School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (91)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

91. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of school transport for the special needs students in a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40649/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

Bus Éireann has advised that the service referred to by the Deputy is a new service and is out to tender for the 2018/19 school year and Bus Éireann will continue to liaise directly with the families.

Families of children who are eligible for school transport may avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of private transport arrangements until services are finalised.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (92)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

92. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made on securing a new school building for a school (details supplied). [40671/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, a building project for the school in question is included in my Department's capital programme.

Officials in my Department have identified a preferred site for the school and negotiations are ongoing at present.

Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions generally I am not in a position to provide further details at this time. I can assure the Deputy that the school patron will be kept informed of progress.

Schools Facilities

Questions Nos. 94 to 96, inclusive, answered with Question No. 78.

Ceisteanna (93)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

93. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made on upgrading facilities at a school (details supplied) while the school awaits a new building. [40672/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has no record of receiving an application for funding from the school in question for upgrading works to the school's existing facilities.

As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school is included in my Department's capital programme.

Officials in my Department have identified a preferred site for the school and negotiations are ongoing at present.

Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions generally I am not in a position to provide further details at this time.  I can assure the Deputy that the school patron will be kept informed of progress. My Department is committed to providing improved permanent accommodation for the school.

Questions Nos. 94 to 96, inclusive, answered with Question No. 78.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (97)

John Lahart

Ceist:

97. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills if patronage for a new second-level school in an area (details supplied) has been awarded; if not, when it will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40695/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced the opening of 42 new schools over the next 4 years.  This announcement followed nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the current and future need for primary and post-primary school places across the country, and included provision for a new 1,000 pupil post primary school to serve Citywest/Saggart (Tallaght & Newcastle_Rathcoole school planning areas) as a Regional Solution to open in September 2020. This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country. 

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required.  This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons.  Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

The new Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed to provide objective information to all parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education.

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes will be made available on my Department's website.

The patronage process commenced in June 2018 for the four new post-primary schools to be established in 2019 to serve the following school planning areas: 

- Donaghmede - Howth - D13 (Belmayne/Clongriffin area)

- Galway City and Oranmore (Regional Solution)

- Laytown and Drogheda (Regional Solution)

- Wicklow

The patronage process for the remaining schools, including the new post-primary school referred to by the Deputy, will also be run at a later date, significantly ahead of their due opening. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website (http://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and my Department’s website (www.education.ie).

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (98)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

98. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the building projects for schools (details supplied). [40701/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b (Detailed Design), which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

In June 2018, the schools and their design team were authorised to commence the prequalification process to select a shortlist of contractors for tender stage. Pre-qualification normally takes between 8 and 12 weeks to complete.

Once the prequalification process is complete, the Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with a view to progressing the project to tender stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (99)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

99. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a building programme for a school (details supplied) will commence; and when a timeline for its completion will issue. [40702/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a major capital project for the provision of permanent accommodation for the school in question is being addressed through my Department's Capital Programme.

It is envisaged that permanent accommodation for the school will be provided through a campus arrangement with a local Institute of Further Education on its current site. This project will also include the redevelopment and provision of enhanced accommodation for the Institute. In the context of initiating architectural planning for the project, my Department is liaising with Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board and will be in further contact with the school's Parton in this regard.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (100)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

100. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the services that can accommodate a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40706/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

Under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are eligible for transport where they are attending the nearest recognised school that is or can be resourced to meet their special educational needs.

Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers.

Special Schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year and these children may apply for school transport in accordance with the terms of the above scheme.

The Department of Health/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (101)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

101. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if documents submitted to his Department as part of an additional accommodation stage 2b report will be returned to a school (details supplied) as a matter of urgency in order to be included in a tender document. [40740/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers recently submitted its stage 2b report to my Department together with an application for additional funding.

A decision on this will issue as soon the documentation has been fully assessed.

The report submitted is for the Department's file. The school's Design Team will be aware of this and have its own copy of the report.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (102)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

102. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the site chosen for the new primary school due to open in Newtownmountkennedy, County Wicklow in 2019. [40791/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced the opening of 42 new schools over the next 4 years. This announcement followed nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the current and future need for primary and post-primary school places across the country, and included provision for a new primary school to serve Kilcoole/Newtownmountkennedy to open in September 2019.

