Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (243, 244)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

243. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure schoolchildren in the Ballincollig catchment area can have access to an ASD unit in their community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5439/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

244. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of engagement there has been with schools in the Ballincollig catchment area regarding the establishment of ASD early intervention units locally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5440/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs including Autism, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes.

There are currently 246 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Cork City and County. Of these, 28 are ASD early intervention classes, 119 are primary ASD classes and 54 are post primary ASD classes.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, SENOs work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 will assist in addressing this issue where the NCSE is of the opinion that there is insufficient education provision for children with special educational needs in an area.

Section 8 of the Act, which commenced on the 3rd of December 2018, provides the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the NCSE, the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs.

Special Classes can be established within a schools existing accommodation. In such circumstances the school can apply to the Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and-or to construct additional accommodation for special needs purposes should the school’s existing accommodation not be capable of hosting special classes.

In the case of all new schools, it is general practice to include a Special Education Needs Base (SEN Base) in the accommodation brief for new school buildings, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required. Typically, a two classroom SEN Base is provided in new primary schools and a two or four classroom SEN Base is provided in new post primary schools.

All school capital projects that have been approved by my Department under the Additional Accommodation Scheme, including special needs accommodation, may be viewed on my Department’s website, www.education.ie and this is updated regularly.

As the Deputy's question relates to a particular area I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

My Department will continue to support the NCSE in opening ASD special classes in areas where there is an identified need.

Schools Establishment

Ceisteanna (245)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

245. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether land at a location (details supplied) could be purchased for the construction of new schools in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5452/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

The requirement for new schools including the area referred to by the Deputy will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (246)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

246. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if the land acquisition is being completed. [5517/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, legal representatives for both parties are working together with a view to concluding the conveyancing for the site to which he refers. All parties continue to work to ensure that the acquisition concludes at the earliest possible date and it is not anticipated that the completion of conveyancing will impact upon the timelines for delivery of the building project.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (247)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

247. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken to address the concerns of teacher unions in relation to the implementation of individual education plans; if he has met trades unions or communicated with them; and if so, the dates of correspondence or communications. [5530/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department received a letter from the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) dated 26th November, 2018, regarding implementation of Individual Education Planning in schools.

My Department also received correspondence from the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) dated 18th December, 2018, enclosing a copy of a communication which the ASTI had issued to schools in relation to provision for Individual Education Planning.

Officials from my Department wrote to both the TUI and the ASTI regarding this matter on 20th December, 2018.

In doing so, my Department noted the very significant increases in the number of special education teachers provided to schools since 2011.

More than €1.75 billion, almost 19% of the overall spend in the sector, is dedicated to special education.

The additional provision which has been made in recent years includes an increase of 37% in the number of special education teachers allocated to schools, from 9,9740 in 2011, to over 13,300 at present.

With the increase in the allocation of special education teaching in schools, my Department has also ensured there is provision for planning and co-ordination.

DES Circular 0014/2017 notes that provision is made within the total allocation of special education teachers to schools for planning and co-ordination activities to ensure the most effective use of the special educational needs hours provided to schools, for children with special educational needs.

In writing to the associations, my Department also noted that schools have a legal duty to provide an appropriate education to all students, including young people with special educational needs, and need to plan to ensure this happens.

Guidelines for schools on educational planning and monitoring of outcomes through the Student Support File, are contained in the Guidelines for Primary and Post primary Schools: Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools.

Planning is a normal part of a teacher’s work and planning tools, like the student support file, have been created as a resource to help schools provide for their students.

It is the view of the Department that planning for the provision of education in schools should include planning for the provision of additional teaching support for pupils in schools, for which coordination and planning time is acknowledged in the allocation.

This would represent a continuation of the good practice that is occurring in the majority of schools.

School Management

Ceisteanna (248)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

248. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school traffic warden will be appointed for adjoining schools (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5534/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Under the provisions of the Education Act 1998 the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school.

The appointment of a school traffic warden is a matter for the relevant Local Authority and the authorities of the school should contact the Local Authority concerned.

