School Staff

Ceisteanna (200)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

200. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to allow for equal and fair rights for school secretaries; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that school secretaries work long hours without holiday pay, sick pay, pensions or access to public service salary scales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26480/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system. I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.

These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant 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 grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

Officials from my Department recently had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department will seek to establish the full current cost of the trade union's claim. This is standard practice.

FÓRSA's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of a survey. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (201, 202, 205)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

201. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason there is only one secondary school with an ASD unit in Dublin 24; his plans to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

202. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) has no ASD unit for those in the senior cycle in view of the evident need for one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26498/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

205. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children with ASD in Dublin 24 not in full-time education due to an absence of appropriate supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26501/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201, 202 and 205 together.

Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for this Government.

It is open to any school board of management to make an application to the NCSE to open a special class.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment in schools or keeping waiting lists.

I am aware of the need for increased specialist education provision in the Dublin area.

The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish 167 new special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 will be new ASD special classes, which includes new ASD classes in the area referred to by the Deputy.

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, 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.

There are undoubted challenges when it comes to the establishment of special school and class provision in some schools and communities.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved. This process is ongoing in the Dublin area and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing ASD classes where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.

Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.

There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin.

The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019. Of these, 17 are ASD Early Intervention Classes, 139 are ASD Primary Classes and 41 are ASD Post Primary Classes. Each ASD Special class provides 6 placements.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular area, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (203)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

203. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to progress with the patronage process for the new secondary school planned to open in September 2020 in Citywest, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26499/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced plans in April 2018 for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022) including a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in September 2020 to serve the Tallaght & Newcastle_Rathcoole (Citywest/Saggart) school planning areas as a regional solution.

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.

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 by my Department 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 are made available on my Department's website.

The patronage process for the new post-primary school in Citywest/Saggart, will be run later this year, significantly ahead of its due opening. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website (https://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and my Department’s website (www.education.ie).

School Admissions

Question No. 205 answered with Question No. 201.

Ceisteanna (204)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

204. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the controversy regarding admissions at a school (details supplied) in which multiple parents missed the deadline for admissions due to a change in the practice in the way notice of the deadline was given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. In schools where there are more applicants than places available, as in the case of Kingswood Community College, a selection process may be necessary.

It is a matter for the Board of Management which selection criteria are included in their enrolment policy and in what priority these criteria are applied. The selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on the Department's website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol.

A list of schools in the area can be found on my Department’s website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/Find-a-School/.

However, if parents are in a position that they cannot secure any place for their child they may wish to call the Education Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) which is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01-7718500.

Question No. 205 answered with Question No. 201.

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (206)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

206. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount received from religious groups to address historical child abuse; the level of funding outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26508/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Contributions from the 18 religious congregations involved in the management of most of the residential institutions in which child abuse took place, towards the costs incurred by the State in responding to abuse is being made under two rounds: the legally binding 2002 Indemnity Agreement and the voluntary offers made in 2009 in the aftermath of the publication of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the “Ryan Report”).

While the total cost of the State’s response will be in the region of €1.5 billion, the amounts offered by congregations total some €480.6 million. To date contributions amounting to some €231 million have been made, in the form of cash, counselling and property transfers.

Some €125 million of the €128 million provided for under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement has been fully contributed with the transfer of two properties remaining to be fully completed.

The offers made in the aftermath of the publication of the Ryan Report included cash and properties and were valued by the congregations at €352.6 m. Some €106.4 million of the €352.6 million offered has been received to date, including €103.6 million in cash together with properties valued at €2.8 million. A cash amount of €6.8 million is due from the Congregation of Christian Brothers and is expected to be received in the near future, while an additional contribution of €1 million is expected from the Presentation Brothers.

Cash contributions from the 2009 offers, not exceeding a total of €110 million, are placed in an investment account opened by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and are available to Caranua (the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund). Cash amounts in excess of the €110 million cap will go towards the costs of developing the National Children’s Hospital as will any additional contributions received specifically for that purpose.

Under the 2009 voluntary offers a total of 18 properties were accepted by the Government for transfer to a number of State bodies. The transfer of 13 of these properties has now been completed but valuations have yet to be obtained in a number of cases. The transfer of most of the remaining five properties is at an advanced stage.

