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Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014

Written Answers Nos. 247-271

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (247)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

247. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to previous parliamentary questions, if he will now re-examine a student grant appeal and issue a 100% non-adjacent rate, 100% maintenance grant and 100% fees and student contribution, as previously confirmed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7585/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the student referred to by the Deputy has been awarded the full non-adjacent maintenance grant. She is not eligible for a fee grant. The Student Support Act 2011 provides that the payment of tuition fees be limited to approved courses of higher education at an approved institution in the State, other than for exceptional provision in respect of postgraduate course in Northern Ireland. In addition given the level of demand on the student grant budget it is not possible to include fee grants for students studying outside of the State. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form is available to download from http://www.studentfinance.ie/downloads/1375344221/2013_SGAB_appeal_form.pdf.

Teacher Training Places

Ceisteanna (248)

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

248. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties of trainee teachers in their attempts to gain probationary teaching hours; if he will put in place a strategy to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7602/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am aware that some qualified teachers may experience difficulty in accessing teaching hours to complete their probation for registration purposes because they do not yet hold a teaching position in a school. Measures have been taken by my Department and the Teaching Council to alleviate difficulties faced by teachers in this regard. One measure relates to the minimum service requirement for probation purposes to secure registration with the Teaching Council as a primary teacher being decreased from 170 days to 100 days in the 2011-12 school year. If an applicant is unable to complete the requirements of a registration condition within the specified period, he or she may apply to the Council for an extension to that period. In addition, under circular 46/2011 my Department allowed schools and ETBs to participate in the National Internship Scheme, JobBridge, administered by the Department of Social Protection should they so choose. JobBridge can provide valuable teaching experience to teachers and assist them in securing employment subsequently. Particularly, a JobBridge internship may allow a newly qualified teacher to undergo the probation process and become registered without conditions with the Teaching Council, providing a pathway to an increased range of a career opportunities.In the wider context, my Department is endeavouring to minimise the impact of recession wherever possible, this includes provision for additional teachers in primary and post primary schools, as well as additional resource teachers for children with special educational needs.

Teacher Secondment

Ceisteanna (249, 250, 253)

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

249. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding primary school teachers who have been seconded to the special education support service and have now been informed that they will return to their schools in September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7603/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

250. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rationale for sending teachers (details supplied), many of whom have gained extra skills and experience, back to the classroom in September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7605/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

253. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person who will provide continuous professional development for teachers in the area of special educational needs as those who currently do so have been informed they will be returning to classroom teaching in September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7684/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249, 250 and 253 together. My Department, through the teacher support services, engages teachers on a full time basis annually for the provision of continuing professional development (CPD) through secondment from their schools. These arrangements provide flexibility and ensure that the needs and priorities of the service are met. Given the importance of the teaching experience and expertise required for the role, it is a condition of the sanction received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that the maximum length of time that a teacher may be on secondment is set at five years. The support services, including the Special Education Support Service (SESS), must engage in succession planning as a key strategy in ensuring continued support for teachers and school leaders in implementing national education policy priorities and CPD. Teachers continue to be employed by their Boards of Management while on secondment to work with the support services. Secondments are renewed, where necessary, on an annual basis and are subject to a number of provisions including the five-year limit referenced above, the priority needs of the service and the Board of Management's continuing approval. There are eighteen full-time members on the SESS programme who are currently seconded from their primary and post-primary schools.

Departmental Staff Career Breaks

Ceisteanna (251)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

251. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form, the number of staff in his Department currently on a sabbatical or career break, broken down by 0 to six months, six to 12 months, one year to two years, two to three years, four to five years and five years plus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7626/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out on the table.

Department of Education and Skills - Career Breaks

0-6 months

6-12 months

1-2 years

2-3 years

4-5 years

5 years plus

-

3

6

3

6

2

Departmental Staff Sick Leave

Question No. 253 answered with Question No. 249.

Ceisteanna (252)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

252. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form, the total number of uncertified sick days taken by employees in his Department and the average uncertified sick days per employee taken; the total certified sick days taken by employees; the average certified sick days per employee; the total sick days taken by employees; the average total sick days and median overall sick days per employee in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. [7642/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested was provided in a response to a similar parliamentary question tabled by the Deputy on 18, June 2013 (Reference Number:150).

Question No. 253 answered with Question No. 249.

Special Education Review

Ceisteanna (254)

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

254. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the review of the visiting teacher services; if any of the parents of the affected children are being consulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7707/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Visiting Teacher Service for children with Visual and Hearing Impairment provides assistance for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and children who are blind or visually impaired.

In May 2013 the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) brought forward policy advice which recommended that the service should be reviewed. Accordingly, an independent review of this service is currently being conducted line with the NCSE recommendations.

The review is being conducted by two independent reviewers who are tasked with reviewing the role and function of the Visiting Teacher Service in accordance with the Terms of Reference of the Review, which are available on my Department's website, with a view to making recommendations for consideration to my Department.

The reviewers have met and consulted with members of the Visiting Teacher service and with a broad range of individuals as well as statutory and non-statutory organisations who are involved in the education of children who are blind or visually impaired and children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Parents, children, teachers and other interested parties have had the opportunity to contribute to the review by making a submission and/or by answering a questionnaire which was available on my Department's website www.education.ie. Submissions and responses to questionnaires are managed by the independent reviewers. The deadline for making submissions and responding to questionnaires was 31 January 2013.

I understand the review will be concluded by the middle of March 2014.

School Staffing

Ceisteanna (255, 295)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

255. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an English as an additional language post for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7733/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

295. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an English as an additional language post will be retained by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8333/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 295 together.

