Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (217)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

217. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when tenders will be invited from the shortlist of contractors for a school (details supplied); the closing date for receipt of tenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29252/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at Stage 2(b) – Detailed Design.

The pre-qualification process to select a shortlist of suitable contractors has been completed and the Design Team is currently carrying out a final review of tender documentation.

Once this work is complete, my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management of the school regarding the progression of the project to the next stage of architectural planning, Stage 3 - tender stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (218)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

218. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when tenders will be invited from the shortlist of contractors for a school (details supplied); the closing date for receipt of tenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29253/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The process of Pre-Qualification of contractors for the project in question is underway. The Pre-qualification process culminates in the compilation of shortlists of suitable candidates for each respective discipline. My Department authorised the Design Team to complete the pre-qualification process in April 2019.

The next stage of architectural planning for this project will be Stage 3 – tender stage. When this Pre-Qualification process is complete my Department will be in contact with the school regarding progression to tender stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (219)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

219. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 208 of 5 February 2019 when the phase 1 construction will be completed; when phase 2 of the project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29256/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school building project to which the Deputy refers is currently on site.

The first phase, consisting of the construction of the new 8 classroom school is due for completion in Quarter 3 2019. The second phase is due for completion in Quarter 2 2020.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (220)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

220. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if authority has been given to the school authorities to seek rental accommodation to ensure that a school (details supplied) will open in September 2019 in view of the decision by Kildare County Council to refuse planning permission on 21 June 2019 for temporary buildings for the school; if there has been success in renting accommodation for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29257/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

With regard to the school to which the Deputy refers the local authority refused planning permission on 21st June, 2019.

My Department has been in constant contact with the relevant stakeholders including the Patron Body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, considering a number of interim arrangements to ensure the school opens for September 2019.

An Foras Pátrúnachta have made interim arrangements for the school to open in accommodation in Gaelscoil Ui Fhiaich, Maynooth and have communicated this position to parents of enrolled children.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (221)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

221. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills if special supports will be provided to a child (details supplied). [29263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

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 Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Special transport arrangements on medical grounds may be considered by the Department where a pupil has a medical condition, and the condition is such that it would prevent the child from making his/her own way to the school, or the pick-up point, as appropriate.

Where such applications are made, the Department requests that the pupil's GP complete an Application for School Transport on Medical Grounds, which outlines the nature and severity of the medical condition. The form is then forwarded to the Medical Advisor, who, on the basis of the medical evidence submitted, determines whether the above conditions apply.  This form is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Popular-forms/st_medical_grounds_application.pdf.

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (222)

James Browne

Ceist:

222. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school transport for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

The purpose of the “School Transport Scheme for children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

Children are eligible for transport where they  have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability and are attending the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs.

Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENO). Decisions regarding transport eligibility are based on the prevailing circumstances at the time of first enrolment.

The child referred to by the Deputy is eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs.

Bus Éireann is currently assessing school transport arrangements for the coming school year and will liaise directly with the family in this regard.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (223)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

223. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made on an application for a special needs assistant by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29276/19]

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 particular school, I will refer the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (224)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

224. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a student (details supplied) is being denied an exemption to the cost of the school transport scheme despite holding a medical card; the reason they are not allowed to travel on the bus under an exemption to a secondary school in Athlone in view of the fact that the bus route is close to their home; if the decision by Bus Éireann will be overruled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29322/19]

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. The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

Under the terms of the Post-Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department of Education/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. Children who are eligible for school transport but for whom no service is available may be offered the Remote Area Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application process on time, are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. Where the number of applications from ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available, tickets are allocated using an agreed selection process. Only children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid Medical Cards are exempt from paying the annual charge.

Bus Éireann has advised that the child in question is not eligible for school transport as she is not attending her nearest school and the family should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office if they wish to enquire about the availability of school transport on a concessionary basis for the 2019/20 school year.

Changes to the school transport scheme were announced in Budget 2011, derived from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme (published March 2011). One of the changes at post primary the cessation of the long standing catchment boundary area system to determine eligibility.  Existing children at that time who were eligible for school transport, and met the distance criteria, retained their transport eligibility for the duration of their schooling, provided their circumstances did not change. Bus Éireann has confirmed that the siblings of the child referred to were eligible under the pre-2012 eligibility criteria.

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

Minor Works Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (225)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

225. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an increased maintenance grant will be awarded to a school (details supplied). [29332/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department administers a number of capital grants which together aim to improve and maintain school buildings.

The Minor Works Grant for primary schools may be used to improve the physical infrastructure and appearance of schools. The school referred to by the Deputy has received its Minor Works Grant for 2019.

The Summer Works Scheme (SWS), which is demand based, is designed to allow schools, on a devolved funding basis,  to carry out necessary improvement works that will upgrade existing school facilities and which can be carried out during the summer months or at other times that avoid disrupting the operation of the school.

