Schools Building Projects Applications

Ceisteanna (507)

John Curran

Ceist:

507. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received proposals from schools (details supplied) in County Dublin to expand existing school capacity to meet the growing population in the Adamstown strategic development zone, SDZ; if he has examined the proposals; if so, his views on the proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32932/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has received a proposal from the patron bodies of both schools in question. Officials from my Department’s Planning and Building Unit will be meeting both patron bodies in the coming week(s) to discuss this proposal.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (508)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

508. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of feasibility studies conducted by his Department in County Galway in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the names of each project being studied; the amount allocated and drawn down for each study; the person or body that sought each study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32940/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has not commissioned external consultants to carry out any feasibility studies in respect of school building projects in County Galway for the years in question. My Department has access to its professional and technical staff in the context of any advice that it may require relating to school buildings.

Irish Language

Ceisteanna (509)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

509. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the terms of reference for an aonad within an English-speaking parent school; the additional supports available to an aonad; the governance structure of an aonad; and the mechanism for achieving aonad status. [32968/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, the Department has committed to creating opportunities for expanding Irish-medium education outside the Gaeltacht in the context of the establishment of 42 new schools from 2019 to 2022, which affords particular consideration to the establishment of Gaelscoileanna, Gaelcholáistí, and Aonaid Lán-Ghaeilge as part of the new patronage process, and to continuing to work with stakeholders to further develop policy in this regard at post-primary level.

Following the April 2018 announcement of the establishment of 42 new schools from 2019 to 2022, the Department has developed a new Online Patronage Process System, which provides objective information and allows parents to express their preferences in relation to the patronage and language of instruction, i.e. Irish or English, of these new schools. Parental preferences, as well as other considerations such as the extent of diversity of provision in an area (including Irish-medium provision), are key to the decision-making process.

A number of Aonaid Lán-Ghaeilge are in operation in English-medium post-primary schools around the country. These Irish-medium units, which teach some students all subjects through Irish, vary in size in accordance with local circumstances. Arrangements for the teaching and learning of students in an Aonad and organisational structures within the school are managed by the relevant school authorities. It is open to school authorities to engage with relevant Sections of my Department as required in relation to these Irish-medium units.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (510)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

510. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of new special needs assistant, SNA, jobs being introduced in September 2019 in national schools in counties Cavan and Monaghan (details supplied). [32989/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I announced on 27th May that 792 additional SNA posts will be allocated to schools for the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, with up to 130 additional posts expected to be allocated by December 2019.

By the end of this year, there will be up to 15,950 SNAs working in our schools, an increase of over 51% since 2011.

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.

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 publish the allocations for individual schools for each school year and this information is available on their website, www.ncse.ie.

In respect of the details supplied with this Question by the Deputy, which raises a separate issue, the recruitment SNAs is a matter for school management.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (511)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

511. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a project for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [33079/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for this school is 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.

Following a legal challenge, authorisation to re-commence the pre-qualification process issued to the Design Team and school. This advert has closed and the Design Team is currently in the process of compiling a shortlist of contractors for tender stage.

When the pre-qualification process for the main contract and reserved specialists contracts is complete, the project will then be progressed to tender stage.

A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Ceisteanna (512)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

512. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied). [33081/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding was recently approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme to enable the school in question to build a 1 class SEN base.

The project has been devolved for delivery to the School Authority. The next step will be for the school to procure a consultant. This consultant will lead the project through the various stages of architectural planning and onwards through the statutory planning process and construction.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (513)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

513. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school project (details supplied). [33082/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a building project for the school in question is included on the Department's building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

My Department is in receipt of correspondence from the school relating to the proposed Schedule of Accommodation for the project. This is currently being considered and my Department will revert directly to the school authority when this process has been completed.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (514)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

514. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be granted to complete all phases of a school (details supplied). [33083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently in architectural planning. The school will be delivered under my Department's Design & Build Programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction.

On Thursday May 30th the Principal and a representative of the Board of Management attended a meeting at the Department offices in Tullamore to view the proposed plans. Following the meeting minor amendments were requested by the Board of Management. The Board of Management confirmed their satisfaction with the revised plans on June 21st.

The design is being progressed in preparation for the planning application which will be the next key step in the progression of the project.

The timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission. Once planning permission is secured a tender competition to appoint a building contractor will be required. The schools Board of Management will be kept informed of progress by Department officials throughout.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (515)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

515. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedures available to the family of a person (details supplied) who want the child to do the full leaving certificate but whose school is insisting that the child does the applied leaving certificate. [33088/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme is one of a number of options, alongside the Leaving Certificate Established and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, that are made available by my Department for Senior Cycle students which schools can choose from, based on the education needs and interests of their student body.

