Special Educational Needs Staffing

Ceisteanna (71)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

71. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the facts that special needs assistants are required to take a career break if they choose to train to become national school teachers, that this is the case even when the person is doing it part-time, at night or even on-line, and that this criterion applies only to SNAs; the reasons behind this stipulation; if he will seek to remove this barrier; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21619/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities, in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream national school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs arising from a disability. The first priority is that the care needs of the children are met on an ongoing basis during the school year.

In June 2012, my Department, in conjunction with the School Management Bodies and the relevant Trade Unions, agreed a Career Break Scheme for Special Needs Assistants in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools, the provisions for which are contained in Circular Letter 22/2012. The purpose of the scheme is to enable employers, wherever possible, to facilitate applicants to take time off to engage in, among other things, personal development and education (including teacher training). This scheme therefore is applicable for courses referred to by the Deputy where participants are required to attend teaching practice and be absent from the provision of care duties for significant periods of time during the school year.

My Department has no plans to review the leave arrangements as outlined in Circular 22/2012.

School Guidance Counsellors

Ceisteanna (72)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

72. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 120 of 25 February 2014, if he sees group work as a means to release guidance counsellors to carry out one-to-one work with children in need of such support; his views on a survey carried out by both the National Centre for Guidance in Education and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors which found that there has been a cut of up to 59% in one-to-one counselling in second level schools since the removal of the ex-quota allocation of guidance hours in September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21622/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Since September 2012 guidance provision is now provided from within the overall staffing allocation of the school. This gives schools greater autonomy to determine how they deploy their teaching resources across the competing needs of the school. The surveys quoted by the Deputy focused on guidance counsellors and in particular on the time spent by them, in a one to one setting, giving career guidance and student counselling. It is important to note that guidance is a whole school activity and it does not just involve the guidance counsellor, therefore the implications of the survey are limited and taken predominantly from the Guidance Counsellors' perspective and less from a whole school perspective.

The representative organisations for School Principals and school management developed a framework that assists schools on how best to manage the provision of guidance from within their staffing allocation. Wherever possible, group work and class based activity should be used to maximise the amount of time available for those pupils that are in most need of one to one support when and where necessary.

While the school's guidance planning should involve and, where appropriate, be led by the guidance counsellor(s) in the first instance, other members of school staff and management also have key roles to play. Parents and students must be seen as an essential part of the process. Through this process schools can, for example, consider the following options for maximising the use of their available resources for the provision of guidance:

- Optimise the delivery of personal educational, career and vocational guidance in class group settings

- Enable students to use directly the extensive range of guidance tools available through the internet from relevant websites (e.g. Qualifax, Careers Portal)

- Enable some of the curriculum elements of the planned guidance programme to be delivered through other teachers such as SPHE staff

- Maximise the role of the pastoral care team in schools

- Ensure that the guidance counsellor has 1:1 time towards meeting the counselling needs of students experiencing difficulties or crisis, and

- Refer students with particular difficulties to outside experts who are specialists in particular relevant areas

I am confident schools act in the best interest of students when determining how best to use the teaching resources available to them.

Labour Court Recommendations

Ceisteanna (73, 74)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

73. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that his Department will not pay according to the non-binding LRC recommendations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21626/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

74. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is current operational policy that all Labour Court recommendations in favour of the complainant are not being processed during the lifetime of the Haddington Road agreement, despite the fact that there is no such requirement under the legislation. [21627/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 74 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, in the context of measures necessary to restore order to the public finances, Government pay policy has been consistent in its approach to the processing of cost-increasing pay claims. Accordingly, non-binding Labour Court Recommendations which will result in a pay increase, such as those referred to by the Deputy, are precluded from implementation. This was provided for in the Croke Park Agreement and continues to be provided for in the Public Service Stability Agreement (Haddington Road) 2013-2016.

Schools Data

Ceisteanna (75)

John Lyons

Ceist:

75. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide statistics in tabular form related to projections for demand for second level schooling in the Dublin North area, over the next five, ten and 15 years, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21629/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Dublin North is an electoral area and the Department does not compile statistical data on an electoral area basis.

For school planning purposes, the country is divided into geographic districts known as feeder areas, each with several primary schools feeding into a post-primary centre with one or more post-primary schools.

If the Deputy wishes to specify a particular area within the Dublin North electoral area, my Department will be happy to provide the information requested.

Unfair Dismissals

Ceisteanna (76)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

76. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a case where two fully qualified plasterers were dismissed from their employment by a company (details supplied) who were undertaking work in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and replaced by unqualified persons; his plans to ensure persons qualified in crafts are not treated like this when undertaking work within the education sector; and his plans to rectify this particular matter. [21633/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The company to which the Deputy refers is not the principal contractor on the project at St Patrick's Teacher Training College (St. Pat's), Drumcondra. While my Department funds the project, the contract with the principal contractor is between the authorities of St Pat's and the principal contractor. Since my Department is not a party to the contract it has no relationship with either the principal contractor or sub-contractors. Likewise the authorities of St Pat's have no relationship with sub-contractors.

CAS - my Department's contracted service agency for carrying out random compliance audits - visited the St Pat's site in October 2013. CAS carried out compliance checks on the main contractor and four sub-contractors on site at that time. No major issues were identified.

My Department requested that the College Authorities of St. Pat's raise with the principal contractor concerns that could lead to industrial relations difficulties. The request was complied with. I similarly wrote to the principal contractor in question urging that appropriate measures be taken to resolve any contentious or potentially contentious industrial relations issues.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (77)

Jim Daly

Ceist:

77. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the specific reason a school (details supplied) in County Cork was unsuccessful with an application under the summer works scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21638/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for window replacement under the 2014 Summer Works Scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced details of the schools that will receive Summer Works Scheme funding in 2014 in respect of applications submitted for Categories 1 to 6 i.e. Gas, Electrical, Mechanical, Toilet Facilities and Roof Works projects. In total, I have approved the spending of more than €70 million on the Summer Works Scheme to allow 772 schools undertake improvement works during the summer months.

Commensurate with the level of funding set aside for the Scheme, applications were assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the Scheme. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the Scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. However, in accordance with the Scheme's Circular, the school's application will be retained and will be prioritised for consideration under further rounds of the Summer Works Scheme in the future, subject to availability of funding.

Special Educational Needs Staffing

Ceisteanna (78)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

78. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if special needs assistants are required under circular 22/2012 to take a two year career break while pursuing a teaching qualification; the circumstances under which an SNA may pursue such a qualification while retaining their SNA employment in a school. [21660/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities, in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream national school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs arising from a disability. The first priority is that the care needs of the children are met on an ongoing basis during the school year.

In June 2012, my Department, in conjunction with the School Management Bodies and the relevant Trade Unions, agreed a Career Break Scheme for Special Needs Assistants in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools, the provisions for which are contained in Circular Letter 22/2012. The purpose of the scheme is to enable employers, wherever possible, to facilitate applicants to take time off to engage in, among other things, personal development and education (including teacher training). This scheme therefore is applicable for courses referred to by the Deputy where participants are required to attend teaching practice and be absent from the provision of care duties for significant periods of time during the school year.

My Department has no plans to review the leave arrangements as outlined in Circular 22/2012.