My Department also administers an Emergency Works Grant, and its purpose is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils.  An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

The Summer Works Scheme application form is published on my Department's website as and when each new Scheme is announced while the Emergency Works Scheme application form is permanently available on my Department's website.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (226)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

226. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a protected disclosure (details supplied) was first made to his Department; the progress made to date in examining same; when the process will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29337/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This Protected Disclosure was initially received in the Department on 28th May 2018.

The matters raised by the protected disclosure are still under consideration by my Department.

This process has not yet fully complete, however it is anticipated that this will be concluded in the near future.

My Department will write to the Discloser when its consideration of the protective disclosure has been concluded.

Speech and Language Therapy Provision

Ceisteanna (227)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

227. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to recent closures of speech and language units in Longford and Athlone despite no decrease in demand for the services; his plans to close more speech and language units nationally; his views on the lack of services available to those that cannot avail of the already limited speech and language units; and his further plans to mitigate same. [29339/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The opening and retention of a Speech and Language class is contingent upon the Health Service Executive (HSE) being in a position to provide Speech and Language therapy to the students in the class. The availability and provision of speech and language therapy is the responsibility of the HSE.

63 Specific Speech and Language Disorder special classes in mainstream primary schools will be provided for the 2019/20 school year. This compares to 60 such special classes in 2011/12. In the period 2011 to 2019, the number of SSLD special classes has ranged from 60 - 65, depending on need.

My Department provides an extensive range of supports for pupils with Specific Speech and Language Disorder (SSLD).  This includes provision for the establishment of special classes for pupils with SSLD in primary schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including applications to establish special classes for SSLD. Applications meeting the criteria for establishment are approved by the NCSE.

The NCSE continues to monitor and review the requirement for special class places in particular areas and has capacity to establish such new classes or retain current classes where necessary, subject to the willingness of schools to open/retain classes. The NCSE welcomes expressions of interest from schools in opening special classes to meet the demand for special class provision. In deciding on the location of a special class SENOs take into account both the present and the future potential need for special class provision, and they must also be satisfied that the special class is sustainable and appropriately located.  SENOs liaise with relevant professionals in their area to arrive at an informed decision.

As the Deputy's question refers to speech and Language special classes in 2 particular areas, I have arranged for the NCSE to reply directly to the Deputy on this.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (228)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

228. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in the Greystones district who have not received an offer of a secondary school place for September 2020 to date; the options available to parents of such children in order that they can be assured of a place; and if the opening of the proposed secondary school planned for Greystones for 2021 will be brought forward to 2020 to accommodate such children. [29357/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998 and the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.

My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This 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.

As the Deputy is aware the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which was signed into law by the President on the 18th July 2018, is an important piece of legislation which will introduce a more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy operates for the almost 4,000 primary and post-primary schools in this country and a fair and balanced school admission process for all pupils.

The Deputy will also 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 800 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2021 to serve the Kilcoole and Greystones 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 major building project for St. David’s Holy Faith Secondary School in Greystones is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning and will provide an extension and refurbishment to the existing school along with a new two-storey Physical Education Hall and ancillary accommodation to accommodate a long term projected enrolment of 750 pupils. This will provide an additional 180 post-primary places in the Greystones school planning area.

In addition, a major building project for Coláiste Craobh Abhann in Kilcoole will provide an extension and refurbishment to the existing school to accommodate a long term projected enrolment of 800 pupils, providing an additional 85 post-primary places in the Kilcoole school planning area.

It is also open to existing schools in the Greystones school planning area to apply for additional temporary accommodation should this be required.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Ceisteanna (229)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

229. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount spent on digital marketing in each of the past eight years; the items on which funds were spent; the criteria by which target audiences were selected; the amount of the digital spend targeted here; the amount targeted abroad; the amount that related to private companies; the amount that related to policy initiatives; and the purpose of the digital advertisements. [29390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

For the Deputy’s information, the details in relation to the expenditure from 2011-2018 inclusive in relation to digital marketing are set out below.

In the years 2011-2017 my Department had no digital marketing spend. However, in December 2018, a campaign promoting teaching as a career was developed in conjunction with the Government Information Service (€132,991) in which digital media was utilised as a platform.

In addition, during 2018, my Department worked with other bodies on a  number of other high profile campaigns aimed at raising awareness among the teaching profession and learners on specific initiatives including a national STEM awareness campaign (€78,965); online safety campaign in conjunction with the Department of the Taoiseach (€21,051); awareness raising Campaign (Promotion of Foreign Languages as part of Ireland's Foreign Languages strategy) which was implemented by Post-Primary Languages Initiative (PPLI) (€350,000). Each of these campaigns had some digital marketing element. The breakdown of the specific digital marketing element is not available as the marketing and advertising campaigns were managed by the relevant organisations.