It is the responsibility and choice of each individual school to decide to put in place the LCA programme. It is also for schools to decide on the admittance of a student to a Leaving Certificate programme in their school. Schools are encouraged to provide maximum access to these options and to have clear procedures in place, to be advised to students and parents, regarding how the available places are allocated to students.

My Department does not have the authority to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaints. However, my Department, together with school management authorities and teacher unions have agreed a standardised complaints procedure. Details of steps that can be taken by parents are outlined on my Department’s website at: https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Complaints-Bullying-Child-Protection-Discrimination/Parental-Complaints.html.

The Leaving Certificate Applied programme is being considered by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, along with all other elements of Senior Cycle, as part of its review of Senior Cycle which commenced in 2017. This review will help to ensure that curriculum development continues to respond to the changing needs of learners, society and the economy.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (516)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

516. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that participated in the schools reconfiguration for diversity programme by county; if there is a capital budget associated with the scheme, for example, to facilitate a school whose numbers expand post divestment to acquire necessary land for such development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33090/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process was announced by the Government to provide more multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment for 400 multi-/non-denominational schools by 2030. This process, which involves the transfer of live schools, as opposed to the amalgamation and closure model of the patronage divesting process, is aimed at increasing multi or non-denominational provision.

The initial phase of the process involved each Education and Training Board (ETB) identifying an area where there may be unmet oncoming demand for a multi-/non-denominational school, and (in partnership with the local childcare committee) surveying parents of pre-school children, rather than parents of children in schools, to assess the level of oncoming demand in that area.

This identification phase work provides useful learning and will inform the development of the process. My Department is currently engaging with representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference with a view to working through and agreeing the approach for the next stage.

Separately to the main Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process, school communities can directly engage with their school patron regarding transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron. A number of patronage changes have taken place in recent years, for example, Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry, opening in September 2017 and Faughart, in Co. Louth and Brannocktown, Co. Kildare which became Community National Schools in 2018.

A number of other schools are due to become multi-denominational Community National Schools from September 2019, following agreement between their current patron and the local ETB.

In relation to the purchase of additional land, it is open to any school to submit an application for grant aid under the Department’s Additional School Accommodation scheme. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, there are competing demands on the Department’s capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise available capital funding towards the provision of essential classroom accommodation in areas where significant demographic need has been established.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (517)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

517. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants employed for the 2018-2019 school year; and the projected number of SNAs to be employed for the 2019-2020 school year. [33094/19]

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.

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 number of SNA posts allocated at the end of the 2018/19 school year was 15,030. As I announced in May, a further 792 posts have been allocated for the start of the 2019/20 school year with up to a further 128 posts expected to be allocated by the end of December, bringing the total allocation at the end of 2019 to 15,950.

Recruitment of SNAs is a matter for school management.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (518)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

518. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number employed of the approximately 950 increased additional special needs assistants announced in budget 2019 for the period 2018-2019. [33095/19]

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.

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.

Budget 2019 provided for an additional 950 SNA posts, bringing the total number of SNA posts available for allocation by the end of this year to 15,950. The number of posts allocated at the end of the 2018/19 school year was 15,030. I announced in May that a further 792 posts have been allocated for the start of the 2019/20 school year bringing the total to 15,822. It is anticipated that the remaining posts will be allocated before the end of December 2019.

Recruitment of SNAs is a matter for school management.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (519)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

519. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he used the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 to force a school to open an ASD class in an area in which a need has been identified; if not, the reason for not using the powers contained in the Act; his plans to commence using the Act in the immediate future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33096/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Every child must have the opportunity to avail of his or her right to education pursuant to their constitutional and legal rights and in accordance with their identified needs.

I am aware that there is a need for additional specialist education placements in a number of areas for next September.

In each of these areas, local Special Education Needs Officers are working with parents and schools to ensure that these placements become available.

The Government would prefer that schools provide the necessary places voluntarily.

The Minister has certain legal powers under 37A (2) of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) to direct schools to make new places available.

The Act outlines a number of steps that must be taken before a school can be directed to make additional places available including:

- The National Council for Special Education must first form the opinion that there is an insufficient number of places in an area and write to the Minister outlining the reasons and type of placements required.

- If the Ministers agrees, he then serves a statutory notice on the schools identified who then have the right to make representations to the Minister.

- Statutory notices issued under the Act together with the representations received from the schools are published on the Department’s website.

- The Minister considers the representations and following any consultations with the patrons involve, he may issue a further statutory notice to the schools

Last April, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) issued a report under the Act to the Minister outlining a shortfall in the number of specialist education places required in the Dublin 15 area.

It is the formal activation of section 37A. This allows for the capacity of schools in an area to be tested and ultimately it can allow the Minister to issue a direction that requires a school to provide additional special education places.

