoileanna.

Tá droch-chuimhne agam ar mo thaithí i dtaobh cigirí. Bhí imní orm agus ar mo chomhghleacaithe sa rang nuair a bhí muid ag fanacht ar na cigirí sna 1970í. Tá sé difriúil anois, buíochas le Dia. Tá na cigirí uilig ag obair leis na scoileanna. Tá caidreamh agus comhluadar iontach dearfach idir na scoileanna agus na cigirí. Ba mhaith liom aitheantas a ghabháil chuig na cigirí uilig fá choinne an tiomantas a léiríonn siad i dtaobh a gcuid dualgais agus iad ag obair leis na scoileanna. Tá na cigirí agus na scoileanna ag obair le chéile ar mhaithe leis an chéad ghlúin eile.

At primary district inspector level, the figure between 2008 and 2017 has remained between 31 and 35. Any fluctuation in numbers can be attributed to departures from the grade through retirements, resignations or promotions.

The figure of 27.8 at 31 December 2018 arises because all panels created from the competition for primary district inspectors that was run in 2016 by the Public Appointments Service were cleared in October 2018. As a result, there was no capacity to fill vacancies.

The human resources unit of my Department has been in discussion with the Public Appointments Service and a competition is expected to be advertised this month, May 2019, with a view to recruitment of primary district inspectors in time for the 2019-20 academic year.

The Deputy's question and intervention are timely and I will ensure that he is kept up to speed on this.

I am glad to hear that because several people in recent months were expressing concerns about the inspectorate generally to me and numbers have declined overall, particularly in primary schools. That creates a huge difficulty, first as a career path for teachers which is important but also because inspectors play a key role in inspecting schools. They can also be an extra support to schools especially in the area of special needs where I have been told they can be quite helpful. It was in the context of special needs that the concern was expressed to me about the reduction in the number of inspectors.

They play a vital role in ensuring the quality of our schools. As their numbers decline they have to achieve more with less or simply not do it at all. The number of schools has increased significantly. Standards have increased. Does the Minister have any view on the impact this decline has had over recent years, and in particular the number of inspections?

From my observations in the six months I have been in this job, when I attend at different projects such as the launch of the social inclusion model or, for example, the school I was in this morning, St. Patrick’s National Junior and Senior School in Corduff. The inspector was there in the school. It was very obvious that the inspector knows what is happening in the school and is working with it in a very proactive way. There is an inbuilt flexibility there that inspectors are willing to work with change, with what needs to be changed and with the schools on their needs. It was great to sit down with both principals, junior and senior, with the inspector and to hear their different perspectives and to highlight the fact that it is not an us and them situation, that the inspectors do not have a vigilant role alone, but are also part of the solutions. Any time there is a depletion in resources it has an impact on the role. I look forward to this new recruitment to support the existing service because the inspectors are doing a good job.

I will keep an eye on that and table further questions. I welcome the announcement the Minister made about the recruitment of further inspectors. An interesting point of useless information: the word "cigire" is an invented word, made up approximately 100 years ago. There is no derivation for it. It was a mistake which is ironic for the type of job it represents. It is called a ghost word. There are various examples of them and that is one.

They play a very important role. There are many more kids in primary school and more primary schools. I welcome what the Minister has said. We will be keeping an eye on it and I think teachers and parents will too.

I remember the inspector in our primary school. I still know him because his grandkids play football with my kids. He was a very familiar figure in the school. I imagine he was a considerable help to a small school that was starting off then. I have made calls to members of the current inspectorate about problem issues where there is a bit of soft information and I ask either what is the story or do they want to know something. I find it very useful to be able to do that and let them do their job if there was something to do rather than my getting involved in a particular issue. I welcome what the Minister has said and we look forward to its implementation.

Youth Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

11. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the purpose and function of the City of Dublin Youth Services Board; the number of staff employed by job title and grade; the number of staff on secondment or career break by title and grade; and the number of staff bilocated. [19722/19]

My question relates to the City of Dublin Youth Services Board, CDYSB, its purpose and function and the number of staff employed there by job title and grade, the number on secondment or career break and the number bilocated.

The City of Dublin Youth Service Board, CDYSB, is a committee of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board, CDETB, and was established in 1942. In accordance with the Education and Training Board’s Act 2013, the role of CDYSB is to support the provision, co-ordination, administration and assessment of youth services in their functional area and provide such information as may be required by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in relation to this support. Responsibility for the management and oversight of youth project funding lies with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with the education and training boards acting as grant administering bodies for the disbursement of funding under the various youth funding schemes.

CDYSB is also responsible to the Department of Health and to my Department for the administration of grant aid.

The stated mission of CDYSB is to promote youth work and volunteerism and to enable young people to realise their potential within their communities and a changing society.