All of the spend above related to raising awareness or driving action for the relevant policy initiatives. No amount was targeted abroad. The campaigns all involved payments to private companies.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (230)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

230. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a child (details supplied) will have a SNA when school starts in September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29414/19]

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.

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (231)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

231. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the costs paid to companies (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason each was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29441/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested is being collated by my Department. I will forward it to the Deputy when it is ready.

School Transport Fees

Ceisteanna (232)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

232. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 247 of 8 May 2019, if the maintenance charges of Bus Éireann for school transport are charged on a per mile basis in accordance with the 1975 agreement; if there were changes made to the 1975 agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29452/19]

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.

As previously outlined to the Deputy, the 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements remain as the current arrangements in operation.

On an annual basis Bus Éireann provides the Department with the projected cost of school transport services together with a provisional spread of payments. These costs are broken down under the headings agreed in the 1975 arrangement which include maintenance costs.

In terms of maintenance, Bus Éireann vehicles are brought into the garage every six weeks for a full maintenance check. The maintenance charges for these vehicles are based on identified required works and are allocated on a per vehicle basis.

Bus Éireann report the maintenance costs to the Department on a monthly basis as part of the monthly operational meetings.

Technological Universities

Ceisteanna (233)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

233. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to allow technical universities to access borrowing for the provision of purpose built student specific accommodation. [29467/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Technological Universities (TUs) are considered to be General Government entities and borrowings by TUs contribute towards General Government expenditure and affect the General Government balance. Section 21 of the Technological Universities Act 2018, provides for the making of rules from time to time  by the HEA, with the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills and the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance. The Department is considering funding issues for TUs, including in relation to borrowing arrangements and in the broader context of the provision of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA). The Department is consulting, as appropriate, with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in this regard.

In February 2019 the Department established an independently chaired high level working group, the Technological University Research Network (TURN), comprising representatives from the Department, the Technological Higher Education Association, the Higher Education Authority, TU Dublin and the 3 current TU development consortia. TURN is examining a number of key issues for the future development of TUs including integration challenges, best practice in relation to management structures, organisational work practices and the funding model for TUs, including issues such as borrowing arrangements. It is envisaged that the outcome of the TURN process will be of benefit to TU consortia and established TUs in driving their strategic development and the achievement of organisational, sectoral and national priorities for higher education and regional and national development. The work of TURN is expected to inform the consideration of areas in which investment in TUs may underpin their effectiveness and success, including issues such as borrowing arrangements for TUs. TURN is expected to report to the Minister for Education and Skills later this year.

In broader policy terms, the National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) complements the initiatives being taken by the Minister for Housing to increase housing supply under Rebuilding Ireland.  The strategy outlines 8 key targets and 27 actions which are designed to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of PBSA. The target as set out in the NSAS is the provision of 7,000 bed spaces by end 2019 and a total of 21,000 additional PBSA beds by 2024.

As of the end Q1 2019:

- 6,362 PBSA bed spaces had been completed since the launch of Rebuilding Ireland

- 6,007 further bed spaces were under construction

- 6,005 additional bed spaces had planning permission granted

- 2,880 were at the planning permission application stage.

In total these developments combine to 21,254 PBSA bed spaces, demonstrating strong growth in the sector and enhancing the mix of accommodation available to students during a time of accommodation shortage in the general rental sector.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (234)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

234. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated number of extra teachers that would be required at primary level to reduce the ratio to teacher to students from 24.5 to 23.9. [29490/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget will have increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including more than 370 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes.

The 2018/19 school year saw an increase of over 6000 teaching posts in our schools compared to the 2015/16 school year.

It is the annual staffing schedule which determines the allocation of teachers to schools.  For the current school year, it operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.3:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2017/18 school year. Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.5 in the same period. It is expected that the one point improvement in the staffing schedule, implemented in September 2018, will further improve the overall ratio of teacher to students.

Each 1 point adjustment to the primary staffing schedule is estimated to cost in the region of €13.5m per annum.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (235)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

235. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding school secretary pay (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29516/19]

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (236)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

236. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the costs paid to a company (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason it was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29550/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested is being collated by my Department. I will forward it to the Deputy when it is ready.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (237)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

237. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position on the provision of a new school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

Under this arrangement, it will be a matter for the ETB to appoint a design team for the design and construction phases of the project.  As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for completion of the works.

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (238)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

238. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects at stage 1 of the school building or extension process; the details of the 20 projects the longest at stage 1; and when each was listed at stage 1 initially in the case of each one. [29606/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The status of large-scale projects being delivered under the school building programme was last updated on my Department's website on May 31st 2019. For the purposes of this response, the data reflects current status on each of those projects.

