Schools Building Projects Status

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 118.

Ceisteanna (126)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

126. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the state of development in each case with particular reference to starting and or commencement dates in respect of the school building programme at primary and second level in Straffan, County Kildare, and in respect of upgrading of existing and or provision of new facilities at existing or green field sites, if particular issues arise that may affect the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5204/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware there is only one school in Straffan, Co. Kildare.

In March 2015, this school was approved a grant for the provision of 2 x 80m2 mainstream classrooms and 1 WC for assisted users. The funding was increased in September 2015 to provide a stairs and an additional WC for assisted users. A further 2 mainstream classrooms were approved in June 2017.

As this is a devolved project, it is now a matter for the school authority to progress the project.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 118.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (128)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

128. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios continue to improve arising from the steps taken over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5206/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2018 marks the second year of major reinvestment in the education sector, as we continue to implement the Action Plan for Education, which has the central aim to make the Irish Education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.

Budget 2018 provides for an additional 1280 teaching posts in the 2018/19 school year. This includes a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.

These changes will come into effect in September 2018 for the 2018/19 school year.

It is expected that this one point improvement in the staffing schedule when implemented in September 2018 will further improve the overall ratio of teacher to students. The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.7:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2016/17 school year.

The corresponding figures for Post-Primary show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 13.8:1 to 13.4:1 when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2016/17 school year.

The increase in teacher numbers in the current school year as a result of Budget 2017, will be reflected in the ratio of teachers to students when this information is published at the end of the school year.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (129)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

129. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which the school building programme at primary and second level in County Kildare continues to proceed as planned having particular regard to the urgent requirement of school places; the extent if slower than expected progress has been noted in respect of a particular school; the actions planned to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5207/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department’s six-year capital programme priorities building projects for demographic areas, including County Kildare. The Capital Programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed.

There are currently 29 major capital projects that are being progressed in County Kildare. This is in addition to over 12 smaller scale projects that have been approved devolved funding under my Department’s additional accommodation scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that over the lifetime of my Department's Capital Programme, it is my intention to replace all purchased temporary accommodation with permanent accommodation, where the need is established. To enable this development, my Department will be carrying out an assessment of the number of prefabs being used in schools to deliver the curriculum. This will also determine whether or not individual prefabs need to be replaced in the context of the long-term accommodation needs of each individual school. When completed, this assessment will quantify the number of prefabs to be replaced.  

Special Educational Needs Data

Ceisteanna (130, 132, 138)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which facilities for children with autism or Asperger's syndrome continue to remain available and accessible at primary and second level here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5208/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

132. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which special needs school places are readily available at primary and second level throughout the country at appropriate locations to ensure the availability of such places within reason for children seeking the facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5210/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

138. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which adequate resource teachers remain available throughout all schools in north County Kildare; his plans for augmentation in specific areas of particular need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5216/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130, 132 and 138 together.

It is the policy of my Department that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is a separate independent statutory body whose functions include planning and coordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports as required. This includes the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools and the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.

DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools set out the details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

The revised allocation process replaces the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

Under the new allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need in each school.

Under the new allocation model schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile, to provide supports immediately to those pupils who need it without delay. This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require resource hours. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

Schools therefore no longer have to make applications, for newly enrolled pupils for whom resource teaching hours may have been provided under the old model, or for pupils who have received a new diagnosis, as schools now receive a single allocation for all of their special education teaching needs, based on their school size and profile.

The number of special education teachers allocated to mainstream schools has increased by 13% in the last two years, with 13,400 posts available for allocation in the current school year, compared to just over 11,800 posts allocated in the 2015/16 school year.

Since 2011 the NCSE has increased the number of special classes by over 100% from 548 in 2011 to over 1,300 with 169 new special classes for the 2017/18 school year. 1,042 of the 1,300 special classes are ASD special classes of which 149 are newly established for this school year.

125 special schools also provide specialist education for those students with complex special educational needs, including students diagnosed with ASD. The number of students attending special schools has increased by 150 on average each year over the last 4-5 years, increasing from 6,848 in 2011/12 to 7,750 in 2016/17, an increase of 13%.

In the region of 34,000 students with special educational needs will have access to 14,120 SNA posts to the end of this school year, which is an increase of 33.5% over 2011, when 10,575 SNA posts were allocated. Budget 2018 has provided for an additional 960 SNA posts for September 2018, which will bring the total number of SNA posts available to over 15,000.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children who require special class or special school placements can access such placements.

