Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (89, 103)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

89. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to address the increasing numbers of special needs pupils at primary level in view of the curtailment in funding to support such pupils; if he has assessed the impact of the curtailment of special needs assistants on children with special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25045/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of additional students he expects in the primary and secondary system from September 2013; if he will increase the number of special needs assistants and resource teachers to match demand and avoid services to existing students being cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25491/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 103 together.

The Programme for Government sets out that education will be a priority for this Government and that we will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students. Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department – some €1.3 billion – was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2011/12. The provision for the 2012/13 school year is in line with expenditure last year and shows that despite the current economic difficulties, the overall level of funding for special education has been retained.

I wish to clarify also that the number of Special Needs Assistants and Resource and Learning Support Teachers has been maintained. Approximately 10,000 posts have been provided for Resource and Learning Support Teachers for the current school year and 10,575 posts have been provided for Special Needs Assistants. These are at the same levels as last year.

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 the allocation of resource teaching hours and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

All schools were advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2013/14 school year by 15th March 2013. The NCSE are currently processing these applications and schools will be notified by SENOs of their resource teaching and SNA allocation for 2013/14 in advance of the coming school year, based on the number of valid applications received. As part of the assessment of applications received for 2013/14, the NCSE will be in a position to consider whether there has been increased demand for supports this year, arising from demographic growth or other factors, and will be in a position to advise of the demand for supports for the coming school year.

The position in relation to the allocations which will be made to schools for the coming school year will be considered in light of the number of applications for support received by the NCSE and the need to remain within the staffing limits set by the Government's Employment Control Framework.

School Textbooks

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 85.

Ceisteanna (90)

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

90. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he intends to implement as part of the State support for reducing the financial burden on parents when clothing and equipping their children for school; and his plans to introduce a mandatory code of practice to better regulate the publication of school text books. [25390/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Tackling the costs associated with school is a major priority of mine and there are practical steps that schools can take to reduce these costs for parents. One such step is the establishment of Textbook Rental Schemes by schools. I am very much in favour of schools establishing such schemes. Schools that have such rental schemes can save parents up to 80% of the cost of buying new books. Because of this, I launched "Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools" on 28 January 2013. The Guidelines provide practical advice to primary and post-primary schools on how rental schemes can be established and operated.

These Guidelines, along with a Guide for Parents to inform them of how the schemes operate and how parents can help schools to establish and run them, are currently being sent out to every school in the country and are also available on my Department's website. They were also made available for the websites of both national parents' councils, Barnardos and the society of St Vincent de Paul. In addition, I received a commitment from the Irish Educational Publishers Association to limit the publication of new editions of textbooks and to maintain editions of books in print, unchanged for at least six years. The publishers have assured me that they would sell books for rental schemes to schools at substantial discounts.

I have also previously put on the record of this House my support for any measures that can be put in place to reduce uniform costs for parents including measures such as the use of generic type uniforms or the use of "sew on" crests. I have raised this matter informally with the National Parents Council at primary level and I recommended that the National Parents Councils – Primary and Post Primary mobilise parents associations to raise this issue with school authorities. It is very important that all schools are sensitive to the financial pressures on parents in making decisions, not just about school uniforms or books, but about any matter that has cost implications for parents.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 85.

Early Child Care Education

Ceisteanna (92)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

92. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the early childhood care and education joint evaluation undertaken by the Health Service Executive and his Department to assess the levels of quality in State funded early childhood education provision was completed; the reason the report has not been published; the date when same will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25504/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The joint pilot inspection carried out by my Department's Inspectorate and the HSE's pre-school Inspectorate arose from an action included in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. Under this action, the two Inspectorates were required to co-operate on the development and pilot testing of a joint inspection arrangement for evaluation of early years provision in pre-schools funded the ECCE initiative. The report was presented to both my Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in November 2012. Arising from the findings of the joint evaluation, the two Departments are currently considering how best to develop and implement improved quality assurance processes for ECCE in the future. When the deliberations have concluded the report will be placed in the public domain.

Student Grant Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (93)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

93. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate having regard to the experience to date, the extent to which particular administrative issues have been identified in the way Student Universal Support Ireland has dealt with higher education grant applications with particular reference to the delays experienced by applicants; if particular issues have been identified as being of pivotal importance in the future with particular reference to the need to achieve a reliable, efficient, cost-effective and transparent service; the extent to which comparisons have been made with the previous system whereby individual local authorities dealt with applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25454/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The City of Dublin VEC commissioned an external review of SUSI, to identify the causes of the difficulties and to set out a specific programme of action to address them, so as to ensure that similar difficulties and delays will not be experienced for 2013/14. The Review examined the business systems and processes deployed by SUSI and assessed their adequacy in delivering on the overall business goals and objectives of reforming the administration of student grants.

