Forensic Science Ireland Laboratory

Ceisteanna (65)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

65. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of contractors that have tendered for the new State forensics laboratory at Backweston, Celbridge, County Kildare, by the closing date for tenders of 29 March 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16916/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is managing the delivery of the new Forensic Science Laboratory at the Backweston campus.

The Deputy should be aware that enabling works for Forensic Science Ireland that commenced in October 2017 have now been completed.

However, due to recent changes in international forensic laboratory standards, the merging of the Garda Technical Bureau with Forensic Science Ireland and changes to staff numbers, it was necessary to add further material to the tender documentation. The issues involved, relate primarily to laboratory interior finishes and mechanical and electrical adjustments.  

 On completion of this examination it was possible to re-invite tenders from the shortlist of building contractors for the new State Forensics Laboratory in Q4 2018 with a closing date for submissions of 29 March 2019. Due to the complex nature of this project it was necessary to extend the tender return date until May 2019.  Tender assessment will then take place during Q3 2019. On completion of the assessment and following the statutory standstill period it is envisaged that construction could commence in Q3/4 2019. When the construction contract for the main building is placed, the estimated construction period is 24 months followed by a validation and test period prior to occupation.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Ceisteanna (66)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

66. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the measures and age extension in the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 will apply to semi-State workers going forward, specifically to employees at RTÉ; if there are proposals to extend the measure to other workers in other sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16966/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

In my role as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have statutory responsibility for the terms and conditions of public servants only.  Employees of commercial State bodies, such as RTÉ, are not public servants.  The terms and conditions, including compulsory retirement age, of employees of commercial State bodies (other than the Chief Executive Officer), are generally a matter for the body concerned and I have no direct input in relation to those terms and conditions.

University Status Applications

Ceisteanna (67)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

67. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans for university status to be conferred on institutes of technology and in particular upon Athlone Institute of Technology; the timescale envisaged for such development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16788/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The process for the establishment of additional universities is provided for in Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997. There are currently 8 universities in the State, the most recent being the establishment of Technological University Dublin under the Technological Universities Act 2018 on 1 January 2019.  The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 states that there is no case for the establishment of any new universities in Ireland on the basis set out in Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997.  The National Strategy states that smaller, stand-alone institutions such as individual Institutes of Technology (IoTs) lack the scale required to deliver necessary advances in quality and efficiency. Universities and IoTs are encouraged to work together collaboratively in regional clusters.

The strategy also recommended consolidation within the IoT sector and a pathway of evolution for consolidated IoTs to allow them to demonstrate significant progress against stated performance criteria and to become multi-campus technological universities (TUs). Government policy as set out in the Programme for Government is to support the creation of TUs as higher education institutes (HEIs) of sufficient size, capacity and critical mass to have a significant impact at regional, national and international level. These regional HEIs will have greater links to industry and will have an enormous impact on the capacity to create and retain jobs in regions. As such, Government will prioritise those institutions which have clear ambitions and plans for the furthering of industry-relevant technological research and education.

The Government has provided the enabling legislation in the Technological Universities Act 2018 for two or more IoTs to come together to seek TU status. The Technological Universities Act 2018 which was signed into law on 19 March 2018 provides the legal framework underpinning the process for establishment by two or more IoTs as a TU subject to a decision-making process contingent on the meeting of specified eligibility criteria and including assessment by an international advisory panel. The 2018 Act also sets out the functions and governance requirements for these new HEIs. Section 29 of the 2018 Act provides for the application jointly by two or more institutes to the Minister of Education and Skills for an order seeking designation as a TU. Section 38 of the Act provides that an institution and an established TU may also apply to the Minister for such an order.

Government also continues to support those consortia of IoTs seeking to achieve TU status under the legislation in terms of significant Exchequer co-funding, with the latest funding call for a total of €14 million in respect of TU development and other higher education landscape restructuring projects having issued from the Higher Education Authority on 29 March 2019.

The potential benefits of becoming a successful TU are significant in terms of increased reach, international recognition, research capacity building, FDI attraction, skills retention and creation, regional development, enhanced staff and student experience and opportunities and socio-economic progression. The merging of institutes of technology will create institutions of sufficient size, capacity and critical mass to maximise those benefits and attract greater investment.

TUs will be distinguished by a mission and ethos that is aligned and consistent with the current mission and focus of IoTs with an emphasis on programmes at Levels 6 to 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), industry focused research and the development and use of new knowledge through industry-focused research. However, TUs will also offer post-graduate programmes at Levels 9 and 10 on the NFQ.