One significant element of the 2009 offers relates to playing fields and associated lands, valued at €127 million, offered by the Christian Brothers. This element is complex and is the subject of ongoing engagement between my officials and the Congregation.

Finally, I can advise the Deputy that my Department provides regular updates to Dáil Éireann’s Committee of Public Accounts in regard to contribution from religious congregation. The most recent update was provided in May 2019 and is published on my Department's website at https://www.education.ie/en/Learners/Information/Former-Residents-of-Industrial-Schools/cash-property-transfers/may-2019-additional-information-provided-to-pac.pdf.

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (207)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

207. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of survivors that have received compensation under the ex gratia scheme operated by the State Claims Agency further to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in a case (details supplied); the level of compensation paid to date; the level of compensation outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26509/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In December 2014, the Government approved proposals to offer out-of-court settlements to those bringing cases of school child sexual abuse where the cases come within the terms of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights: Cases involving sexual abuse of a school child by a primary or post primary school employee [i.e., not simply teachers]; and in respect of whom there was a prior complaint of sexual abuse to a school authority (including an authority of a school in which the employee had previously worked) prior to the issue of the Department of Education guidelines to primary and post-primary schools in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

Extant cases

On the date when the ECtHR Judgment was delivered, there were 35 cases extant before the domestic courts. Those cases were reviewed by the State Claims Agency to assess whether any of those plaintiffs in the extant cases came within the category of victims entitled to compensation which had been identified by the ECtHR.

Of the 35 extant cases, the SCA identified 7 cases which came within the terms of the Judgment and the Agency made settlement offers of €84,000 in those 7 cases. Six offers were accepted while in the remaining case, the settlement offer was withdrawn as the plaintiff died in August 2015.

The SCA wrote to the other 28 litigants in March 2015 advising that their circumstances do not appear to come within the parameters of the Judgment and inviting them to revert with any contrary evidence. To date, no evidence has been submitted to the SCA in any of these 28 cases.

New Litigation since the date of the Judgment in relation to Historic Abuse Claims

Where other plaintiffs institute claims against the State in relation to historic school child sexual abuse which are not statute barred and their circumstances come within the terms of the ECtHR Judgment, the SCA is authorised to make settlement offers to those plaintiffs, on the same basis as the extant cases.

Since the ECtHR Judgement, the SCA has been notified of many new historic school child abuse claims. These are either (a) claims which are entirely newly instituted or (b) pre-existing claims against school authorities and in which claimants are now more recently seeking to join the State as a respondent.

Discontinued cases

As part of the State’s response to the ECtHR Judgment, the position of historical cases which had been discontinued by plaintiffs was also reviewed. In July 2015, the Government agreed to respond to those persons who had instituted legal proceedings in relation to school child sexual abuse which were subsequently discontinued and which came within the terms of the Judgment, in a similar way to how it was dealing with persons in the previous two categories.

As these cases had been discontinued by the Plaintiffs, the proceedings were no longer before the domestic courts and therefore there was no litigation in existence which could be settled. Accordingly, it was determined that ex gratia payments would be offered to all those persons who come within the terms of the ECtHR Judgment and whose claims were not statute barred at the time of their discontinuance. This process is referred to as the ex gratia scheme and is operated by the State Claims Agency (SCA).

To date, 50 applications have been received, of which 44 applications have been declined. In respect of all of the declined applications, the applicants were advised that they could apply for an independent assessment of their application. 20 people chose to do so and it is expected that determinations in their cases will be reached within the next few weeks.

Inquiry into Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (208)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

208. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of submissions to the independent assessor after an application to the ex gratia scheme was declined by the State Claims Agency; the number of applicants whom the independent assessor deemed eligible for a payment; the number of such applicants still awaiting compensation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26510/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of the State’s response to the ECtHR Judgment in the Louise O'Keeffe case, the position of historical cases which had been discontinued by plaintiffs was reviewed.

As these cases had been discontinued by the Plaintiffs, the proceedings were no longer before the domestic courts and therefore there was no litigation in existence which could be settled. Accordingly, it was determined that ex gratia payments would be offered to all those persons who come within the terms of the ECtHR Judgment and whose claims were not statute barred at the time of their discontinuance.

