Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 28.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

Ceisteanna (57)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

57. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to include as part of lifelong learning proposals, the development of a nationwide learner centred flexible and affordable high level competency based learning collaborative initiative within Irish higher education which would involve multiple community based stakeholders (details supplied). [4684/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This Government has set a target of ensuring that 10% of people aged 25-64 engage in lifelong learning by 2020.  Lifelong learning can comprise formal, non-formal and informal learning.  The Adult Learning BA (ALBA) programme was a learner-centred, flexible and competence based programme which was accredited by Dublin City University (DCU) and offered at All Hallows College in Drumcondra.  When All Hallows College closed, DCU facilitated remaining students to complete their studies and the programme ceased in 2017.

I received a copy of the research report on the ALBA programme and an official from my Department met with some members of the ALBA team in December last.  The Department is considering the practices and approaches outlined in the report, along with other examples of adult learning initiatives, in order to assess the range of methodologies which may be offered to achieve our targets for adult and continuing education.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (58)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

58. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4909/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In respect of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme, which includes the school referred to by the Deputy, a contract exists between my Department and the Principal contractor, Inspiredspaces.  Inspiredspaces is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) responsible for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the programme. 

The company referred to by the Deputy has been a 50% shareholder in the SPV.  The other shareholder in the SPV is the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF).

The Principal contractor for the SB5 programme continues to be Inspiredspaces.  Sub-contractors on the project are employed by Inspiredspaces in that respect or indirectly by Inspiredspaces through other sub-contractors.

It is a matter for all sub-contractors to agree terms and conditions and a schedule of payments with their direct employer.  The enforcement of contractual rights is a matter for individual suppliers. As such the Department has no authority to intervene in these cases.

The Dutch Infrastructure Fund is currently developing a rectification plan to ensure completion of the school buildings in as timely a manner as possible. The outcome of this process will provide greater clarity for all involved in the individual projects.

School Guidelines on Mental Health

Ceisteanna (59)

James Browne

Ceist:

59. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views regarding claims from primary school principals that increasing anxiety among school children in primary schools has emerged as one of the biggest problems facing them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4645/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can assure that Deputy that both I and my Department are aware of the vital role that schools play in providing a safe, protective and nurturing environment for children and young people in inuring them to the increasing stresses of daily life.

My Department promotes a comprehensive and whole-school approach in schools to the promotion of well-being and positive mental health focusing on the entire school community, as well as groups and individual young people with identified need.  This spans the curriculum in schools and in particular the Aistear and primary school Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curricula, whole-school ethos, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, student support  and the provision of professional development for teachers. It also involves accessing other supports such as educational psychology services.  Additionally, schools engage in a wide range of sport and cultural activities which provide an important opportunity for students to experience success and personal growth. The whole staff shares responsibility for general student well-being. The Well-being in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion (2015) provide a Framework for schools to present in an integrated way the existing elements of good practice to promote social and emotional learning, and mental health and direct then to new practices as appropriate. They provide clear information for schools and for agencies supporting schools on how to address issues of social emotional learning. The European wide HSE supported, Health Promoting School Process (HSP) is also outlined, and the Well-being Guidelines show how the HSP can be introduced to schools to complement existing good practice. The Guidelines outline how schools support young people through early intervention and prevention, modelled on the NEPS Continuum of Support tiered approach.   The Guidelines build on the significant work already taking place in schools, including through the systematic implementation of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum.

The Guidelines highlight the vital role schools play in providing a protective environment for young people which can counter risk factors. Additionally having a whole school approach which fosters important links with the wider school community, and agencies which support schools, is key to successful implementation of the Guidelines.

They provide information for schools on the supports services that are currently available. Schools are advised to seek this support when in developing the whole school approach.  It is important that this support is well coordinated and that schools are clear about the responsibilities of the support agencies.  

The Guidelines advise that in the event of pupils presenting with mental health difficulties which are above and beyond the school's capacity and ability to support, school authorities should identify and access the referral pathways for the various primary and secondary healthcare services in their particular area. My Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is available to advise schools on the matter. Referrals should, of course, be undertaken with Parental or Guardian consent and collaboration, except in an exceptional situation where there may be child protection issues. In normal circumstances referral to Clinical Psychology Services and to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is made through the student's G.P.

My Department’s Action Plan for Education 2017 promotes well-being as one of its key goals. The actions relating to well-being and mental health in the primary school sector include:

Delivery of a national programme to support all schools to implement the national Wellbeing in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion (2015).

Increasing the capacity of NEPS: an enhanced educational psychological service to schools, through the appointment of an additional 10 educational psychologists.  The focus of this additional support will be on extending the roll-out of teacher programmes to DEIS schools that build capacity to promote social and emotional competence, resilience and school connectedness in all learners.

As stated above the Guidelines themselves form a framework within which a broad range of existing processes and practices can be rationalised within schools and brought to bear within the context of a cogent well-being and mental health support for pupils in schools. Support to the school community in this regard is being provided from a number of sources within my Department including the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST).

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (60)

James Lawless

Ceist:

60. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position with regard to the building of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4664/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will probably be aware, the project to which he refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

Planning permission has been received for the project which is at detailed design stage.  In this regard, the Stage 2b submission was recently submitted to my Department for consideration. 

