School Staff

Ceisteanna (357, 358)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

357. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to restore guidance counsellors to one per 500 pupils ex-quota at post-primary level. [31657/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

358. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to restore guidance counsellors to one per 500 pupils ex-quota for DEIS schools. [31658/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 358 together.

Measures announced by my Department as part of Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 mean that 500 of the 600 guidance posts that were withdrawn in Budget 2012, were restored to schools from September 2018.

These 500 posts are allocated separately and transparently on each school's staffing schedule.  These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school. 

The estimated cost of one guidance counsellor per 500 pupils would require in the region of 250 posts in addition to the 500 posts which have been restored in Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 at an estimated cost of €15.75 million per annum.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (359, 360)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

359. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of each one point reduction in the pupil teacher ratio at primary level. [31659/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

360. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of each one point reduction in the pupil teacher ratio for junior, senior, first and second class. [31660/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 and 360 together.

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 allocation of teachers to schools is on the basis of the whole school population.  For the current school year, the staffing schedule at primary level 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. 

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

Special Educational Needs Expenditure

Ceisteanna (361)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

361. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to restore the 15% cut in resource hours teaching. [31661/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

From September 2017, a new model for allocating special education teachers was introduced. This model allocates special education teachers to schools based on the profiled needs of schools, as opposed to the assessed needs of individual children.  

The revised allocation process replaced the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

The previous system which provides allocations of resource teaching support for individual pupils in particular disability categories, guided by the Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC Report), therefore no longer applies. 

The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

1,000 additional special education teachers have been provided for schools since 2017, while the total number of special education teachers has increased by 37% since 2011, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

Adding an additional 15% to the current level of provision of 13,400 posts, would require the addition of some 2000 extra special education teachers, at an approximate cost of €120 Million per year.

Psychological Services

Ceisteanna (362, 602)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

362. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to increase NEPS by 25%. [31662/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

602. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of employing an additional 20 educational psychologists. [33884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 362 and 602 together.

As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

Following on from an increase allowed in the 2018 Budget that the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist stands at 194 whole-time equivalents of which some 187 w.t.e. posts are currently filled with 7 posts vacant due to on-going retirements and resignations, etc. within the Service.  Even at this current level this represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Additionally the Deputy may be aware that under the provisions of Budget 2019 I was pleased to announce that NEPS psychologist numbers will expand by a further 10 posts from the start of the new academic year bringing the overall approved psychologist numbers to 204 w.t.e .

I can inform the Deputy that a national recruitment competition is currently in operation by the Public Appointments Service in conjunction with my Department to replenish NEPS Regional Recruitment Panels to allow for both the filling of the above mentioned vacancies and the expansion of NEPS number by a further 10 posts from September.

In answer to the Deputies specific question I can inform her that NEPS 2019 budget stands at €20.756m and therefore a straight 25% increase would amount to an additional €5.2m.  An increase of 25% on the existing NEPS psychologist staff complement would add approximately 50 posts. The average direct pay and non-pay cost per annum of engaging an individual Educational Psychologist is €75,000 per annum. The estimated annual additional cost, therefore, of employing the following numbers would be €3.75m.

In relation to the Deputy's  further question on the matter the cost of an additional 20 NEPS psychologist staff would be €1.5m per annum.

Psychological Services

Ceisteanna (363)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

363. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to provide administrative support for each NEPS psychologist. [31663/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

NEPS is organised on a regional basis with 23 offices and currently with some 187 w.t.e. psychologist staff. It has a Head Office administrative Unit sited within my Department in Dublin.  Direct administrative support is afforded to psychologists within NEPS at a local and national level, within this structure, by some 29 w.t.e. administrative staff.

Ancillary administrative support is provided to NEPS staff by services units within my Department, along with the generality of other departmental staff from, for example, the HR Unit, Finance Unit, etc.

I can inform the Deputy that the NEPS administrative staff budget currently amounts to approximately €1.3m per annum. The unit cost per psychologist of this direct administrative support is therefore some €6,952 per annum.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (364)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

364. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to reverse staffing cuts to small schools with fewer than 86 pupils to 2011/2012 levels. [31665/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recently hosted a symposium on Small Schools which gave me an opportunity to restate the Government’s commitment to small schools and to open a dialogue with all the key stakeholders.

The purpose of this work by the Department is to develop a policy proposal to help support and strengthen small primary schools throughout the country.

Since 2015, measures have been introduced to improve the staffing of small schools which has seen improvements in the appointment and retention thresholds for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th classroom teacher and more favourable enrolment thresholds for one teacher schools situated 8km or more from the nearest school of the same type of patronage and/or language of instruction.

Budget 2017 announced two adjustments in relation to one teacher schools. Where the school is the sole primary school on an island the school will be able to appoint a second teacher.  In relation to single teacher schools generally with an enrolment of 15 or more pupils the school can apply to the staffing appeal board for a second post where the single teacher has children across 6 or more class groups. 

