Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (397)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

397. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he plans to reduce class sizes here in view of the fact the average class size here is significantly higher than the average size across OECD countries; if he will engage with the Minister for Finance with regard to the financial resources needed to tackle class sizes comprehensively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35825/19]

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. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.  

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 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year.  Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period. 

Any change in the pupil teacher ratio would have to be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process, alongside the many other demands from the education sector. 

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (398)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

398. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a schedule of inspections conducted at a site (details supplied) and its surrounds for quality assurance and building regulations compliance since the project commenced to date will be provided; his plans to carry out a full risk assessment at the location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35835/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The building project referred to by the Deputy is being 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. There is also a full-time Clerk of Works present on site who represents the interests of the Department in regard to ensuring that the quality of both materials and workmanship are in accordance with architects/engineers drawings and specifications.

As required under the Building Control Regulations my Department has also appointed an Assigned Certifier for the project.

The role of the Assigned Certifier is to:

(a) provide and sign the relevant statutory certificates - the form of undertaking at commencement and the Certificate of Compliance on Completion;

(b) co-ordinate the ancillary certification by members of the design team and other relevant bodies for the Certificate of Compliance on Completion;

(c) identify all design professionals and specialists, in conjunction with the Builder, from whom certificates are required;

(d) identify all certificates required and obtain them;

(e) co-ordinate and collate all certification of compliance for completion in conjunction with the Builder;

(f) in consultation with the members of the design team, plan and oversee the implementation of the Inspection Plan during Construction;

(g) prepare the Preliminary Inspection Plan and oversee adherence to this plan, and on completion provide the Inspection Plan as implemented;

(h) on termination or relinquishment of their appointment make available to the Building Owner all certification prepared and inspection reports carried out;

(i) act as the single point of contact with the Building Control Authority during construction;

(j) seek advice from the Building Control Authority, in respect of compliance matters relating to the building or works where disputes or differences of opinion arise between the parties to the project; and

(k) maintain records of inspection.

The information provided by the Deputy has been referred to my Department's D&B Project Manager and the Assigned Certifier for investigation. If any problem is found the matter will be resolved under the terms of the Contract prior to the Assigned Certifier presenting the application for certification on the Building Control Management System (BCMS) and prior to handover and occupation of the school.

Research Funding

Ceisteanna (399)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

399. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if grant aid is available to fund research (details supplied). [35838/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to their designated higher education institutions. The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to the institutions, covering such areas as teaching and learning and research. As autonomous bodies, the internal disbursement of this funding is a matter for the individual institution. The latest HERD survey (survey of research and development activities in the higher education sector) indicates that the portion of this block grant allocated to research was €230m in 2016.

My Department is also providing total funding of €47.6 million in 2019 to the Irish Research Council, HEAnet and the Irish Centre for High End Computing, as follows:

- €40.5m is being provided to the Irish Research Council to support excellence in frontier research across all disciplines and all career stages.  Particular focus is placed on early career researchers and the promotion of diverse career opportunities for researchers by partnering with enterprise and employers.  Awards are made on a competitive basis on the basis of excellence following assessment by expert independent panels. Information about calls, including opening and closing dates, may be found on the IRC website www.research.ie

- €6m is being provided to HEAnet, Ireland’s National Education and Research Network, to provide internet connectivity and associated ICT services to higher education and research organisations. Its e-Infrastructure services underpin the academic research and education activity for the higher education sector, as well as providing e-infrastructure for primary and post-primary schools. Further information is available on https://www.heanet.ie

- €1.1m is being provided to the Irish Centre for High End Computing for the provision of high-performance computing services, support, education and training for researchers in higher education institutions and Irish enterprise. Further information is available at https://www.ichec.ie

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (400)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

400. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 260 of 9 July 2019, if a review of the stage 2(b) has been completed; the status of the new building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

The Design Team has confirmed that it is working on finalising the Stage 2(b) report ensuring 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. The Design Team Leader currently envisages that the Stage 2(b) report will be with the Department for review by end September.

Upon completion, receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) submission, the Department will be in contact with the school regarding the progression of the project at that time.

DEIS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (401)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

401. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if measures will be put in place in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [35859/19]

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.