Parents/guardians of children with special needs who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) as soon as possible for information on available places. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) policy advice on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016) found that Students are generally well supported in schools with appropriate curriculum; extensive teacher and SNA supports; improving range of educational placements supported by improved accommodation and equipment; improved teacher knowledge and understanding and a generally good standard of provision at primary and post primary levels.

The NCSE policy advice noted that ASD is a spectrum condition, so some students with ASD may require little support in school and are relatively independent in their learning, while others require significant levels of support.

The NCSE Policy Advice also states that International Research findings suggest that most students with ASD should be considered for inclusion in mainstream education with their peers, where inclusion is well-planned and well-resourced.

Decisions about placement should be based on individual needs and take into account a number of factors including parental wishes, availability of evidence-based treatments and well-trained staff and individual factors such as targets for intervention and management of behaviours.

Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.

Others may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school.

There is therefore not one preferred educational environment for children with ASD, rather there is a model which takes into account the assessed educational needs of individual pupils.

The work of the Implementation Group for the policy advice, with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and external representatives is ongoing, in ensuring that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 130.

Ceisteanna (131)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which adequate school places exist or are being provided for children with autism or other special needs at primary and second levels throughout County Kildare in line with requirements as set out by school authorities and parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5209/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government. To this end my Department has allocated SNA support to over 12,000 extra pupils since 2011 and provided extra resource teachers to meet the expansion in children in need of teaching support.

Since 2011, the increase in SNAs has been 3,545, including an additional 2,080 posts in the last two years bringing the current number to some 13,990.

The number of resource teachers has increased by 3,660 since 2011, including 1,600 additional posts in the past two years bringing the current number to 13,400.

The number of special classes has risen by 712 since 2011, including 277 new classes in the past two years bringing the current number to over 1,300.

In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education. This represents an increase of almost 43% since 2011 and amounts to almost 20% of the Department’s overall Budget.

My Department's policy aims to ensure that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with Autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.

Other children may have such complex needs that the recommendation in their professional reports state that they are best placed in a special school.

The NCSE is aware of emerging need in County Kildare from year to year, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.

There are currently 70 special classes in the County, including 62 ASD special classes. A further 282 students, including students with ASD, are placed in 4 special schools in Kildare.

The NCSE continues to progress the planning process to ensure that all students in with Special Educational Need in Kildare can access school placements appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year and beyond.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children in Kildare who will require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities.

In this regard, Special Needs Units (SNUs) are currently under construction at 2 post primary schools in Kildare South including St Conleth’s Vocational School, Newbridge and Ard Scoil na Trionoide, Athy. The SNU in St Conleth’s is expected to be completed and ready for occupation by September 2018 at the latest.

Major building projects for a number of Post Primary schools in Kildare are included on the Department's 6 Year Construction Plan, and Special Needs units (SNUs) will be included in these Developments. The schools in question are:

- St Paul’s Secondary School, Monasterevin

- Naas Community College, Naas

- Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen

- Athy Community College

- St Farnan’s Post Primary, Prosperous

- Patrician Post-Primary, Newbridge

The projects, when completed, will represent a total investment in excess of €100 million.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 130.

Gaelcholáistí Issues

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 125.

Ceisteanna (133)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

133. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in regard to the provision of a gaelcholáiste in north County Kildare; the extent to which plans are proceeding as expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5211/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Maynooth Community College opened in 2014 with an Irish-medium Aonad and it was stated that should the Aonad demonstrate sufficient viability after four years from its date of establishment, a Gaelcholáiste would be established, in a partnership patronage model between Kildare and Wicklow ETB and An Foras Pátrúnachta.

As part of the Major School Building Projects announcement in November 2015 and in view of the continued support for an independent Gaelcholáiste, it was confirmed that a Gaelcholáiste to serve the North Kildare area will open in 2019, subject to the continued viability of the Irish-medium Aonad at Maynooth Community College.

Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board is continuing to examine the options for accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy which will involve consideration of the timing and availability of appropriate infrastructure in the area.

My Department will continue to work closely with Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board and An Foras Pátrúnachta in relation to the provision of appropriate accommodation for the establishment of the school.