TUs will help retain talent in the regions by strengthening the offer available to students who will be able to continue to masters and postgraduate level, including PhDs. Larger management and academic teams permitted by the merger of institutions will increase institutional capacity and will facilitate enhanced performance in areas such as winning research funding.

TUs will also be expected to play a pivotal role in facilitating access and progression particularly through relationships with the further education and training sector. The presence of a technological university in a region, with a specific mandate for promoting regional development, will have a transformative effect on local and regional communities. By creating institutions of increased scale and capacity, multi-campus TUs will bring greater social and economic benefits to their regions through a strengthened role in research and innovation and the delivery of a broad range of high quality education and training in each of their campuses.

It is clear from the progress made with existing consortia and from international exemplars that there is very considerable coherence in sectoral and educational offerings that make a single HEI hub both a catalyst and a magnet for regional economic development and employment. The strong regional mission of TUs to support development and innovation is aligned with the objectives of Project Ireland 2040: National Planning Framework. Enhanced HEIs will deliver the skilled and talented people that sustain enterprise and new investments. The National Development Plan 2018 - 2027 cites as a priority the establishment of a clearly prioritised Exchequer-supported higher education building programme including the objective of bolstering the capacity of multi-campus TUs. The current TU development consortia are referenced under Project Ireland 2040 as having a role in deepening the talent pool for distinctive regional clusters and driving research and innovation. TUs will also be well placed to attract increased research funding and to bid for a share of the €4 billion in funding available as part of Project Ireland 2040 over the period 2019 – 2027 under the four broad themes of rural development, urban development, climate action and disruptive technology.

On 1 January 2019 the first TU in the State, Technological University Dublin, which formerly comprised Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght, was established under the Technological Universities Act 2018. With some 28,000 students, Technological University Dublin became the largest HEI in the State.

On 12 February 2019 the Munster Technological University consortium, comprising Cork IT and IT Tralee, submitted an application to the Minister for Education and Skills seeking TU status under the 2018 Act. The relevant legislative procedures under the Act are in train in relation to the assessment and decision- making process in relation to this application.

There are two other consortia of IoTs working to develop TU proposals. These are the Technological University for South East Ireland consortium, comprising Waterford IT and IT Carlow, and the Connacht Ulster Alliance, comprising IT Sligo, Galway Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT. These consortia are understood to be working toward the submission of applications for TU designation under the 2018 Act in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Currently four IoTs - Athlone, Dundalk and Limerick - and the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology - have not joined or formed a consortium seeking to develop TU proposals. Athlone IoT had previously considered joining a TU development consortium but to date has not chosen to do so.

It remains at the discretion of each individual IoT whether or not it chooses to join an existing consortium, or to form a new consortium, of institutes to progress together towards making an application for TU status under the 2018 Act.  It is also a matter for the relevant IoTs in a consortium to lead on the progression of their plans to seek designation as a TU under the Technological Universities Act 2018 subject to their individual circumstances.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (68)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

68. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans in respect of access to a new school (details supplied); and if he will meet a representative group of parents from the Dublin 8 and 12 areas. [16794/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I met with the Group in question on the 13th of February and we had a very constructive and informative meeting and I would like to thank the Group for the information they presented to me at the meeting. 

As the Deputy will be aware, in November 2016, I announced the patronage of a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2018 to serve the Dublin South City Centre area. This new school, which will be a co-educational, multi-denominational school under the patronage of Educate Together, will serve the Dublin _8 school planning area, along with the Dublin 2_Dublin 4 and Dublin 6_Clonskeagh school planning areas as a regional solution.  

More recently, in April 2018, I announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including new post-primary schools for areas adjacent to Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 as follows: 

- new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2020 as a regional solution to serve the Dublin 6_Clonskeagh and Dublin_6W school planning areas. 

- new 600 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2021 to serve the Dublin 2_Dublin 4 school planning area.

These new schools will further reduce pressure on schools in the adjacent school planning areas, including the Dublin 8 and 12 areas. 

A patronage process, which will be open to all patron bodies, will be run by my Department to decide who will operate these schools.  All new schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required to prioritise pupil applications from within the designated school planning area(s) which the school was established to serve.  This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the designated school planning area where they have sufficient places.

The requirement for new schools 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.

The existing schools in the Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 areas have significant current capacity to accommodate demand in the area at present. I understand that City of Dublin ETB and Educate Together have started discussions in relation to possible partnerships with a view to Educate Together involvement at second level in existing schools in both the Dublin 12 and Dublin 7 areas.