Small schools have also benefitted from the 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule for all schools implemented in 2016 and again in 2018.  The staffing schedule at primary level currently operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

In addition, the staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria, including a specific appeal measure for small schools, to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.

The estimated cost of restoring the staffing schedule for small schools to pre-2012 levels would be €1.1 million in the first year, and €3.4 million for the full year.

Student Grants Data

Ceisteanna (365)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

365. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to reverse changes to the non-adjacent grant levels. [31666/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The cost of reversing the change to the distance criteria for the student grant is estimated to be in the region of €26m.

The above costing assumes that a change to the distance criterion would result in a similar percentage of students qualifying for the higher non-adjacent grant support, as existed pre Budget 2011.

Post-Leaving Certificate Courses Fees

Ceisteanna (366)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

366. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to remove apprenticeship and PLC course fees. [31667/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

An Annual Student Contribution (ASC) is levied on all students attending Institutes of Technology (IoTs).  Previously this ASC was paid by FÁS/SOLAS with apprentices themselves paying the part of the contribution relating to examination fees. As part of Budget 2014, SOLAS ceased making payments to IoTs and apprentices pay the full pro rata ASC.

The amount charged to apprentices is calculated on a pro rata basis of the time which they spend in IoTs during the academic year.  For craft apprenticeships, this cost would typically be one third of the €3,000 ASC paid by students attending for the full academic year and so amounts to approximately €1,000 per apprentice per period spent in the IoT.  In the case of the new consortia led apprenticeships the contribution varies for each programme as their off-the-job training has a more flexible structure.  In cases where training is delivered in an Education and Training Board there is no contribution made by the apprentice. 

Based on projected apprenticeship provision in higher education institutions, apprentices or their employers will make up to €6.6 million in ASCs in 2019. If the arrangement in place prior to Budget 2014 arrangement were to be reinstated, where the apprentices paid the proportion of the ASC deemed to relate to examination fees, the total cost of not charging the ASC to the State would be €4.8 million in a full year. 

The only centrally determined payment for the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme is the €200 PLC participant contribution. This amount is not payable by persons with a medical card, as well as a number of other categories, which means that approximately 60% of PLC participants do not pay the contribution. The estimated cost to remove the PLC participant contribution is in the region of €2.4 million.

Third Level Fees

Ceisteanna (367, 368)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

367. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of reducing the student contribution by €250 for students with family income as per levels (details supplied). [31668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

368. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of reducing the student contribution by €500 for students with family income as per levels (details supplied). [31669/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 and 368 together.

The Student Contribution, which currently stands at €3,000, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. It is important to recognise that there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15. 

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, the estimated net cost to my Department of reducing the contribution by €250 or €500 is outlined below.

 Reduce by (per student)

Estimated net cost to Department 

 €250

 €19m

 €500

 €38m

 

It should be noted that the above estimates incorporate the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget as 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.

The Deputy may wish to note that family income does not influence eligibility for the free fees scheme. 

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.

Third Level Staff

Ceisteanna (369)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

369. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of each one point reduction in the academic staff to student ratio for universities. [31670/19]

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 €17m 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 €12m.

Third Level Staff

Ceisteanna (370)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

370. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of each one point reduction in the academic staff to student ratio for institutes of technology. [31671/19]

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 Institutes of Technology is recorded at 15:1.

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 345 academic staff and an estimated cost €20m per annum.  It should be noted that this figure includes Department funded staff and externally funded staff.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (371)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

371. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of extending grant support to part-time students at third level. [31672/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Based on the Higher Education Authority (HEA) statistical data of part-time undergraduate and part-time enrolments in all HEA funded institutions for the 2017/18 academic year, there were 23,794 part-time undergraduate students and 16,307 part-time postgraduate students.

If maintenance and fee grants were introduced for part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students along similar lines to those for full-time students, and similar numbers qualify for support, then the estimated cost would be in the region of €56m.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (372)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

372. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of extending grant support to postgraduate students. [31673/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that fee and maintenance grant support is currently available to postgraduate students; over 2,000 postgraduate students received SUSI grant support in 2018/19.

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

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 benefitted 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.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (373)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

373. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of increasing each rate of the student grant by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, respectively. [31674/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The estimated cost of increasing the student maintenance grant rates by 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% would cost in the region of €8.7m, €17.3m, €26m and €34.7m respectively.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (374)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

374. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of increasing the special rate of the student grant by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, respectively. [31675/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Figures for the 2018/19 academic year are not yet finalised.  In 2017/18, there were 21,798 students in receipt of the special rate of maintenance grant. Based on these statistics, the estimated cost of increasing the special rate of maintenance grant by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20% would be circa €5m, €9m, €13m and €18m respectively.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (375)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

375. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of increasing the special rate of the student grant by €30 per week for term time. [31676/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Figures for the 2018/19 academic year are not yet finalised.  However, in 2017/18 there were 21,798 students in receipt of the special rate. Therefore, the cost of paying these students an additional €30 per week based on a 36 week period, would cost approximately €24m.