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 125.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (135)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

135. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he remains confident that Ireland's education system at pre-school, primary, second, third and fourth levels remain poised to ensure an educational system on par with the best internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5213/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In September 2016, I launched the first Action Plan for Education (2016-2019), which sets out our ambition to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

The Action Planning process recognises that there is no big bang solution and that our success will be achieved by the implementation of hundreds of actions across the sector in its entirety.

I noted at the time that the publication of the Action Plan 2016-2019 was the beginning of an annual process. More detailed actions, with quarterly delivery dates, are identified in updated annual plans. These Plans are based on the original five high-level goals:

1. Improve the learning experience and the success of learners

2. Improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage or learners with special educational needs

3. Help those delivering education services to continually improve

4. Build stronger bridges between education and the wider community

5. Improve national planning and support services

Progress is monitored through the publication of End of Year Review reports and quarterly progress reports. All of these are available on the Department’s website www.education.ie and show the extent to which we are delivering what we said we would. They also help to ensure that attention is focused on areas where progress has not been as expected, in order to drive further change.

Next week, I will be launching the Action Plan for 2018, which has over 300 actions and subactions for delivery during the year. They are all aimed at furthering progress towards our overall ambition of being the best in Europe by 2026.

Some of the key themes that we will be focussing on this year are:

- Continuing our programme of curricular reform and developing critical skills to build momentum behind our ambitions

- Increasing the use of ICT in teaching, learning and assessment to help our young people develop 21st century skills

- Accelerating the good progress made to date in opening up opportunities for learners at risk of disadvantage.

- Continuing with steadily increasing the inclusion of children in the education system.

- Improving teacher education, leadership, quality and promoting excellence in education settings

- Rapidly expanding the programmes which respond to changing skill needs of enterprise and creating a greater diversity of opportunity in learning beyond school.

- Undertaking several measures to grow a vibrant research community

- Increasing our infrastructural capacity in order to meet demographic and other demands

A range of indicators are also included in the Plan. These are based on national and international benchmarks, and will enhance our monitoring arrangements.

In addition, I will also be publishing the 2017 End of Year Review. This shows the progress we made during 2017, with 86% of scheduled actions delivered.

Cumulatively, the Action Plans and monitoring process will ensure we achieve the ambition of the Action Plan.

Education Funding

Ceisteanna (136)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

136. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he remains confident that investment in education and the sciences at all levels will continue to be available in the future and having particular regard to the need for excellence in the face of growing competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5214/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am committed to securing continuing investment in education and training in order to deliver on the actions set out in the Action Plan for Education ad to meet our ambition of making the Irish education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

During my time as Minister, the Government has allocated over €1 billion additional funding to education and training over the past two Budgets. The gross 2018 budget allocation for the Department of Education and Skills is €10. 085 billion, the largest in the Department’s history.

Budget 2018 alone provided for over 2,300 additional teaching and Special Needs Assistant posts in schools by the end of 2018. It allowed for significant additional investment of over €64 million to be made in higher and further education and training from the National Training Fund and the Exchequer. It also provided funding for a range of policy areas, including a new STEM policy and curricular reform including in the areas of Agricultural Science, Applied Maths, Computer Science and Science.

The capital allocation for my Department for 2018 will be €745 million, which is an increase of over €50m on the 2017 capital allocation. This will facilitate next year the continued delivery of an ambitious school building programme, to ensure that sufficient places are available for our school going population, and the continued roll-out of the investment programme to upgrade ICT infrastructure in all schools. Additional capital funding of €663m for the period 2018-2021, allocated under the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan, will further boost investment in our schools infrastructure, facilitate new programmes of higher education investment - orienting the sector to cater for demographic growth and to meet key skills needs – and ensure the necessary capital investment to support apprenticeship growth targets.

In addition, last October, together with Minister Mitchell O’Connor, I announced €200m in investment in new buildings for institutes for technology, with a strong focus on STEM, including ICT, engineering and life sciences as part of the latest Public Private Partnership Programme.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (137)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

137. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he expects to be in a position to replace unfit classroom accommodation at primary and second level here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5215/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that over the lifetime of my Department's Capital Programme, it is my intention to replace all purchased temporary accommodation with permanent accommodation, where the need is established. To enable this development, my Department will be carrying out an assessment of the number of prefabs being used in schools to deliver the curriculum. This will also determine whether or not individual prefabs need to be replaced in the context of the long-term accommodation needs of each individual school. When completed, this assessment will quantify the number of prefabs to be replaced.