I am informed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that, in line with recommendations in the Review and in preparation for the 2013/2014 Academic year, both the online application system and the application assessment process are being further developed to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency and respond to experiences from year 1. The online application system has opened on May 20th a number of weeks earlier than for the 2012/13 academic year. For new applicants going to or returning to college for the 2013/2014 academic year, new initiatives will make their application to SUSI more efficient this year. The initiatives include direct information sharing with SUSI from Government Bodies and Agencies including the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection, General Register Office (GRO) and the Central Applications Office (CAO). These links will reduce significantly the number of documents required.

In addition to these developments core staff are now on site. These trained and experienced staff are cross functional and a number of these staff are now fully proficient in specialist areas such as self-employed/farming, appeals and nationality. Revised document management process and systems are in place and a tracking system is being developed which will allow students to follow the progress of their application online and reduce call centre volumes. Comparisons with the previous year show that by the 20th January 2013 the number of applications processed were 18% ahead of those at the same date in 2012.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (94)

Derek Keating

Ceist:

94. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline details of his proposals to provide school extensions for schools (details supplied) in County Dublin where both schools are in the same campus and where both schools have been listed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25042/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project at the schools referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of Architectural Planning. The Boards of Management and their Design Team have recently been authorised to proceed to complete Stage 2A of Architectural Planning, which is the Developed Sketch Design Stage. Due to competing demands on my Department's capital budget, imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements, it was not possible to include this project in the five year construction programme announced in March 2012. School building projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, which have not been included in the five year construction programme, but which were previously initiated will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to the Department in the future.

Teacher Recruitment

Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 75.

Ceisteanna (95)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

95. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a statement by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland's general secretary (details supplied) that the difficulties facing newly qualified teachers in securing permanent positions is impacting on the quality of the State's education service; and if he will consider the establishment of a panel system of entry to second level teaching which would provide some form of employment security for teachers. [25403/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The revised proposals put forward by the Labour Relations Commission for the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 contain a number of commitments to help newly qualified teachers secure permanent positions in the Education sector. An Expert Group is to be established to consider and report on the level of fixed-term and part-time employment in teaching, having regard to the importance for teachers of employment stability and security. In addition, the agreement includes proposals to establish a supplementary panel for teachers who have had sustained periods of employment with more than one school/VEC over an extended period of time. The public service trade unions are currently considering the outcome of these negotiations. In light of that, I do not think that it would be helpful to this ongoing process for me to comment or elaborate upon proposals which were carefully constructed by the LRC.

Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 75.

Special Educational Needs Staffing

Ceisteanna (97)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

97. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify the role of the special needs assistant; and his plans to broaden the scope of the role to further facilitate the needs of children with special educational needs. [25458/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that my Department has published a Value for Money (VFM) and Policy Analysis Review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme. This review is available on my Departments website: www.education.gov.ie.

The Review has shown that the SNA Scheme has been successful in supporting schools in meeting the needs of students with disabilities who also have significant care needs. However, the review also found that the allocation process is generally not well understood within schools and by parents nor is the purpose of the Scheme fully understood. The review recommended that the SNA scheme should be restated to ensure an efficient allocation of SNA resources and to clarify the 'care' nature of the SNA role for parents, schools and professionals. However, the review did not recommend expanding the role of the SNA.

The National Council for Special Education also recently published its report on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which recommended that my Department should clarify the role of the SNA, as recommended in the recent VFM report. It is my intention that a new Circular be issued to schools in the near future which will provide clarification for schools and parents with regard to the role of the SNA.

Teachers' Remuneration

Ceisteanna (98)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

98. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the salary level on which new teachers will be hired from September 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25496/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Teachers are employed by the managerial authorities of schools. An appropriately qualified and registered teacher being appointed for the first time in September 2013 will commence on a salary scale of €30,702 per annum. The full salary scales for appropriately qualified and registered teachers being appointed for the first time with effect from the 1st February 2012 are outlined in my Departments' Circular 8/2013. The Circular is available on my Departments' website.