Emergency Works Scheme Funding

Ceisteanna (69)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

69. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for funding by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16802/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the Department has received an application from the school referred to by the Deputy for the provision of additional accommodation. This application is currently under assessment.

The school has also applied for funding under the Emergency Works scheme. Its applications in this respect have been refused as being outside the terms of the Scheme. However, I can inform the Deputy that projects of this type may be appropriate for delivery via the Summer Works Scheme. It is open to the school authority to apply for Summer Works funding when the scheme opens for applications. I refer the Deputy to my announcement on 29th March last in that respect.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

70. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason Skerries as the first choice of locality to divest schools changed to Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock; and the basis for same. [16814/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

71. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the survey given to some parents of preschoolers in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas; the results of the survey; and the location the data collected from the survey has been documented. [16815/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

72. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department sent guidelines under which a person (details supplied) is to operate in gathering data from each of the schools and from parents of children in the school in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas; and if so, the guidelines in this regard. [16816/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

73. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the process or procedure for the possible divestment in the school in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas. [16817/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

74. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person or body that decided that a vote by parents is the deciding factor for selecting which school is to be divested in the school in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas; if the vote by parents is the deciding factor; and if there is a majority vote per school or if there is a target vote to achieve. [16818/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

75. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has, in an attempt to divest a Catholic school, outsourced the decision making power for doing so to the Catholic Church. [16819/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

76. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person or body that has the decision making power to divest one of the eight schools as nominated in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas. [16820/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

77. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in the event parents veto a divestment in each of the schools in relation to the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas. [16821/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

78. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason parents that have exercised their constitutional rights are now being undermined in those choices (details supplied). [16822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

79. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a public consultation process on the matter of the divestment of a school in the Malahide, Kinsealy and Portmarnock areas in the wider context on a national level. [16823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

80. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether parents when choosing a school (details supplied) for their children had a legitimate expectation that their children would complete their education under the Catholic ethos in their national language. [16824/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

81. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether by permitting one vote per parent they are discriminating against children with only one parent or in circumstances in which two parents have more than one child insofar as each child is not receiving equal representation; and his further views on whether it is more appropriate that a parent or legal guardian of each child shall be entitled to represent each child individually in order that each child is represented in their own right. [16825/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 to 81, inclusive, together.

The Deputy has raised a number of questions on the consultation undertaken by representatives of the Dublin Archdiocese with schools under Catholic patronage in the Malahide/Portmarnock area of Dublin. I will address these, prior to outlining the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process.

My Department understands that a representative of the Archdiocese of Dublin wrote to schools in the Portmarnock, Malahide, Kinsealy and Yellow Walls areas on 5 April last in relation to the consultation that had been undertaken by the Archdiocese with a number of schools under its patronage in these areas. I understand that this correspondence indicates that any vote which may have been planned by the schools involved should be postponed, pending the publication of the Identification Phase report for this area as part of the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. My Department intends to publish the Identification Phase reports in the first half of this year.

For clarity, I wish to confirm that in relation to the phase 1 pilot areas, including Malahide/Portmarnock, the Implementation Phase of the process has not yet commenced.

Prior to the letter issuing on the 5th of April, I understand that representatives of the Dublin Archdiocese had been holding meetings with a number of primary schools under their patronage in the Malahide and Portmarnock area to provide information to them on the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. Letters/leaflets received by parents were not based on information provided by my Department. These letters and leaflets contained incorrect information which led to unnecessary confusion. At no stage did the Department seek to impose any artificial deadline on this process and there has never been a requirement for any transfer of patronage to take place in September 2019.

Transfer of patronage and consultation with school communities on Reconfiguration is a matter for the current patron (i.e. the Dublin Archdiocesan representatives in the case of the schools under Catholic patronage in Malahide and Portmarnock) in the first instance. Any concerns or views that parents have in relation to such events should be discussed with the school patron. My Department, as part of this process, is not involved in the selection of any school for reconfiguration.

In relation to the Schools Reconfiguration process, as Deputies are aware, the Programme for Government includes a commitment of reaching 400 multi-/non-denominational schools in Ireland by the year 2030. The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process is aimed at assisting in achieving this target by transferring existing schools from denominational to multi-/non-denominational patronage in line with the wishes of the school community.

The process is composed of two separate and distinct phases - the Identification Phase and the subsequent Implementation Phase. The first Identification Phase of the phase 1 pilot process is nearing completion for 16 initial areas nationwide.