To date, 50 applications were received by the State Claims Agency of which 44 applications have been declined. In respect of all of the declined applications, the applicants were advised that they could apply for an independent assessment of their application.

A retired Judge of the High Court, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, was appointed in November 2017 to act as an independent assessor in relation to determinations of the SCA on eligibility of applicants to the ex gratia scheme.

Between March 2018 and January 2019, Mr Justice O’Neill looked for a number of submissions on, inter alia:whether the imposition of the condition which required that there had to be evidence of a prior complaint of child sexual abuse on the part of the employee in question to the school authority (or a school authority in which the employee has previously worked), to establish eligibility for a payment under the ex gratia scheme, is consistent with and a correct implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Louise O’Keeffe v. Ireland’.

All of the responding submissions are published on the Department’s website and can be seen at www.education.ie.

It is anticipated that there will determinations on the 20 cases that have applied for an independent assessment in the next few weeks.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (209)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

209. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of third level institutions offering sexual consent workshops to students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26511/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In recent years third level institutions have established sexual consent programmes and workshops for their students. On 5th April 2019 my colleague the Minister of State for Higher Education launched the Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions, “Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions”. This Framework outlines specific aims and outcomes for students, staff, third level institutions, as well as the Higher Education Authority and my Department. Funding of €400,000 is being made available by my Department over the period 2019-2020 to assist institutions in progressing initiatives in this area.

In relation to the information requested by the Deputy, I am arranging for the higher education institutions to be contacted in this regard.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (210)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

210. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of cases of sexual assault or harassment involving students investigated by third level institutions in each academic year 2013-14 to 2018-19 in tabular form; the level of compensation paid out in such cases; the systems in place for reporting sexual assault or harassment in third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

On 5th April 2019 my colleague the Minister of State for Higher Education launched the Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions, “Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions”. This Framework outlines specific aims and outcomes for students, staff, third level institutions, as well as the Higher Education Authority and my Department. Funding of €400,000 is being made available by my Department over the period 2019-2020 to assist institutions in progressing initiatives in this area.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available, and I am arranging for the higher education institutions to be contacted in this regard.

Teacher Training Provision

Ceisteanna (211)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

211. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills if audits of each of the programmes of primary initial teacher education at the four State-funded higher education institutions will be carried out; the way in which such audits will be structured; if such audits will also involve student feedback; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26513/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Changes to the duration and content of all initial teacher education programmes were made in response to recommendations in the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020 and were incorporated into the Teaching Council’s Policy Paper on the Continuum of Teacher Education and Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers. Both were published in 2011.

Improvements which were made to initial teacher education courses include the reconfiguration of the content and duration of courses, with the duration of concurrent (undergraduate) ITE programmes set at a minimum of four years while the consecutive (postgraduate) programmes of teacher education are set at two years, thereby facilitating an innovative re-conceptualisation of programmes.

The lengthened and reconfigured programmes include substantial periods of school placement as central to student teacher development and a number of mandatory elements including literacy and numeracy, teaching, learning and assessment including school and classroom planning, differentiation, behaviour management, inclusive education (special education, multiculturalism, disadvantage, etc) and ICT in teaching and learning. These reforms focused on improving the quality of teaching in schools, which is central to the educational outcomes of our children.

A first cycle of review and accreditation of all 70 ITE programmes, in accordance with these policies, was completed in 2015.

The Teaching Council is currently undertaking a review of the impact of the reconfigured ITE programmes and also of the Criteria and Guidelines, which will feed into an update of the procedures and criteria documentation. This review has involved an Impact Consultation Exercise which engaged with current and former ITE students, alongside other stakeholders. This will inform the next cycle of review and accreditation of all ITE programmes, primary and post-primary, which is due to start in 2020.

In addition to the Teaching Council’s work, there are a number of other developments underway in relation to Initial Teacher Education policy and landscape, through the Teacher Supply Action Plan and the recent publication of The Structure of Initial Teacher Education: Review of Progress in Implementing Reform. My Department has commenced work on the development of a comprehensive Policy Statement for Initial Teacher Education, in collaboration with the Higher Education Authority and the Teaching Council and stakeholders in the higher education sector.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (212)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

212. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of funding provided for counselling and mental health supports in third level institutions in each academic year 2013-14 to 2018-19 in tabular form; the number of students accessing such services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26514/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to HEA designated higher education institutions. The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to the institutions. As autonomous bodies, the internal disbursement of this funding, including the funding of student services, is a matter for the individual institution.