Capitation Grants

Ceisteanna (376)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

376. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of a 5% increase in capitation to PLCs, Youthreach and VTOS. [31677/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Capitation amounting to €1.4 million was paid in 2019 in respect of students attending PLC courses.  In addition to this, SOLAS, the further education authority, provided enhanced capitation of €2.5 million.

To increase the total paid by 5% would cost €195,000.

The Department provides funding to  SOLAS to provide for further education programmes such as Youthreach and VTOS.  The funding is disbursed by SOLAS by way of grants to the ETBs to cover all pay and non-pay elements of the programmes.  There is no capitation element paid in respect of these programmes, although funding is based on the number of class groups.  In 2019 SOLAS provided €67 million funding for the Youthreach programme and €70 million in respect of the VTOS Programme.

Educational Supports

Ceisteanna (377)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

377. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of increasing the school books grant by 30%. [31678/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The estimated cost of a 30% increase in the book grant for primary and post-primary schools is circa €5m.

The Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post primary schools within the Free Education Scheme in order to provide assistance for books including Book Rental Schemes.

Under this scheme, the Department provided funding of €16.9 million in 2019 to all of these schools.  It is a matter for the Board of Management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of this funding in the school but they are expected to adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books for use in their classes. The current arrangement relies on the local knowledge of the school in order to ensure a fair allocation of funds to those most in need.  The arrangements in relation to this scheme are set out in Circular 0046/2013 which is published on the Department's website at http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0046_2013.pdf

Private Schools

Ceisteanna (378)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

378. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full year net saving of withdrawing the annual subsidy to private schools. [31680/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Gross expenditure on the order of over €91 million was incurred in 2018 on salaries for teachers (including employer’s PRSI).  My Department is collating the capital expenditure figures and I will forward them to the Deputy when ready.

If the parents of children in the fee charging sector chose to send their children to the non-fee-paying sector, the State would have to fund those school places. In this respect, the figures quoted relate to the gross cost of fee charging schools and not the net cost. Since it is not possible to predict these patterns of behaviour it is not possible to calculate the net saving. It would, however, be significantly less than the gross figures.

Teacher Supply

Ceisteanna (379)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

379. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full year net saving of using newly qualified teachers for substitution duties rather than retired teachers. [31681/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I understand that there is no net saving involved in using newly qualified teachers for substitution work rather than retired teachers.  Both newly qualified teachers and retired teachers who return to work in a substitute capacity are paid the same rate of pay for substitute work.

The salary scales and the substitution payment rates applicable to qualified and unqualified teachers are set out in Departmental Circular 51/2018. This Circular is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0022_2019.pdf

Circular 31/2011 issued by my Department requires school management authorities to give priority to qualified registered teachers rather than retired teachers in relation to substitution work.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (380, 382)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

380. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full year net saving of replacing all rented prefabs with permanent accommodation, assuming the cost of providing same is already accounted for. [31682/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

382. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of replacing 100 prefab units with permanent accommodation. [31684/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 and 382 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is the overall policy of my Department to ensure the highest standard of permanent accommodation for all schools.  In 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 and in this regard, it is sometimes necessary to make use of temporary accommodation in order to meet the accommodation needs of schools.

The costs associated with replacing existing prefabricated units with permanent accommodation will vary depending on a range of factors including the extent of the accommodation to be provided, linking new permanent accommodation with existing facilities, site topography, geographical location of the school and costs associated with complying with statutory requirements.  In that context, it is not possible to accurately estimate the full year net savings or the cost of replacing 100 prefabricated units.     

My Department is taking an integrated approach with the Prefab Replacement Programme through the replacement of prefabricated units as part of large-scale and devolved projects, or as part of new projects approved under the Additional Accommodation scheme. It is anticipated that construction activity in 2018 and 2019 will involve over 130 large-scale projects and circa. 280 smaller scale projects under the Additional Accommodation Scheme.  These projects will see the replacement of over 600 prefabs which is a key element of our prefab replacement programme.

Psychological Assessments

Ceisteanna (381)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

381. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full year net saving of reducing the scheme for private psychological assessment by 10%. [31683/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

Under the Scheme, schools that do not currently have access to an assigned NEPS psychologist may commission psychological assessments from an approved panel of private practitioners maintained and paid for by NEPS for this purpose.  NEPS pays an all-in fee of €304 (€243 net withholding tax) per assessment.

In its last full year of operation, 2018, NEPS expended some €0.52m on some 1,715 SCPA assessments countrywide - a reduction of 10% - at this level would therefore produce a saving of €0.05m per annum.