My Department is currently reviewing its programme for capital expenditure in 2018 and 2019 and timing of the progression of the project to the next stage will be considered in that context.

DEIS Administration

Ceisteanna (61)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

61. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the transparency of the school selection process for the DEIS scheme will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4688/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The identification process for the DEIS Programme has adopted a new scientific approach for the selection of schools for inclusion in DEIS.  As you are aware, the identification of levels of disadvantage in schools is based on data provided by schools themselves, combined with publically available Small Area of Population Census data, as represented by the Pobal HP Index. The data is applied uniformly across all the schools in the country. The approach taken was informed by the Review of the DEIS programme in 2016. A detailed account of the methodology adopted, is available on my Department’s website at

http://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.

As the Deputy will also be aware a further assessment of all schools is currently underway. This will take account of updated school data as provided by schools for the current school year combined with the updated Pobal HP Index of Deprivation, based on Small Area Population statistics derived from the 2016 National Census.

The overall implementation of DEIS Plan 2017 is now underway and I have no plans to conduct any further reviews of the programme, including the Identification Process for schools, at this time.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (62)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

62. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the position of those working on projects that were being undertaken with the involvement of a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4898/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In respect of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme, a contract exists between my Department and the Principal contractor, Inspiredspaces.  Inspiredspaces is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) responsible for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the schools. 

The company referred to by the Deputy has been a 50% shareholder in the SPV.  The other shareholder in the SPV is the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF).

The Principal contractor for the SB5 programme continues to be Inspiredspaces.  Sub-contractors on the project are employed by Inspiredspaces in that respect or indirectly by Inspiredspaces through other sub-contractors.

The Dutch Infrastructure Fund is currently working to develop a rectification plan to ensure delivery of the schools as quickly as possible.  Once the details of the rectification plan have been confirmed by DIF, this will provide greater clarity for all involved in the individual projects.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (63)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

63. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to deal with the crisis facing persons at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in view of the fact that in September 2018 there will be no classroom facilities for special education teaching and just one junior infant class enrolled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4842/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school concerned is located in a former primary school building that was secured as part of Government policy on school divesting.

The property is subject to a 10 year lease between the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) and the Minister for Education and Skills.  

As the Deputy is aware, the school has submitted an application to my Department for additional accommodation to facilitate expansion. 

However, the lease requires the consent of ERST to place this accommodation on the school site. In this regard, my Department is currently engaging with ERST to secure this consent and  expects a response from ERST shortly.

Department officials have also been liaising with the school principal recently and have advised the principal that the accommodation will be approved as soon as this consent is granted.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (64)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

64. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to bring forward new proposals to ensure greater access to broadband in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4687/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Through the Schools Broadband Access Programme the Department provides for the supply of internet connectivity for all recognised primary and post primary schools, and some 98% of schools are included in this scheme. All post-primary schools and some special schools are now included in the 100Mbps programme.

The policy of my Department is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and financial constraints. Broadband capacity can vary due to geographical location and local infrastructure, and thus impact on the service that can be provided.

Under the current primary schools programme the Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A recent drawdown from the Framework of Providers of Broadband Services saw some 1,100 primary schools awarded download speeds of 30Mbps or greater (the baseline download speed required under the National Broadband Plan). Those schools have now been upgraded to that connectivity. This represents more than one third of all primary schools. This is a significant improvement over recent years, given that less than 100 primary schools were on those speeds in 2012. Further schools are likely to be upgraded to those speeds in 2018, through EIR's 300K Rural Deployment commitment.

The need to improve broadband connectivity to primary schools is recognised in the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, and as noted access to high speed broadband is one of the indicators identified in the Digital Strategy Action Plan. An interdepartmental working group has been established to determine how best to address broadband connectivity to primary schools in collaboration with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, in the context of the National Broadband Plan and the Intervention Strategy, and proposed industry provision.

Legislative Process

Ceisteanna (65)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

65. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 will resume Fourth Stage in Dáil Éireann; if the promised amendment to remove the baptism barrier will be included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4821/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 was published in July 2016. The Bill which passed Committee Stage on 28th June 2017 and will shortly proceed to Report Stage, is an important piece of legislation which strives to create a new more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy operates for the almost 4,000 primary and post-primary schools in this country.

In relation to the role of religion in school admissions, in early 2017, I stated that I believe that it is unfair that preference is given by publicly funded religious schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school.

I also stated that I believe that it is unfair that parents, who might otherwise not do so, feel pressure to baptise their children in order to gain admission to the local school and have expressed my intention to reform the school admissions system in relation to the role that religion can play in that process.

I ran a public consultation process from 24th January to 20th March 2017 on this matter and held a public forum last May on the role of Religion in Primary School Admissions. I outlined my intention to make changes in the first instance in respect of the primary school system. It was noted in the consultation paper that any changes need only apply in respect of oversubscribed schools (approximately 20% of schools). In respect of all other schools, the practice is to admit all applicants. This will become law following the enactment of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill – when schools will be required to admit every child who applies.

Officials from my Department are currently engaging with the Office of the Attorney General on the development of legislative proposals on a number of matters, including the matter referred to by the Deputy, which I hope to bring forward to Government for approval shortly.

The Bill will proceed to Report stage once these amendments have been finalised.