Following on from the announcement, the locations for all of the schools will be determined as part of the site acquisition process.

In line with the policy on the use of state assets (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Circulars 11/15 and 17/16), my Department will be seeking to maximize the use of sites already in my ownership and of available properties in the ownership of other State bodies, where these are considered suitable.

In addition as part of my Department's ongoing engagement with Local Authorities in respect of statutory planning processes and under the MoU on school site acquisitions, my Department will be examining all potential suitable site options, including appropriately zoned sites, to serve the relevant areas.

Taking into account all of the above, decisions will then be made as part of the site acquisition process in relation to appropriate sites for all the schools announced including the new primary school announced to serve Kilcoole/Newtownmountkennedy, and will be confirmed at a later date.

Student Assistance Fund

Ceisteanna (103)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial supports available to assist a single parent who was in full-time employment, is over the income limit for SUSI and is now returning to full-time education in order to become a qualified mental health nurse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40836/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Office in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie

Some higher education institutions operate their own benevolent schemes. Prospective students should contact the Access Office in the college attended, for advice on the specific supports that might be available.

Student Grant Scheme Design

Ceisteanna (104)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

104. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the SUSI grant is calculated (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40866/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The means test arrangements of the Student Grant Scheme are applied nationally. Student grant applications are means tested on gross income from all sources earned inside and outside the State within a specified reference period. In the case of both employed and self-employed applicants, gross income, before deduction of income tax or universal social charge, is assessed with certain specified social welfare and health service executive payments excluded. Therefore, all income is assessed from the same starting point, eliminating any distortion which might arise from different spending decisions in different households.

The Student Grant Scheme provides for higher income thresholds for larger families. In addition to this, further increases in the income thresholds are provided for where additional family members are attending further and higher education at the same time. The 2018 Scheme also allows students to disregard holiday earnings up to €4,500 from the assessment of reckonable income.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (105)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

105. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to end the two-tier system under which some school secretaries are employed as public service staff with full entitlements by his Department while others are employed by school boards of management and have no entitlements; his views on whether this two-tier system is discriminatory; the reason for the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40873/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

To answer the Deputy, though schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in primary and secondary schools, where staff employed on these schemes are paid directly by the Department, these schemes have been largely phased out and have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.

Under these schemes, the majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools in the Free Education Scheme now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services. Within the schemes, it is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the capitation grant funding to employ a secretary, such staff are employees of individual schools. My Department has no plans to develop an alternative scheme for schools to employ secretaries separate to the current system of capitation grant assistance.

My Department has recently made significant efforts to improve the pay of school secretaries who are employed using capitation grant assistance. In 2015 my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries on negotiations and agreed to enter an independent arbitration process on the issue. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for school secretaries comprehended by the terms of the arbitration process and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 for such staff be phased in over the period 2016 to 2019. Following the arbitration process, grant funding used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff is being improved on a phased basis between 2016 and 2019 in order to enable schools to implement the arbitration outcome.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (106)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

106. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a building project for a school (detail supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40874/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a building project for the school in question is included in my Department's six Year Construction Programme.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the project is progressing to the architectural planning stage and is expected to be delivered by an external agency to my Department. Arrangements are currently being made in this regard and my Department will be in further contact with the school authority when these arrangements have been finalised.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (107)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

107. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the change in special education investment since 2011; the impact this has had; the number of children with special educational needs participating in mainstream schools; the number progressing through the education system to third level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40875/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This Government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

Department of Education and Skills funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training. The funding includes:

- The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. NCSE’s Support Service has brought under its control the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI). The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for support teachers, continuing professional development for teachers, and support to schools on the management of challenging behavior. It will also enhance the multi-disciplinary capacity of the education system through providing access to expert knowledge in areas such as autism, speech and language therapy and challenging behaviour.

- National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) delivers a consultative, tiered service delivery model to schools, in line with international best practice for the effective and efficient delivery of educational psychological services that best meet the needs of all pupils/students in schools. This service delivery model allows NEPS psychologists to support schools to provide an effective continuum of support to meet the needs of pupils/students.