School Staffing

Ceisteanna (99, 114, 115)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

99. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his policy on the staffing ratios in small rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25044/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

114. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will halt the increase of pupil requirement thresholds for teaching posts for two, three and four teacher schools at the 2012-13 academic year levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25438/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

115. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether 55 children across eight streams in just two classrooms is an acceptable scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25439/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99, 114 and 115 together.

The Deputies will be aware that in the context of Budget 2012, I announced a three year phased adjustment to increase the relevant pupil thresholds for small schools with four teachers or less. The staffing arrangements in small primary schools are considerably more favourable than other medium to larger schools. The budget measure is focused on dealing with this cost premium, on a phased basis, through progressively increasing the pupil thresholds for the allocation of classroom teachers in small primary schools. This budget measure relates to the number of teachers allocated to small primary schools and there are no plans to change it.

This Government has protected education as much as it can. In these extremely challenging times, all public servants are being asked to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources and teachers in small schools cannot be immune from this requirement. The value for money review of small primary school provision is at an advanced stage of preparation. I expect to publish the review and I look forward to debating its findings at that stage.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (100)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

100. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are any instances in which his Department is paying rental for prefabricated classrooms in schools for the purpose of use as autism units but where an autism unit has not been opened; if he will list the proposed autism units which are not yet opened but where the buildings/prefabs are in place; the cost of these unused accommodations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25392/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is unaware of instances where rental grant for prefabricated classrooms has been provided to schools for autism units and where such units have not yet opened. Grants are provided where the need to establish such units has been established and approved by the National Council for Special Education. However, if the Deputy has a specific school in mind, he might wish to provide the details to my Department and I will arrange to check out the position.

Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

Ceisteanna (101)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

101. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills in the context of the uniqueness of a college (details supplied) in Dublin 12, if he will lift the cap on student numbers. [25047/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The total number of approved places available nationwide under the PLC programme is 32,688. My Department is not in a position to increase this number as there is a continuing requirement to plan and control staff numbers and to manage expenditure within the context of overall educational policy and provision. The College referred to by the Deputy is operated as an approved Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) centre by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). Resources are allocated by my Department under the PLC programme to CDVEC and further distribution of these resources to colleges under its remit, including this college, is a matter for CDVEC.

Schools Building Projects Status

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 89.

Ceisteanna (102)

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

102. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the extension to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 is at tender stage in time to qualify for the stimulus package as announced in 2012. [25462/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. Due to competing demands on the Department's capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements it was not possible to include this project in the 5 year construction programme announced in March 2012. School building projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, which have not been included in the five year construction programme, but which were previously initiated will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to the Department in the future.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 89.

Institutes of Technology

Ceisteanna (104)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

104. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the investigation by the Higher Education Authority that is to examine the expense claims by institutes of technology including its terms of reference; and the projected timescale for when it is to be completed. [25401/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I have requested the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to undertake an evaluation of Governing Body expenses in the Institutes of Technology. The evaluation will cover the financial years 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012. It is expected that the HEA will present their report on the evaluation to my Department in the third quarter of this year.

Summer Works Scheme

Ceisteanna (105)

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

105. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there will be a summer works scheme this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25490/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In view of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation, it is not possible for me to advance with a summer works programme in 2013. My Department's over-riding objective is to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place. To ensure that this is achieved, the delivery of major school projects to meet significant demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The Five Year school building programme is focused on meeting those demographic needs.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (106)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

106. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the discussions he has had with the Department of Finance regarding the removal of VAT from e-books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25502/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The rate of VAT charged on educational e-books is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law. Under the EU VAT Directive, electronic publications are treated as the supply of a service liable at the standard rate of VAT. There is no option under EU VAT law to exempt e-books from VAT or to apply a reduced rate to them.

This issue is of concern not only in Ireland but in a number of EU member states. The EU Commission published a white paper on the future of VAT with the objective of delivering a future VAT system tailored for the Single Market. The Commission also carried out an extensive consultation process. A summary report of the outcomes of the public consultation process is now available. It is worth noting that the report states that there was an almost unanimous call for equal treatment of printed books and e-books.

I have brought my concerns to the attention of the Minister for Finance in whose Department decisions on this matter will be made. I remain committed to the ICT in Schools Programme which must continue to adapt to take account of new technologies and opportunities to further integrate ICT in teaching and learning and the use of e-books is integral to this process.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (107)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

107. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy in relation to the awarding of tenders for school construction projects; if there are any specific checks carried out to ensure that contractors awarded tenders have no outstanding disputes with subcontractors for previous works; if he will list all of the school building projects in which a contractor failed to complete the terms of the tender and had to be replaced in the past five years; if he will itemise the total cost to the State of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25046/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School building projects are tendered in line with public procurement procedures. There are two methods of tendering (the Restricted procedure and the Open procedure). In both procedures there are minimum standards for participation (including previous experience, turnover, insurances, capacity to obtain a bond etc). The minimum standards for participation are stated in the Contract notice/ eTenders advertisement.