School Enrolments Data

Ceisteanna (249)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

249. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of section 29 appeals regarding admissions in September 2019 in respect of each school within an ETB (details supplied); and the number of decisions on admission which were overturned in each case. [5540/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 in the case of a school which is established or maintained by an Education and Training Board (ETB), an appeal against a decision of the board of management of the school to refuse enrolment shall be made, in the first instance, to the relevant ETB and thereafter to the Secretary General of my Department.

My Department does not hold data on the number of Section 29 appeals regarding admissions in September 2019 made directly to the ETB referred to by the Deputy. However, my Department’s records indicate that as of 1 February 2019, my Department has received four appeals under section 29 against decisions by a school within the ETB in question to refuse admission to a student in respect of the 2019/20 school year.

Three of the appeals have recently been heard by independent Appeals Committees established under Section 29 of the Act and the determinations of the Appeals Committee will issue shortly to the parents and the school concerned. The fourth appeal is scheduled to be heard and determined later this month.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (250)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

250. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme for 2016-2021.

A project brief has been finalised and the project will be delivered via the ADAPT programme. The ADAPT programme uses a professional external Project Manager to coordinate and drive the respective design teams on each project.

In this regard, a tender competition is in train to establish a Project Manager framework which is expected to be in place by early March. The formulation of tender documentation is underway and once the framework has been established a tender exercise will be carried out to appoint a Project Manager for all projects under the ADAPT programme, including this particular project.

All schools with projects on the ADAPT programme will be contacted shortly by my Department to provide an update on the status of their respective project.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (251)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

251. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding applications by a school (details supplied). [5548/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy was approved a grant under my Department’s Additional Accommodation Scheme. The school subsequently sought additional funding to complete the project and this was approved.

The school has now submitted a further request for additional funding and have been requested to submit supporting documentation. As soon as this information is received their application will be considered and the school authority informed of the outcome.

In addition, my Department approved grant-aid to the school for works under my Department’s Emergency Works Scheme. The project has been devolved to the Board of Management for delivery and my Department has now given approval to the school to commence the works in question.

SOLAS Training and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (252)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

252. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills if SOLAS charges applicants to the construction skills certificate scheme who are in receipt of social welfare payments or who hold a medical card a fee to receive their QQI certification following successful completion of the training and assessment programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5567/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Participants undertaking a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) programme are charged a participation fee by their Approved Training Organisation (ATO). The fee covers the cost of the training programme and also includes a charge for Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) certification and for the administration of the CSCS Registration Card by SOLAS.

SOLAS is undertaking an upgrade of their IT systems supporting the CSCS application process and will enable a QQI certification fee waiver to be applied for at source. This is expected to be available later in 2019. In the meantime, any persons undertaking a CSCS training and assessment event that believe they are eligible to a waiver in respect of QQI certification fees are advised to directly apply to QQI for a certification fee refund. Further information regarding QQI certification fees and the waiver process can be found on the SOLAS website.

SOLAS Training and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (253)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

253. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason SOLAS requires Safe Pass, CSCS and QSCS card holders to be reassessed when they are renewing their respective cards within the allocated time periods in view of a High Court decision in 2017 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5568/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The High Court decision in 2017, which the Deputy refers to, relates to the renewal of CSCS and QSCS cards only and made no reference to Safe Pass registration cards. Since this decision SOLAS no longer requires applicants who wish to renew their CSCS and QSCS cards to complete reassessments or to provide statements of relevant experience. Renewals for these CSCS and QSCS cards are now on the basis of the applicant completing a renewal application form, providing an up to date photograph and a renewal fee.

This judgement was challenged in relation to the Safe Pass registration card and SOLAS’ right to set terms for the renewal of these cards. This matter was specifically clarified in the High Court in May 2017 which found that the order had no application in relation to the Safe Pass registration card.

Safe Pass is a broader programme of health and safety training that applies to all construction workers. The Safe Pass Programme is continually developed in line with international best practice to ensure the content of the programme is current, fit for purpose and keeps abreast of changes in safety legislation, developing best practice in safe behaviour on site and the ever changing profile of the workforce and work environment in the construction industry. A valid Safe Pass card can only be obtained upon successful completion of the Safe Pass Safety Awareness training programme. It is a condition of renewal of the registration card that participants must update their safety awareness training every four years, which is fully supported by all partners within the construction sector.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (254)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

254. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps being taken by his Department and the school age team to provide an adequate school place and supports for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Enrolment in a school is a matter for each parent and the board of management of the school concerned. My Department has no role either in making applications to schools or in making decisions on enrolment applications. In these matters, schools are required to adhere to the requirements of relevant legislation and the policies of my department.

Enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios are provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs. Since 2012, special schools are staffed on the basis of their actual pupil profiles and the disability category of each pupil, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with my Department's Circular 0042/2011.

Where a special school has a query in relation to their allocation, they can discuss their concerns, in the first instance, with the Special Education Needs Officer (SENO) who will provide the basis for, and background to, their class teacher allocation. Where a special school is unhappy with the SENO's decision, the advice of the Senior SENO may be sought on the matter.

As the matter referred to by the Deputy relates to an individual child, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (255)

John Curran

Ceist:

255. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in releasing interest in a building (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5584/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to confirm that the Minister’s interest has been released in the property to which the Deputy refers.

International Education

Ceisteanna (256)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

256. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase education links between Ireland and Egypt; the efforts being made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Government’s International Education Strategy, Irish Educated, Globally Connected was published in October 2016.

As part of this strategy, my Department has been working with Enterprise Ireland, the education sector and our Embassy Network to identify educational opportunities and develop links in targeted overseas education markets.

On the 4 December 2018, Enterprise Ireland engaged in a two-day trade mission to Egypt.

Enterprise Ireland (under the Education in Ireland brand) used the opportunity of this trade mission to explore higher education opportunities for Ireland in Egypt, by engaging in discussions on possible collaborations with Egyptian Universities, education agents and other stakeholders.

It is likely that this exploratory work will lead to a more structured piece of research being conducted on the opportunities available for Ireland, in the Egyptian Higher Education market, and a familiarisation trip to Ireland by Egyptian education agents later this year.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (257)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

257. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grants or financial supports available for the family of a child (details supplied) that wish to help them achieve their potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The policy of my Department is to ensure that all children, including children who are exceptionally able, can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs and significant resources are committed for this purpose.

In 2018, almost €1.8 billion was invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

The Education Act, 1998 requires Boards of Management of each school to publish the policy of the school relating to participation by students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able. The measures schools take in this regard are required to be stated in the school plan. It is the duty of the Board of Management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students.

Schools at both primary and second level use strategies such as curriculum differentiation, curriculum enrichment and acceleration to facilitate the development of pupils who are exceptionally able.

The revised primary curriculum recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child and caters for pupil diversity, including meeting the needs of exceptionally able pupils. Syllabi and curricula for second-level schools have been designed in such a way to enable teachers cater for the wide range of pupil ability. Content is outlined in the curricula at both levels and process is also heavily emphasised. Enabling children to learn how to learn is stressed and facilitated. The development of language skills, investigatory and problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking skills and working individually, and as a member of a group, are all encouraged at both levels.

The use of information and communication technologies and the use of class and school libraries are of benefit for all pupils, and they have a special importance for pupils who are exceptionally able.

The role of the Special Education Support Service (SESS) which is under the control of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in relation to special educational provision. The service co-ordinates, develops and delivers a range of professional development initiatives and support structures for school personnel working with students with special educational needs including children who are exceptionally able in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, special schools and special classes.

The aim of the service, is to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, with particular reference to special educational provision. In this regard, the SESS aims to provide a quality service that is inclusive, promotes collaboration and co-operation and provides for equality of access.

The SESS provides online support through it’s website which is available at: https://www.sess.ie/, and through courses that appear on the Events Calendar which is available at:

https://www.sess.ie/professional-development/calendar/events-calendar

The SESS aims to provide direct support to schools and individual teachers in as flexible a way as possible. Support can be applied for through the SESS online application which can be accessed at:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfO2VyPAZx5T_N0_6AFaeASyTLOrDjj-Mv621OWpCFBduU4XQ/viewform

Professional groups or individual teachers can identify their own professional development needs in relation to the teaching of students with special educational needs and apply accordingly. The SESS may be in a position to offer telephone advice, a school visit from a member of the team, or an in-service course for the staff.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), in collaboration with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment (CCEA), produced guidelines entitled "Exceptionally Able Students – Draft Guidelines for Teachers" which issued to all Primary and Post Primary schools in November 2007. The NCCA/CCEA guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. The guidelines provide advice to schools on identification of gifted children, set out profiles of students, and whole school and classroom strategies and case studies which demonstrate how schools can best meet the needs of such students. The general strategies include differentiated teaching, acceleration and enrichment approaches in the context of participation in mainstream schools.

