School Staff

Ceisteanna (197)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

197. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated first full-year costs of increasing the substitution provided to primary schools with teaching principals sufficient to ensure that all teaching principals can avail of one full day of administrative duties each week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30339/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals, including at this year’s IPPN conference, and I appreciate the pressures they face. In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019.

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4,600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

Enabling teaching principals to have one release day per week would cost an estimated €7.5m per annum.

Any additional increase in the number of release days will have to be considered as part of the annual budgetary process, alongside the many other demands in the education sector.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (198)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

198. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of reinstating postgraduate student grants; the projected full-year cost on the basis of the previous system that was in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30340/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase financial supports for postgraduate students with a particular focus on those from low income households.

As the Deputy will be aware, additional funding of €7m was secured in Budgets 2017 and 2018 to facilitate the reinstatement of full maintenance grants from September 2017, for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students. This benefited circa 1,000 postgraduate students who met the eligibility criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant and reversed the budgetary cut that was imposed on this cohort of students in 2012.

If postgraduate supports and numbers were returned to the pre-2012 level, it is estimated that additional funding of €44.1m would be required on top of the additional €7m secured in recent budgets.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (199)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

199. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools with either a secretary or caretaker directly employed by his Department in 2019; the number in each of the years 2000 to 2018; the criteria that apply to the allocation of these posts; the number of staff employed in schools under the ancillary services grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30341/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A Scheme was initiated in 1978/79 for the employment of Clerical Officers in primary and post primary schools under which the school secretaries and caretakers are paid directly through the payroll operated by my Department.

The 1978/79 scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. There are currently a total of 189 primary schools with either a school secretary or caretaker employed under this 1978/79 scheme. This is further broken down to 150 schools employing only a school secretary and 39 schools only employing a caretaker.

Currently there are 153 primary and 110 post primary whole time equivalent Clerical Officers (School Secretaries) employed in schools under the 1978/79 Scheme and paid through my Department’s payroll. There are also 86 whole time equivalent primary school caretakers employed under the 1978/79 Scheme and paid through my Department’s payroll.

This 1978/79 scheme has been superseded by a more extensive capitation grant Scheme. 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.

Within the ancillary services grant programme, the level and extent of services provided is a matter for the school authorities who, through the discretion afforded by the scheme, apply their own arrangements for secretarial services as resources permit. My Department does not have any direct role in the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. Given that employment of school secretaries and caretakers is dealt with at local school level, my Department does not have a central record of the number of school secretaries and caretakers funded by the ancillary services grant.

On a related matter the Deputy may be interested to know that today my Department announced an online survey for schools to complete regarding secretaries and caretakers employed by them and paid by grant funding. These surveys are being undertaken in response to a pay claim that has recently been tabled by the FÓRSA union.

The surveys will issue to over 3,500 individual schools. Given the scale of the task and the fact that schools are in the summer holiday period, my Department expects to have analysis from the surveys available in early October.

The closing date is Wednesday 4 September and my Department is encouraging all relevant schools to complete the surveys before that date.

Third Level Charges

Ceisteanna (200)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

200. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated first and full-year cost of reducing the student contribution rate by €250, €500 or €1,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30342/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Student Contribution, which currently stands at €3,000, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. Based on the number of students that qualified for free fees funding in the academic year 2017/18 (and were therefore liable to pay the Student Contribution), and taking into account expected increases in student numbers, it is estimated that the net cost to my Department of reducing the contribution is outlined in the table.

Reduce by (per student) €

Estimated Net cost to Department €

€250

€19m

€500

€38m

€1,000

€76.4m

It should be noted that this figure incorporates the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget.

While the student contribution now stands at €3,000, it is important to recognise that there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15. The exchequer pays this contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students who are in receipt of student grant assistance.

Tax relief provisions are also available so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost. In addition, higher education institutions have provisions in place to allow students to pay the contribution in two moieties.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (201)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

201. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated first and full-year cost of decreasing the non-adjacent rate of third-level grants from 45 km to 24 km; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30343/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. It is not intended to cover the full cost of attending college. The student grant scheme does, however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.

Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.

The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.

The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.

The first year cost of "decreasing the non-adjacent rate of third-level grants from 45km to 24km" is estimated to be in the region of €11.5m. The full year cost of this proposal would be in the region of €26m.

Student Accommodation

Ceisteanna (202)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

202. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the proposed student accommodation and new build application is in line with a request from a school (details supplied) will be reviewed in order to allow for a significant increase in student population and increased accommodation requirements into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has approved a major building project on the school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan for the school in question which will cater for an enrolment of 750 pupils.

The project for this school, together with major building projects at four other post primary schools in the locality, are all intended to cater for the long-term demographic demand in the school planning area.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Ceisteanna (203)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

203. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the updated funding request by a school will be reviewed with items (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30360/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the school to which he refers was granted approval to build a 1 Classroom SEN Base and 1 Mainstream Classroom under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2018.

The project is devolved to the School Authority to deliver.

The project proceeded to planning application stage and included unapproved works. The Department has advised the School Authority to scale back the project to the level of works approved and resubmit the planning application in respect of these works only.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (204)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

204. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department received a request from a school (details supplied) to support the provision of a dedicated school bus to transport students of the school to and from the Southgate and Grange Rath area of County Meath to the new temporary accommodation of the school in Bettystown, County Meath in view of the planning delays associated with the school site; if the support requested will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30361/19]

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.

Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

Children who are not eligible for school transport, under the terms of the scheme, may apply to Bus Éireann for transport on a concessionary basis only.

Families of children who require transport under the terms of the School Transport Scheme are advised to contact their local Bus Éireann office to inquire about applying for transport to the school referred to by the Deputy.

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

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (205)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

205. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the location in relation to funding provided by his Department (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the payment referred to by the Deputy was made in respect of the purchase of a site for Kolbe Special School, Portlaoise.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (206)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

206. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a project (details supplied) will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30397/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been obtained.

The Design Team has recently completed work on its NZEB submission for this project which will ensure the new school building will be a "Near Zero Energy Building" (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

It is anticipated that this project will shortly be authorised to commence the pre-qualification process to create a shortlist of contractors to which the project will be tendered.

Education Centre Network

Ceisteanna (207)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

207. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason he is advertising for a new director in a centre (details supplied) in view of the fact that the current situation has been left unresolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30442/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Section 37 of the Education Act 1998 provides the legislative basis for the recognition and regulation of Education Centres. Section 37(6) of the Act makes provision to make regulations relating to a number of matters in Education Centres such as the appointment of management committees, funding, staffing, provision of information to the Department & other operational matters.

In September 2017, the Education Support Centres (Appointment and Secondment of Directors) Regulation for the appointment and secondment of directors of Education Centres were introduced. Appointments as Directors under these Regulations are made on a school year basis. Under the regulations, a person shall not be appointed as Director for more than 5 consecutive years whether or not the appointment was made before the coming into operation of the Regulations. A part of a school year shall count as a full school year for the purposes of any calculation under the Regulations. At the end of the this school year, the current Director will have reached the maximum limit that is permitted under the Regulations.

Accordingly, the Management Committee of the Centre has sought and received my approval to hold a public competition to recruit a new Director for the 2019/20 school year in accordance with the Regulations.