On 28th June, I served statutory notice under the Act on 18 schools in Dublin, and their patron bodies, requesting that they make additional places available.

The 18 schools and their Patron bodies had 14 days to make representations to me in respect of the notices.

I am currently considering these representations and I have the option to consult further with the schools and their Patron bodies before further action is taken.

Access to Higher Education

Ceisteanna (520)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

520. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for DARE by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) offers places at reduced points to school leavers with disabilities. Admissions under the DARE scheme is regulated by the institutions themselves and not by my Department. Each higher institution determines its own admission policy in relation to DARE, the number of places they reserve for DARE and the allocation of those places.

Any requests for more detailed information about DARE and this particular application should be directed to the Central Applications Office (CAO) (www.cao.ie) who coordinate the DARE scheme for participating institutions.

Industrial Relations

Ceisteanna (521)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

521. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of negotiations between his Department and a representative trade union; if improved terms and conditions such as access to a basic pension and sick pay will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33123/19]

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 issued surveys on the 10th of July 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 these surveys. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (522)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

522. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the role of supplementary assignment managers; if they are responsible for the supplementary assignment panel for SNAs; and if there is one for each county or school (details supplied). [33148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) were established on foot of proposals brought forward by the Labour Relations Commission when the Haddington Road Agreement was being agreed. These supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs continue to operate under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020 , and both unions representing SNAs, namely SIPTU and FÓRSA, have signed up to that agreement. As set out in the LRC proposals, the supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs only apply to current SNAs who are notified that they are to be made redundant. Accordingly, the purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school / ETB.

Once an SNA with a minimum of one year's service (service in a substitute capacity i.e. covering for maternity leave, sick leave, career breaks, job-sharing etc. does not count) is notified by his/her employer that s/he is to be made redundant then s/he shall be deemed to be a member of a supplementary assignment panel for SNAs. The detailed supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2019/2020 school year are set out in Departmental Circular 0030/2019 which issued on 22 May 2019 and which is available on the Department's website at the following address:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0030_2019.pdf

The operation of this panel is described and outlined in Circular 0030/2019 and it is designed to be as flexible as possible which enables all eligible SNAs, who have the requisite Panel Form 1 completed by their former employer, to apply for any SNA position that is advertised by a school or an ETB with no sectoral, diocesan or geographical limitations imposed. Every eligible SNA will remain on the panel for two years with a view to getting further employment. If they are not successful over that period of time in obtaining a further SNA position then they will be eligible for a redundancy payment. Furthermore, an SNA may opt out of this supplementary assignment panel at any point in time triggering the processing of his/her redundancy payment in line with the terms set out in the SNA redundancy scheme (DES Circular 58/06) or any revision of same that is applicable at that time.

It should be noted that this does not prevent any person, including newly qualified SNAs, from applying for SNA vacancies but employers are obliged to give precedence to applicants who are members of the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel.

The Supplementary Assignment Panel arrangements are reviewed by my Department on an annual basis in conjunction with an independent Supplementary Assignment Manager, the school management bodies and the two unions representing SNA staff (FÓRSA and SIPTU).

My Department has set up a dedicated e-mail address to deal with all queries in relation to the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel and any queries in respect of the operation of the Panel can be directed to this dedicated e-mail address: snasupplementpanel@education.gov.ie.

Summer Works Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (523)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

523. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount allocated to schools for the summer works scheme in 2017 and 2018, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The amount allocated to schools under my Department's 2016/2017 multi-annual Summer Works Scheme in 2017 and 2018 is outlined in the table below.

Year

Allocated to schools re Summer Works Scheme

2017

€47m

2018

€40m

Information in relation to the schools approved for summer works is available on my Department's website https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/Building-Works/Summer-Works/

Special Educational Needs Data

Ceisteanna (524)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

524. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in direct provision centres partaking in the July provision programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33168/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The purpose of my Departments extended school year (ESY) scheme – also known as July provision –scheme is to provide funding towards an extended school year for children with a severe or profound general learning disability or children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.

There are two elements to the July Provision Scheme

School Based Scheme – Schools that have special classes for autism and/or severe and profound learning disability can participate in the July Programme. My Department contacts all eligible schools each year to invite them to participate in the programme and extend their special classes into the month of July.

Home Based Scheme – where eligible students cannot be accommodated in a school based programme, funding may be provided towards the provision of 40 hours home based tuition.

Approximately 10,123 children accessed the scheme in 2018.

My Department does not have information on the number of children in direct provision centres participating in this scheme.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (525)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

525. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on the application for an ASD unit by a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33198/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding was recently approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme to enable the school in question to build a 2 class SEN base.