Identification Phase

In the Identification Phase, each of the country’s 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) have selected an initial pilot area within their district where they consider, based on census data and local knowledge, there is likely to be an oncoming demand for more diversity of patronage within the local educational provision. Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB, while initially having selected Skerries, subsequently revised its selection to Malahide and Portmarnock.

Surveys of parents of pre-school children have been carried out in these areas by the relevant City/County Childcare Committee on behalf of the ETBs. Template documents were supplied in relation to the surveys. ETBs, having analysed the survey results, then draw up comprehensive reports detailing the outcomes of the surveys in relation to each of the 16 pilot areas. This forms the basis of discussions with the most prevalent patron/landowner in the area, which is the Catholic Bishop or Archbishop in most cases, concerning the transfer of patronage of an existing school(s) to meet that demand.

The response of the Bishop to any identified oncoming demand for greater diversity of school patronage in the area is included in the report prepared by the ETB, for submission to my Department, which will publish the reports on its website, www.education.ie. Not all of the Identification Phase reports from these 16 initial areas have been finalised. It is envisaged that the reports will be published in the first half of this year.

Implementation Phase

Following the publication of the first round of reports, it is intended that the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process will move into the Implementation Phase.

It is intended that the Implementation Phase would involve the existing patron of the majority of schools in each area, i.e., the relevant Catholic Archbishop or Bishop, consulting with their local school communities on accommodating the oncoming demand for a greater diversity of patronage among the schools in their area.

In the Implementation Phase, the existing patron (the Catholic Archbishop/Bishop), would identify a school to transfer to a multi-denominational or non-denominational patron (where the Identification Phase report has shown a viable level of demand for greater diversity of patronage).

The process envisages that the identification of a new multi-denominational or non-denominational patron should reflect the wishes of parents and the school community. It will be up to the relevant school patron (i.e. the Catholic Archbishop/Bishop) to discuss with their school communities the choices that could be made.

It is also envisaged that the existing patron would provide information to parents on the multi-denominational/non-denominational options available and engage in a consultative process with the school community. For example, the existing patron may wish to arrange a meeting where prospective patrons could provide information to the school community.

Draft protocols for the Implementation Phase are at an advanced stage of development and consultation with Catholic Church representatives is ongoing.

I recently had a very constructive meeting with Irish Episcopal Conference representatives in relation to a number of matters including Reconfiguration. The Bishops reiterated their commitment to the Reconfiguration process. Further engagement is planned in this regard and I look forward to working positively with the Bishops on this matter in a spirit of continued partnership.

There are also a number of instances where school communities directly engaged their patron and sought a transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron. For example, the ‘early movers’ provision fast-tracks patronage reassignment. The first 'early mover' reconfiguration has successfully taken place, with Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry opening in September 2017. Any school which is seeking a transfer of patronage under the “early movers” provision should contact their school patron directly.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (82, 83)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

82. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the Office of the Information Commissioner was consulted by his officials when drafting the Retention of Records Bill 2019. [16826/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

83. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the Data Protection Commission was consulted by his officials when drafting the Retention of Records Bill 2019. [16827/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 83 together.

The Retention of Records Bill 2019, currently before Dáil Éireann, provides for the retention of the records of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee.  Under the legislation establishing these bodies the bulk of their records would, on the dissolution of those bodies, fall to be destroyed. The records held by these bodies represent the personal testimony and stories of many survivors of residential institutional child abuse and a range of related papers.   This information was provided by these survivors on the understanding that the records would be destroyed.  I believe that these historically important but extremely sensitive records should not be destroyed but should be retained so as to ensure that future generations will be aware of and understand what happened in institutions and out of respect to the victims who came forward.

The legislation under which the three bodies in question currently operate restricts the application of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts and the Data Protection Act. The Retention of Records Bill provides for the continuation of that dis-application in the case of the Freedom of Information Act. If the Bill is enacted and the records are transferred to the National Archives, further processing will be for archiving purposes and the provisions of section 61 of the Data Protection Act 2018 will therefore apply.

The proposals contained in the Bill were the subject of normal consultations with other Government departments both at the time the General Scheme of the Bill was finalised in early 2015 and more recently when the text of the Bill was approved for publication. I can confirm that informal discussions took place with the Data Protection Commissioner. 

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (84)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

84. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue on a school transport application by a person (details supplied) which is under review since October 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16829/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

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

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

The child in question is not eligible for school transport as he is not attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet his educational needs. 

Children who are not eligible for school transport, may be able to avail of transport on a concessionary basis subject to a number of conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service. The family in question should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office if they wish to avail of transport on a concessionary basis.

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