The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts for the 14/15 school year is set out in Primary Circular 0007/2014 which is available on the Department website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing process also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

The appeals criteria include the provision whereby schools with a high concentration of pupils requiring English as an additional language (EAL) can apply for additional temporary language support posts. These EAL allocations are made on the basis of appeals by schools to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board, using projected enrolment for the following September.

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an appeal on EAL grounds to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. The Appeals Board will meet later this month and the school will be notified of the Board's decision in due course.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Minister and the Department and its decision is final.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (256)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

256. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the length of time a special needs child, who is in a special class in a mainstream school, can stay in a post primary school if they have reached 18 years of age (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7739/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the standard maximum period of second-level education is six years. The circumstances in which an individual pupil may repeat a year at post-primary level, and the arrangements that apply in this regard, are set out in my Departments Circular M02/95, which is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

The terms of the Circular apply to all pupils alike, regardless of whether or not they have special educational needs.

Value for Money Reviews

Ceisteanna (257)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

257. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for not publishing the value for money report on two-teacher schools; the persons who carried out the report; the cost of same; when he received the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7755/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The value for money review of small primary schools was conducted by a Steering Committee, comprising civil servants from relevant Government Departments and was led by an independent external chairperson. The chairperson was paid the standard fee for chairing a Value for Money Review, namely €1,800 gross. The other committee members undertook the review work as part of their range of duties. The report of the review was received by me in April 2013. Due to the scope of the review, it has been necessary to consult with Government colleagues on the wide range of issues it raises. That consultation process is well advanced. It is my intention that the report will be published as soon as my Government colleagues and I have finalised our consideration of the report and its recommendations.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (258)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

258. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of each pupil-teacher ratio reduction by one in the primary and secondary sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7768/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Teacher allocations to all schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. The staffing schedule at primary level operates on the basis of 1 classroom teacher for an average of every 28 pupils. Teachers are allocated at post-primary level on the basis of 1 teacher for every 19 pupils (23 pupils in the case of fee-charging schools). More favourable ratios operate in DEIS schools. A yield of the order of 250 posts (€15m) at primary level and 850 posts (€55m) at post primary level is estimated for each one point adjustment to the staffing schedule.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (259)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

259. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a student grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [7817/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter in the first instance for the awarding authority. Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the application of the student referred to by the Deputy was refused on 31 January, 2014. The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application in relation to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant. If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to the appeals officer in SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form is available to download from http://www.studentfinance.ie/downloads/1375344221/2013_SGAB_appeal_form.pdf

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (260)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

260. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath may expect a decision on their application for summer works programme. [7853/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school, to which the Deputy refers, has not submitted an application for summer works, but has recently submitted an application for funding for additional accommodation.

The application concerned is currently being assessed and a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities when this process has been finalised.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (261)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

261. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their application for additional accommodation. [7854/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that funding towards the provision of one mainstream classroom and one resource room was approved by my Department for the school, in question, in December last.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

262. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7855/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

263. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7856/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

264. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7857/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

265. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7858/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

266. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for additional accommodation. [7859/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

267. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7860/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

268. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on its application for summer works programme. [7861/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 to 268, inclusive, together. I wish to advise the Deputy that commensurate with the level of funding available for the Summer Works Scheme, applications are currently being assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (59/2013) is available on my Department's website www.education.ie. It is my intention to publish a list of successful applicants in early 2014.

Bullying of Children

Ceisteanna (269)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

269. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the Net Children Go Mobile study on children’s use of the Internet in Ireland, recent research which found that 22% of children have experienced bullying online; and his plans to address this matter within the school system. [7862/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I am aware of the findings of the Net Children Go Mobile Report in relation to online bullying. The Report provides the initial findings from Ireland and is part of the Net Children Go Mobile European two-year research project under the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme. It builds on previous research by the EU Kids Online network into children's risks and safety online. My Department has provided funding towards the Irish element of this research and I look forward to the final report which is expected later in the year. In January 2013, my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and I published the Action Plan on Bullying. Since then, good progress has been made on implementing actions designed to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. These actions focus on support for schools, teacher training, research and awareness raising and aim to ensure that all forms of bullying, including cyber bullying, are addressed.

New National Procedures on Anti Bullying which include a specific reference to cyberbullying were launched last September. These are currently being adopted and implemented by all 4,000 primary and post primary schools in the country. My Department has supported awareness raising initiatives in relation to tackling bullying. These include Safer Internet Day, an initiative, targeted at young people, to address internet safety issues, including cyberbullying. I was very pleased to launch Safer Internet Day 2014 in Ireland last week.

Central to promoting safer use of the Internet by young people is a strong commitment to changing behaviour and raising the knowledge, skills and attitudes around preventing, responding to and reporting cyber bullying incidents. The continued implementation of the Action Plan on Bullying will increase capacity in these areas and build on my Department's current strategy to ensure that internet safety is mainstreamed throughout schools' teaching, learning and other practices. Resources are available on www.webwise.ie and include guidelines on developing Acceptable Use Policies.

Implementation of these and other actions identified in the Plan will continue in 2014.

Security Checks

Ceisteanna (270)

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

270. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any of his departmental or ministerial offices have been swept for electronic, or any other type of, surveillance or bugging equipment since coming to office in March 2011; the reasons for this check; the results of this check; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7891/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has not engaged any external contractors or other experts to conduct any surveillance/bugging checks of Ministerial and/or departmental offices in the period referred to by the Deputy.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (271)

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

271. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to replace the prefab classrooms at a school (details supplied) in County Cork with permanent accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7915/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The longer term options in respect of the provision of permanent accommodation for the school, referred to by the Deputy, are currently being considered in the context of other school developments in the area and the reorganisation of existing accommodation. More recently, my Department received correspondence from the school, in question, in relation to issues arising in respect of semi-permanent school accommodation. This correspondence is currently being assessed and my Department will be in contact with the school shortly in the matter.

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