Details of expenditure incurred in respect of counselling services in the third level sector are outlined in the following table. Data in respect of subsequent academic years is not readily available at this time, however, it is expected that it would be broadly in line with previous years.

Year

Universities & Colleges - (incl MIC, NCAD & St Angela's College)

IoTs

2013/14

€3,963,627

€2,038,106

2014/15

€3,853,638

€2,185,196

2015/16

€4,185,682

€2,299,286

As per information previously provided by the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland in 2017 – c. 13,400 students availed of counselling services for the 2015/16 academic year and it is expected this level of engagement with these services would be similar in other years.

Student services and associated activities are an integral part of the whole student experience at third level. Student services support each individual student achieve his/her intellectual, cultural and social potential while supporting and complementing the formal academic programme. Student services can fall under a number of headings, particularly ‘Welfare and Guidance’ which includes counselling services, health promotion, careers service, multi-faith, racial and ethnic cultural support.

The Deputy may wish to note that AHEAD, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, is supported through an annual grant from the HEA towards the cost of the activities of the organisation. In 2016, AHEAD in partnership with the National Learning Network (NLN), published a report called ‘Mental Health Matters’, a study into the experiences of students with mental health difficulties. The study found that the majority of HEIs have services supporting students with mental health difficulties and some institutions have dedicated services for students.

Schools Facilities

Ceisteanna (213)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

213. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding for a gym will be allocated on a phased basis to a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26538/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on the refurbishment of existing school buildings to include the building and modernisation of PE facilities in schools.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place. The focus in the medium will be on the provision of PE halls in post-primary schools.

Schools Amalgamation

Ceisteanna (214)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

214. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 122 of 7 February 2019, if funding has been committed in respect of a proposed project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26541/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 122 of 7 February 2019, my Department still awaits the additional information requested from the Patron body.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (215)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

215. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if changes will be made to the system in which primary and secondary school secretaries are paid through the schools ancillary grant; if all secretaries in the future will be paid directly as employees of his Department; and his views on whether the current system is unfair (details supplied). [26572/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system. I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.

These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant 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 grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

Officials from my Department recently had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department will seek to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

FÓRSA's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of a survey. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (216)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

216. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools nationally in temporary buildings or on temporary sites; the length of time they are in these temporary situations; if permanent sites have been identified; the length of time it is expected that each of these schools will be waiting for the permanent build; the patronage of each of these schools by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that within the context of a rapidly increasing school population, my Department's priority is to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place. In this regard, it is sometimes necessary to make use of temporary accommodation in order to meet the accommodation needs of schools.

Furthermore, it may also be necessary to make use of temporary rented accommodation when an immediate or short term need arises. For example, a school may require a temporary building in circumstances where a major school construction project is planned. Such temporary accommodation is removed when the major project concerned is completed. The length of time it is necessary to make use of temporary rented accommodation will vary from project to project.

I can confirm to the Deputy that there are 471 schools renting interim accommodation, either temporary prefabricated classrooms or an area within an existing permanent building. My Department does not hold a record of schools where such interim accommodation is secured from their own funds.

Where the acquisition of a permanent site by my Department is required, my officials work to secure such a site and confirm its location at the earliest possible date. However, given the challenges that can arise with the sometimes limited availability of suitable sites and the complexities that can arise during the negotiation and conveyancing stages, the timeframes for the acquisition of school sites can vary significantly. Details of those projects which are at site acquisition stage, and indeed all projects on the Building Works Programme, are listed and regularly updated on my Department’s website, www.education.gov.ie. This includes both projects where the school patron is acquiring the site and those where my Department is responsible.