Staff in CDYSB are employees of CDETB. CDETB has advised my Department that there are currently 31 staff working with the youth service board. Of those staff 13 are funded through my Department while the remainder are funded through other projects. Of the 31 staff employed I understand that these are across 13 different job grades. I further understand that there are three staff working with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, one staff member on secondment and no staff members currently on career break. I will circulate with this answer the staffing numbers and the associated grades of the CDYSB for the information of the Deputy.

Staffing in CDYSB

Information provided by CDETB May 2019

Breakdown of CDYSB Staff:

Job Title:

Headcount:

WTE:

Job Grade:

Director

1

1

Director

Head of Operations

1

1

Head of Operations

Development Officers

4

4

Development Officers

Liaison Officers

8

7.92

Liaison Officers

Senior Youth Worker

7

6.76

Senior Youthworker

Finance & Governance

2

2

Senior Youthworker

Head of Finance

1

1

Assistant Principal Officer

Administrative Officer

1

1

Administrative Officer

Staff Officer

2

2

Staff Officer

Assistant Staff Officer

1

0.58

Assistant Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

1

0.8

Clerical Officer

Assistant Porter

1

1

Assistant Porter

General Operative

1

0.57

General Operative

Total:

31

29.63

Staff working in DCYA:

Development Officer

1

1

Development Officer

Liaison Officers

2

2

Liaison Officers

Seconded Staff:

Liaison Officer

1

0.60

Liaison Officer

This question was originally addressed to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and I was quite surprised when it was sent over to the Department of Education and Skills. When an organisation falls between a number of Departments, it is not a great scenario in terms of assessing the work of that organisation.

I wish to talk about the value of youth services and youth work in the context of the constituency that I represent. I am aware of the work that the organisation does in an area where young people are facing blatant drug dealing and intimidation. It is an area with many early school leavers and high-needs groups, including homeless people and young people from new communities, some of whom are undocumented or are unaccompanied minors. There is a lot of specific work going on and the CDYSB is supposed to be the body overseeing all of that.

As the Minister said, the board was set up in 1942 but the environment has changed a lot since then. I am not sure that the youth service board is keeping up with the changes in the environment. Are there any plans to conduct a review or an assessment of the work, in view of the changing needs? Such a review would enable us to ensure that the CDYSB is addressing the needs of young people at the most appropriate time.

It would be remiss of me not to say that a conversation is always needed when it comes to the more informal aspects of education. As someone who previously worked in the formal secondary school sector before moving into community youth work, I saw the benefits of both working closely together while remaining separate because informal youth work is a very different concept. Given the changes in society in both rural and urban settings and the obvious challenges in the latter, I am happy to explore potential solutions in order to remain up to speed with the needs of present day society.

A lot of this is the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and in that context, I would be happy to facilitate a meeting between officials from that Department, Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and myself to see where we are at in the context of needs. There are great organisations involved in youth work and the provision of youth services but there is always a need for more resources.

While I appreciate what the Minister has just said, the challenges facing young people today are far greater than when certain organisations were set up in the 1940s. For that reason, there is a need to constantly evaluate how those challenges are being addressed by the people who are being paid to do that work. I am interested in the job titles of some of the 31 staff because I am hearing from some of those involved in youth projects that there is not much hands-on or direct engagement with young people. They said that so much time is taken up with administration, finance and governance issues, which is not what the board was set up to do. There are questions around that issue. As I said, I addressed a number of questions to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, but this one was transferred to the Department of Education and Skills. I agree that it would be important to have a meeting and I thank the Minister for his offer.

I am happy to facilitate that at an official level. It is also important to point out that we cannot brand all youth organisations and those working in informal or formal youth work in the same way because many of them do different things and are unique to their respective areas, cultures or communities. One thing I know for sure is that if young people are not leading youth work themselves, if they are not in charge and if we do not facilitate the empowerment of young people in their communities, not alone will they will not be part of it, they will not drive the change that is necessary. My experience tells me that when we give young people responsibility and space and freedom to express themselves, that is when change happens. I am deeply conscious of the fact that we need to adapt to change constantly. Society is changing but the one constant is that when young people are given even an inch of responsibility, they jump at the opportunity. I am happy to work with the Deputy on this issue.

Questions Nos. 12 and 13 replied to with Written Answers.

Tá cúpla nóiméad fágtha. B'fhéidir go bhfuil am againn chun ceist dheireanach a thógáil. Bogfaimid ar aghaidh go dtí ceist Uimh. 14 in ainm Teachta Funchion. Glaoim ar an Teachta Quinlivan.

It is a question on whether the Department has plans to review the process under which schools receive resources and additional staff for ASD classes in order to achieve more flexibility for schools to apply for and receive the necessary resources at multiple points during the school year, rather than at the start of the school year, as happens in the majority of cases.

Tá brón orm-----

If we are running out of time, I am happy to accept a written reply.

Tá mé idir dhá chomhairle maidir leis an cheist. Tá an freagra agam. Má tá sé ceart go leor, seolfaidh mé ar aghaidh é. I will send it to the Deputy.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.