- Over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts under the Special Education Teaching allocation model, introduced in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs. The number of students receiving additional special education teaching support in mainstream education increased from 138,493 in 2011 to approximately 166,000 in 2017.

- 15,000 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) available from September 2018, providing additional adult support staff to schools to cater for the additional care needs of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. An additional 800 SNA posts has been made available for September 2018 with up to a further 140 SNA posts available from September to December 2018. Approximately 36,000 students have access to SNA support in schools in 201718 school year, compared to 22,200 in 2011/12.

- Over 7,900 students in 124 special schools with 1,490 teachers, increased from 6,848 students with 1,141 teachers in 2011.

- Approximately 1,456 special classes in place with 155 new Special Classes opened in September 2018 in mainstream primary and post primary schools. This compares to 548 special classes in 2011.

- Assistive technology/specialized equipment. Under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in Circular 0010/2013, the Department of Education and Skills provides funding to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes, for use by students with special educational needs. Equipment is provided under this scheme for children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment which they do not already have, or which cannot be provided for them through the school’s existing provisions.

- Special School transport arrangements . The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability

- Enhanced capitation grants for special schools and special classes attached to mainstream primary and post primary schools , based on disability categories, are paid to special and mainstream schools with special classes to assist them with the extra costs associated with setting up small classes. Class running costs are usually established by dividing the costs overs the number of students and the number of students in a special class is much lower than in a mainstream class.

- Modification of school buildings .

- Special Arrangements for State Examinations facilitates access to the certificate examinations by candidates who would have difficulty in accessing the examination or communicating what they know to an examiner because of a physical, visual, hearing and/or learning difficulty. 17,661 students benefitted from this scheme in 2017, increased from 14,287 in 2011.

- Specialised Training for people with disabilities is funded by the National Training Fund The target group for STPs comprises unemployed people with disabilities, in receipt of a disability payment or in possession of a letter from their doctor, who are aged over 16, and are deemed by DEASP and ETB’s to require the additional supports that STPs provide.

- Adult Education – once off projects for disability in education.

- The Fund for Students with Disabilities supports students to participate fully in their academic programmes and aims to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by reason of a disability. Eligible full-time students can receive assistance from PLC level to doctoral level, and the Fund is not means-tested. A claim under the Fund is made on behalf of an eligible student by their college following an assessment of need. The Fund typically provides three types of assistance, including assistive technology equipment and software, personal and academic support, and transport.

The HEA do not collect data on the progression of students with special educational needs to higher education but collect data on entrants with disabilities, and in addition, collate data on the number of students in higher education supported by the Fund for Students with Disabilities. The number of students with a disability entering higher education has doubled from 2011, rising from 2,166 to 4,417 in 2016/17.

The continued increase in investment by this Government to support students with special educational needs across the education system would indicate that it is having a positive impact on their retention and participation in school and their progression to third level and further education and training.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (108)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

108. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has investigated difficulties experienced by mature students in availing of a student grant; his plans to relax the criteria applied to independent students (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40889/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Very significant numbers of third-level students move out of home to go to college and continue to be supported by their parents while in full-time education. Confirmation that a student is living separately from his/her parents is of itself, not sufficient to establish independent status. When considering whether a student meets the conditions to be assessed independently of his or her parents, grant awarding authorities like SUSI are obliged to satisfy themselves beyond doubt that an acceptable degree of proof of independent living in the relevant period has been submitted by the grant applicant. For student grants purposes, a student may be assessed as an independent student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved post leaving certificate course or an approved higher education course or of re-entry to an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous 1 October. Otherwise he/she would continue to be assessed on the basis of his/her parents' income.

The onus is on the grant applicant to provide the necessary documentary evidence as requested by the relevant grant awarding authority. Such documentary evidence will vary from student to student, depending on each individual's particular set of circumstances.

The type of documentary evidence required by SUSI can be viewed at the following link: https://susi.ie/eligibility/applicant-class/

It is important to note that each year a significant number of student grant applicants are assessed as 'independent' students and awarded student supports on that basis.

If an individual applicant considers that he/she has been unjustly refused a student grant, he/she may appeal, in the first instance, to his/her awarding body. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by the awarding authority and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board.