In relation to the patronage of each of the schools in temporary accommodation by county, this information is not readily available. However, I will arrange for this information to be forwarded directly to the Deputy shortly.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (217)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

217. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if planning permission has been submitted for the Dún Laoghaire Educate Together and a school (details supplied) regarding temporary accommodation; the timeline for the temporary accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, the school to which he refers was granted approval under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2018 for the provision of pre-fabricated accommodation which will include 5 mainstream classrooms, en-suite toilets, shower area & staff toilets, multi-sensory room, 3 small safe places, storage, staff room & office/administration room. The Department is also approving refurbishment works to 2 existing currently unused prefabs at the Red Door campus to provide additional accommodation for both Red Door School and Dun Laoghaire ETNS for September 2019. The project is devolved to the school authorities for delivery.

My Department has received this week the submission from the school to proceed to lodge planning permission. This submission is currently being reviewed by my Department. Once this review is completed, and subject to any issues arising in that respect, the school authority will then be authorised to lodge its planning application for the project. Progression of the project will then lie with the school authorities.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (218)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

218. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the outstanding elements of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 to be implemented; if the outstanding elements will be enacted on a statutory basis; and the cost of implementing the Act in full on a statutory basis and on a non-statutory basis. [26653/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 have been commenced. The commenced provisions include those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those providing for an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs.

The following sections of the EPSEN Act were commenced in 2005.

Section 1 – Interpretation

Section 2 - providing for the inclusive education of children with Special Educational Needs

Section 14 – placing certain duties on schools

Sections 19 to 37 - placing the Council on a statutory footing

Section 39 - placing certain duties on Health Boards

Sections 40 to 53 - amending the Education Act

Schedule 1 – providing for meetings and membership of the Council

Schedule 2 providing for the Chief Executive Officer of the Council

The remaining sections of the Act have yet to be commenced. The Sections of the EPSEN Act which have not been implemented are those which would have conferred a statutory entitlement to:

- an educational assessment for all children with special educational needs

- consequent development of a statutory individual educational plan (IEP)

- the delivery of detailed educational services on foot of this plan

- an independent appeals process.

The NCSE estimated, in its Plan for the Implementation of the EPSEN Act Report, which was published in 2006, that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235 m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act.

The view of the Department of Education and Skills was that the level of investment required could be significantly greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report. Legal advice provided to that Department also indicated that the EPSEN Act, as it is currently constituted, may not be implemented on a phased, or age cohort, basis.

The level of additional expenditure required would have to take into account annual demographic growth and service developments in the area of special educational needs, pricing adjustments and salary cost differentials on an ongoing basis. Estimates would also have to be made as to the number of pupils who might currently qualify for the statutory service provisions envisaged by the EPSEN Act.

The Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfil their potential.

In 2018 my Department invested over €1.75 Billion in this area - 1/5 of my Department's budget and up 42% since 2011, at which point €1.24 Billion was invested. This increased investment has allowed the Government to increase the number of:

- SNAs by 42%, from 10,575 in 2011 to over 15,000 at present.

- Special classes by 160% to over 1,450 at present, compared to 548 special classes in 2011.

- Special education teachers by 37%, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

Under the Programme for a Partnership Government, I have committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the Act on a non-statutory basis.

A range of consultations with Education Partners and Stakeholders took place in relation to the development of the new model for allocating special education teachers over the course of 2017. The new model was introduced for all schools from September 2017.

Further consultations took place with education partners and stakeholders in the context of the undertaking of a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme and will continue in relation to the implementation of recommendations contained in this report.

Consultations also took place in relation to providing power to the National Council for Special Educational need to designate a school place for a person with special educational needs, which is now provided for in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.

I can also advise that, whereas there is not currently a statutory requirement to provide individual education plans for children with special needs, at present, all schools are encouraged to use Education Plans. The Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate's advice is that the majority of schools are now using some form of individual education planning for children with special needs. The Guidelines for schools on implementing the new special education teacher allocation model advise schools as to the importance of ensuring that student support plans or educational plans are in place.

It is therefore intended to bring into effect many of the good ideas contained in the EPSEN Act, on a non-statutory basis initially, through policy developments across a range of areas, in conjunction with NCSE policy advice. Full consultation will also take place with stakeholders before adjustments are made.

I can assure you that this Government will continue to prioritise investment in the area of special education support and I am confident that ongoing investment and reform will continue to see improvements made in this area.