For less complex projects of a small to medium scale, the open procedure is generally used and all contractors meeting the minimum standards are entitled to submit a tender (thus facilitating the inclusion of small to medium enterprises and those with no experience in educational projects). For larger or more complex projects, where it is considered that pre-qualification of contractors is warranted, the Restricted procedure is normally used. In the Restricted procedure, there is an intermediary qualification stage during which the numbers of applicants is reduced (or restricted) to a specified amount (normally 10). The criteria for suitability assessment, which are taken from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Capital Management Works Framework, include company turnover, insurances, capacity to obtain a bond, personnel for the project, previous experience, and Health and Safety competence. Guidance on this process and standard questionnaires used are available on my Department's website.

In any procurement process my Department adheres to the rules and guidelines set down by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the EU Commission in relation to public procurement. This includes the Department of Finance Circular 10/10, which aims to remove obstacles to SMEs in tendering for public sector contracts.

A building project is a complex arrangement of contractual relationships between the client, the main contractor, specialist sub-contractors, domestic sub-contractors, suppliers of materials, suppliers of plant etc. In general all sub-contractors employed on education sector building projects are employed directly by the Main Contractor or indirectly by the Main Contractor through other sub-contractors. It is a matter for all sub-contractors to agree terms and conditions and a schedule of payments with the Main Contractor as their direct employer.

Details of the schools over the last four years that have had building contracts terminated prior to the school's completion was provided to the Deputy in a PQ answer on May 21st. For the Deputy's convenience I have attached this list and updated it to include details for the last five years as now requested.

There was a bond in place for each of the eleven projects. The bond is used to cover costs that would otherwise accrue to the Employer (i.e. the Department, School, VEC etc.) on foot of a contractor's failure to complete the works. As such the Employer's financial exposure is generally minimal. Negotiations are ongoing with regard to a number of these projects and in some cases the full cost of re-tendering and completion of the works is not yet known. The Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to release commercially sensitive cost information which is currently the subject of negotiations. To do so would undermine the Department's position with regard to such negotiations.

County

Roll Number

School Name

Year in which issue arose

Reason for Re-tender

Kilkenny

61580P

Loreto Secondary School, Granges Road

2012

Insolvency Event

Kildare

17674B

SN Aine Naofa, Ard Cloc, Straffan

2012

Termination due to Contractors Default

Dublin City

20139T

Inchicore NS, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10

2011

Insolvency Event

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

70030E

Senior College, Dún Laoghaire, Eblana Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin

2011

Insolvency Event

Galway City

62970K

Coláiste Iognáid SJ Bothar na Mara

2011

Insolvency Event

Limerick

13026P

Kilfinane National School

2011

Insolvency Event

Limerick City

64201T

Ardscoil Ris, North Circular Rd, Limerick

2011

Insolvency Event

Roscommon

65100S

Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown, Co Roscommon

2011

Insolvency Event

Offaly

17523D

SN Cronain Naofa, Dromakeenan

2010

Insolvency Event

Kildare

17662R

Scoil Bhride NS , Kill

2009

Insolvency Event

Meath

18016O

S N Columbain, Ballivor

2008

Insolvency Event

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (108)

John Halligan

Ceist:

108. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate when a school (details supplied) in County Dublin will get the funds for upgrading and refurbishment for which it has been waiting for for 14 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25473/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. Stage 2b of the project which includes Planning Permission, Fire Certification, Disability Access Certification (DAC) and the preparation of tender documents has been approved. The project was recently authorised to pre-qualify for contractors which will complete Stage 2b. The project is scheduled on the five year school building programme to go to construction in 2015/16.

Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (109)

Eamonn Maloney

Ceist:

109. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been made on the approval of the South Dublin County Council owned site, identified as a suitable site to accommodate a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25301/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has been in discussion with South Dublin County Council regarding Council owned land adjacent to the existing location of the school to which he has referred. Given the challenges identified with this site, particularly those related to its small size, my Department and South Dublin County Council are exploring whether other options in the general area might offer a better long term solution to the school's accommodation requirements before a final decision is made on the matter.