A new model was introduced in 2017 for allocating special education teachers to primary and post primary schools is set out in Circular 0013/2017 which can be accessed at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0013_2017.pdf.

This new model will give greater autonomy to schools to allocate resources to the pupils who most need these resources, regardless of their diagnosis.

No school will receive an allocation for the support of current pupils with complex needs which is less than the allocation they had received to support pupils with low incidence special educational needs in the preceding year. This means that schools can continue to support students in line with their needs.

It is a matter for individual schools to use their professional judgment to identify pupils who will receive this support and to use the resources available to the school to intervene at the appropriate level with such pupils. Schools should monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with my Department's guidance. The teaching time afforded to each individual pupil is decided and managed by schools, taking into account each child's individual learning needs.

At present my Department has no plans to grant aid individual pupils attending DCU’s programme for gifted/talented youths.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (258)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

258. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if assurances will be provided to parents that it will not be mandatory for children to be present in class when proposed changes to the content of the RSE and SPHE come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is carrying out a review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools at the request of my Department. The review covers both the content of RSE curriculum and support materials, as well as the delivery of the curriculum to students. I expect to receive the report including recommendations from the NCCA this summer.

The Deputy may be aware that Section 30(2)(e) of the Education Act 1998 states that the Minister ‘shall not require any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student’. However, the provision of adequate and up to date RSE to young people in schools is vitally important. The RSE provided in schools, coupled with education provided at home by parents, is associated with the best outcomes for students.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (259)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

259. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to support measures to remove school ethos as a so-called barrier to the teaching of the RSE and SPHE curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is carrying out a review of Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE)) in schools at the request of my Department. The work covers both the content of RSE curriculum and support materials, as well as the delivery of the curriculum to students.

The review is considering a number of areas, including consent, what it means and its importance; developments in contraception; healthy, positive sexual expression and relationships; safe use of the internet; social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem; and LGBTQ+ matters.

The NCCA in undertaking its review will examine how the RSE curriculum is delivered in different school types. This will likely involve consideration of a range of RSE policies and how they impact on the manner in which the RSE curriculum is delivered in different schools.

The NCCA has received submissions from key individuals and organisations who have responsibility for or who are working in this area. The NCCA has also held over 30 bi-lateral meetings with interested groups and individuals as part of its review . Work is now commencing with approximately 20 primary and post-primary schools to gauge opinions and experiences of Relationships and Sexual Education and this aspect of the review will help to inform recommendations in relation to curriculum gaps, implementation barriers and enablers and support needs. I expect to receive the report from the NCCA before the summer.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (260)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

260. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a sensory room for children with special needs in a school (details supplied) will be provided. [5635/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme.

A project brief has been prepared and includes an extension of 6 additional classrooms, split into 2 classes for Mild General Learning Disability, 2 classes for Moderate General Learning Disability and 2 classes for ASD. The total area of this extension is approx. 1,066m2. The scope of the brief includes for refurbishment of the existing buildings subject to verification by the Design Team on appointment.

Special Schools can require a very high level of design development and interaction between the Design Team and the client to ensure functionality and building design meets the school needs. It is open to the school to request their Design Team to incorporate a sensory room within their project brief.

This project will be delivered via the ADAPT programme which uses a professional external Project Manager to coordinate and drive the respective design teams on each project.

In this regard, a tender competition is in train to establish a Project Manager framework which is expected to be in place by early March. The formulation of tender documentation is underway and once the framework has been established a tender exercise will be carried out to appoint a Project Manager for this particular project.

All schools with projects on the ADAPT programme will be contacted shortly by my Department to provide an update on the status of their respective project. I wish to confirm to the Deputy that my Department is committed to providing a new school building for the school in question.