There are 19 projects that are currently progressing through Stage 1 of Architectural Planning. Information in relation to when each of these projects began Stage 1 is contained in the following document.

COUNTY 

ROLL NUMBER

SCHOOL

STAGE  

DATE PROJECT MOVED TO CURRENT STAGE

Clare

19849U

Gaelscoil Donncha Rua, Sionna

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/11/2018

Cork

00467B

Ballinspittle NS

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

13/07/2018

Cork

13779S

Dromahane NS, Mallow

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/10/2018

Cork

14116V

Kilbrittan NS

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

29/08/2017

Cork

20399W

Scoil Chroi Iosa, Blarney

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

26/09/2018

Donegal

71200I

Errigal College

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/01/2019

Dublin

00729F

Loreto Primary, Rathfarnham

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

20/12/2018

Dublin

17367P/ 17912O/ 18632N  

Mary Help of Christian School/Scoil Eoin Baiste BNS /Scoil Eoin Baiste JBNS, Navan Rd, D7

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

13/02/2018

Dublin 

19926M

Bunscoil Coláiste Mhuire, 4 Cearnóg Pharnell, BAC 1

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

Mar-18

Laois

68068R

Coláiste Íosagain, Portarlington

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

06/03/2014

Limerick

17937H

Monaleen NS, Castletroy

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

Limerick

76476F

Mungret Community College

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/07/2018

Limerick

81014R

Crescent CS, Limerick City

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

08/03/2018

Meath

20191V

St. Peter's N.S.Dunboyne

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/01/2019

Meath

20444B

Trim ETNS

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/01/2018

Offaly 

72530L

Ard Scoil Chiarain Naofa, Clara

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/10/2018

Sligo

65180T

Ursuline College, Sligo Town

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/07/2018

Wicklow

20080M

Gaelscoil an tÍnbhir Mhor, Arklow

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/02/2018

Wicklow

76106S

Gaelcholáiste na Mara, Arklow

Stage 1 (Preliminary Design)

01/02/2018

DEIS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (239)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

239. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review and change the criteria for the grant of DEIS status to schools. [29608/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage. All schools at both Primary and Post Primary are being assessed using the new identification model.

This analysis is being carried out by members of the DEIS Technical Group which contains representatives of the Department’s Statistics and Social Inclusion Units, the Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. Work is ongoing by this group, including consultation with relevant experts. I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need.

Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

The DEIS advisory group (which includes school management bodies and unions) was briefed in May by officials from my Department on progress and it is intended to schedule a further meeting of the DEIS advisory group for October this year.

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (240)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

240. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a student (details supplied) in County Kerry who cannot get a place in their nearest post-primary school will be made fully eligible for school transport to the next nearest post-primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29621/19]

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. The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

In general children are eligible for school transport if they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

In cases where the Department is satisfied that the nearest school is full, eligibility for school transport will be determined based on the distance that children reside from their next nearest school having regard to ethos and language.  If the family has further information in regard to the closest school being full they should contact School Transport Section of my Department. Further information in this regard is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. Children who are eligible for school transport but for whom no service is available may be offered the Remote Area Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application process on time, are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. Where the number of applications from ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available, tickets are allocated using an agreed selection process. Only children who are eligible for school transport and who hold valid Medical Cards are exempt from paying the annual charge.

Bus Éireann has advised that the child in question is not eligible for school transport as he is not attending his nearest school and the family should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office if they wish to enquire about the availability of school transport on a concessionary basis for the 2019/20 school year.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably.

Summer Works Scheme

Ceisteanna (241)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

241. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school project (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29636/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which he refers was approved funding under my Department's Summer Works Scheme 2017 to carry out extensive roof repairs. The project has been devolved to the school authority for delivery.

Due to the competing demands on the Department's capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise available funding towards the provision of essential school classroom accommodation in areas where significant demographic needs has been established, it is not possible at this time to consider the school’s application for refurbishment works.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (242)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

242. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application by a person (details supplied) will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29657/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology/specialised equipment is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support, which is set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology scheme, a student must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the student to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.

No application for assistive technology to support the student referred to by the Deputy has been received by the NCSE or my Department to date.

It is open to the school of the student concerned to make an application for support to the NCSE. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Schools Property

Ceisteanna (243)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

243. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person or body responsible for maintenance of the pedestrian laneway which services schools (details supplied) from the Castlelands Road, Balbriggan, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29664/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the laneway referred to by the Deputy is in the ownership of the Minister for Education & Skills and forms part of the Joint Campus of the schools referred to.

Maintenance of school grounds are a matter for the school authorities. The Department has contacted a Patron of one of the schools referred to notifying them of the concerns raised and has asked them to seek to resolve the concerns raised in conjunction with the other schools on the campus.