The project has been devolved for delivery to the School Authority. The next step will be for the school to procure a consultant. This consultant will lead the project through the various stages of architectural planning and onwards through the statutory planning process and construction.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Ceisteanna (526)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

526. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on an application for additional accommodation by a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33199/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is in receipt of an application for additional school accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy. Once the application has been assessed, the school authority will be informed.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (527)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

527. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the construction of the new primary school in Kanturk, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33200/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers is devolved to the OPW for delivery.

I can confirm that the Stage 2B report (preparation of tender documentation) has been received from the OPW and is currently being assessed. The Department is awaiting further information from the OPW in that respect. Tender documents can be expected to issue to the shortlisted tenderers immediately after the completion of this assessment.

The Deputy may also be aware that the OPW has confidence that the enabling works on site, which had been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, will be completed this month.

School Catchment Areas

Ceisteanna (528)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

528. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the rules relating to catchment areas for national schools; if his attention has been drawn to the significant difficulty caused by the perceived inflexibility of the rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33201/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The question of enrolment in individual schools, including the setting of catchment areas, is the responsibility of the school authorities and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. It is the responsibility of the school 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, it may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to prioritise enrolment of children from particular areas or particular age groups or on the basis of some other criterion. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances are a matter for the schools themselves.

New schools established to meet demographic demand are required to prioritise enrolments from within the school planning area which the school was established to serve.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 was signed into law by the President on 18 July 2018. The overall objective of the Act is to provide a new framework for school enrolment, designed to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications for admission is structured, fair and transparent.

School Transport Availability

Ceisteanna (529)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

529. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make changes to the school bus scheme to allow for changes to bus routes to cater for concessionary ticket holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33202/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. 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 at a cost of over €200m in 2018.

The purpose of the 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. Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who complete the application process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/20 school year.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. Concessionary transport is subject to a number of conditions including that routes will not be extended or altered, additional vehicles will not be introduced, nor will larger vehicles or extra trips using existing vehicles be provided to cater for children who are not eligible; no additional State cost will be incurred.

Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.

Bus Éireann is currently considering applications for the 2019/20 school year. Services operating for the 2019/20 school year will be determined by the number of children who complete the application process on time and who and are deemed eligible for school transport.

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

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (530)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

530. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the payment of tuition fees by a sponsoring company to secure a place for a postgraduate student are considered as income for that student for the purposes of applying for a student grant in circumstances in which the sponsoring company pays these fees on the understanding that the fees will be repaid to it when the student receives a student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33203/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter in the first instance for the grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).

SUSI's online grant application system for 2019/20 opened on 25 April 2019. Although the priority closing dates have now passed, students can still apply to have their eligibility for support assessed. Details are available at www.susi.ie

Article 14 of the Student Grant Scheme 2019 sets out clearly the eligibility exclusions for a student grant. It states that a student is not eligible for a grant if he or she has been awarded or holds any grant, scholarship, prize, allowance, bursary or award of similar description made from public funds, with the exception of the following awards:

- awards such as scholarships, prizes or bursaries, made by the institution being attended;

- postgraduate research awards where the stipend portion of the award does not exceed a specified amount, which for the relevant academic year, is specified to be €16,000;

- awards to applicants under the Student Assistance Fund or the Fund for Students with Disabilities;

- Easter Week Scholarship Scheme;

- Donogh O'Malley Scholarship Scheme;

- Department of Education and Skills Third Level Bursary Schemes;

- All Ireland Scholarship Scheme; and

- TUSLA – NTRIS Employment Support Scheme.

If an individual applicant considers that he has been unjustly refused a student grant or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to an appeals officer in SUSI. Please note that there are statutory time limits for making an appeal.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his case, an appeal may be submitted by the applicant via www.studentgrantappeals.ie outlining the position to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe.

Schools Data

Ceisteanna (531)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

531. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of classes in prefabs at both primary and secondary level in September in each of the years 2014 to 2018; and the number of classes that will be prefabs in September 2019. [33211/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The number of classes accommodated in prefabricated units varies from year to year and is dependent on the organisation of class groups by individual schools within their available accommodation.

As at 30th June 2019, I can confirm to the Deputy that there are 471 schools renting interim accommodation, either temporary prefabricated classrooms or an area within an existing permanent building.

My Department 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. This integrated approach helps to streamline the delivery of projects for schools.

Under project Ireland 2040, the Department continues to make progress to increase the infrastructural capacity in the schools sector, in order to meet demographic and other demands. In 2018, capital expenditure for the school sector amounted to €547m.

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 deliver approx. 40,000 additional and replacement school places, the replacement of over 600 prefabs which is a key element of our prefab replacement programme. In addition, enhanced sports facilities will be provided through the construction/modernisation of 48 PE Halls at post-primary level and 82 General Purpose rooms at primary level. This will also support the provision of 200 modern science labs which will support the delivery of the reformed science curriculum and the roll-out of Computer Science as a leaving certificate subject.