Qualifications Recognition

Ceisteanna (219)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

219. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the recognition of mutual qualifications on an all-island basis would be impacted in a no-deal Brexit; if plans have been agreed to ensure the continuation of recognition of qualifications in all Brexit scenarios; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26699/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Should the UK Leave on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a transition period, the current EU Directives will continue to apply to the UK during that time. The EU and the UK indicated in the Political Declaration setting out the framework of the Future Relationship between the EU and the UK that during negotiations on the Future Relations they will seek to develop appropriate arrangements on those professional qualifications which are necessary to the pursuit of regulated professions and in the Parties' mutual interest.

Should the UK leave the EU on the basis of a No Deal scenario, the EU Directive on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) will no longer apply in the UK. In the No Deal context, working with officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other Departments with responsibility for the regulation of professions, my Department is leading work to ensure, in as far as possible, the provision of arrangements with the UK to recognise professional qualifications. As part of this process, my Department is co-ordinating action by each Department with responsibility in the area of professional qualifications to ensure engagement and dialogue between regulatory bodies in Ireland and the UK and to put in place arrangements for the continued recognition of qualifications.

Relevant Departments have indicated that the engagement between their Regulatory Authorities and their UK counterparts is underway to achieve these objectives.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (220)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

220. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of efforts to secure sites in Buncrana, County Donegal, for new schools (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26718/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of new accommodation for the schools in question is included in my Department’s capital programme. The project to provide this school accommodation requires the acquisition of a suitable site and this has proved to be extremely challenging to date, despite the best efforts of my Department and of officials in Donegal County Council who are assisting under the Memorandum of Understanding.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department is doing its utmost to deliver a solution for the schools at the earliest possible date and officials in both my Department and Donegal County Council are actively engaged in this process.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (221)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

221. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in progressing plans for the new school buildings at a college (details supplied) in County Donegal since the public meeting there in May 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26719/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that this project has been devolved to Donegal Education and Training Board (DETB) for delivery.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that DETB has appointed a new architect to complete the delivery of the extension project. It will now work with the existing design team to finalise the Stage 2A process prior to lodging planning permission, which is still expected to take place in September/October.

I can also inform the Deputy that, in the meantime, approval has been given by my Department to carry out a series of works that will take place over this coming Summer. These works will include surveys of the existing main building to investigate issues with it, refurbishment works on the existing temporary accommodation on site, and works to address disabled access issues.

Third Level Staff

Ceisteanna (222)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

222. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full-year cost for each one point reduction in the academic staff-to-student ratio in universities. [26751/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that in accordance with the methodology used in the published institutional profiles, the current academic staff: student ratio in Universities is recorded at 20:1.

This is calculated based on the 2017/18 enrolment figures for full time equivalent (FTE) students (full and part time) to all academic staff as at 31 Dec 2017.

A one point reduction would require an estimated additional 288 academic staff and an estimated cost €17 m per annum. It should be noted that this figure includes Department funded staff. The estimated annual cost for a one point reduction in Department funded academic staff, is calculated at 200 staff at an annual cost of €12 m.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (223)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

223. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has met his UK counterpart formally since the beginning of 2019. [26752/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I have not met with the Secretary of State for Education since the beginning of 2019. However, I took the opportunity to meet with Nick Gibbs, Minister of State at the Department for Education in the UK, when I attended the Education Council meeting in Brussels in May 2018. We had the opportunity to discuss the issue of Brexit and its potential education impact specifically in Northern Ireland, along with a number of other issues of shared priority.

I intend to meet with Secretary Hinds in the coming weeks.

Emergency Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (224)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

224. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an emergency works application will be granted for a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26782/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to carry out works to the school's floors. The application was refused as the works were deemed to be outside the scope of the scheme.

My Department is currently considering an appeal which has recently been received from the school authority in this respect. A final decision will issue directly to the school authority as soon as that appeal process has concluded.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (225)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

225. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a young child (details supplied) will be allocated a full-time special needs assistant in a school in September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26787/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with. Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

Where a school has received its allocation of SNA support for 2019/20, but wishes new enrolments or assessments to be considered, which were not taken into account when the initial allocation was made, they may continue to make applications to the NCSE.

The closing date for receipt of appeals in regard to SNA allocations is Friday 27th September 2019.

As this question relates to a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.