School Transport Data

Ceisteanna (402, 403)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

402. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of quality assurance checks of vehicles operating the school transport scheme that took place in 2018; the number of checks and the pass rate by county, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35864/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

403. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of unannounced inspections carried out by school transport supervisors in 2018; the number of times an inspection was not passed; the number of follow-up inspections carried out; the number of follow-up inspections failed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 402 and 403 together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that in relation to vehicle testing standards, all large public service vehicles operating in the state must meet the minimum statutory requirements of the Road Safety Authority’s Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness test and are subject to roadside inspection by the Authority to ensure that they have a current roadworthiness certificate at the time of roadside inspection. Each vehicle must also have a valid Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence issued by a PSV Officer of An Garda Síochána following inspection. Both of these legal requirements are verified by Bus Éireann before any vehicle is permitted to be added to the nominated fleet of any contractor seeking to provide services under the School Transport Scheme. In addition to the statutory requirements, Bus Éireann arranges for additional examinations of vehicles operating under the School Transport Scheme – which are both targeted and random. These additional quality assurance checks are carried out by an independent agency on behalf of Bus Éireann.

All operators successfully awarded contracts to operate School Transport Scheme services by Bus Éireann must meet their contractual obligations set out in respect of vehicle safety, safety inspections and maintenance systems.

Bus Éireann has advised that the detailed information requested is not readily available and will involve an amount of administrative time to compile. In this regard, Bus Éireann has been requested to respond directly to the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (404)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

404. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans to build a new school building at a school (details supplied). [35948/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

I can also inform the Deputy that approval was given by my Department to carry out a series of works, which included surveys of the existing main building to investigate issues with it, refurbishment works on the existing temporary accommodation on site, and works to address disabled access issues. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that these works were carried out over the summer months and, aside from a small number of surveys, are now completed.

It is my understanding that the school management are happy with the high standard of work carried out. The Department will continue to work closely with the school and the ETB to process the project.

State Examinations Commission

Ceisteanna (405)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

405. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35951/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (406)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

406. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a pay increase for special needs assistants, SNAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Remuneration is set by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  SNAs have benefitted from the increases in pay and changes to Additional Superannation Contribution (formerly PRD) as agreed through the Public Service Pay Agreements (PSSA) and enacted through the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017.  The latest increase in basic pay of 1.75% is effective from the 1st of September 2019 and includes SNAs who are public servants covered by the PSSA and legislation.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (407)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

407. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a permanent school for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35964/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This building project is currently at Stage 2B of the Architectural Planning process – Detailed Design Stage. The pre-qualification of contractors process has been carried out by the Design Team.  The next stage of Architectural Planning for this project will be Stage 3 – tender stage which normally takes 7-8 months to complete. My Department will be in contact with the school regarding progression to tender stage.

This building project is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

Schools Amalgamation

Ceisteanna (408)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

408. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a matter (details supplied) relating to a schools amalgamation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35973/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that additional information, requested from the Patron body, in relation to the proposed amalgamation of the two schools in question, has been received in my Department and is under review.  

Upon completion of the review, an Official from my Department will contact the Patron directly.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (409)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

409. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a project (details supplied); the details of delays to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35976/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the delivery of this project has been devolved to Louth County Council (LCC).  The project is currently advancing through the Stage 2B Detailed Design Process. Fire Safety Certificates and Disabled Access Certificates were received in late 2018, and a preliminary Health and Safety Plan was completed in late April. This is a challenging project to plan as significant archaeological finds have been recorded in and around the vicinity of the site. There is also a need to carefully plan and design the site's road access from the N52. This prolonged the planning process, but planning permission was granted in July 2018.

The project's Quantity Surveyor is currently working with the Design Team to ensure that the proposed building achieves maximum value-for-money. My Department is being appraised of developments by the Design Team in monthly Progress Reports. The Design Team recently confirmed that preparation of the Stage 2B tender documentation will be completed shortly. This will allow the project to proceed to tender.

Education and Training Boards

Ceisteanna (410)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

410. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the proposed Louth and Meath Education and Training Board, LMETB, headquarters in Drogheda, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35980/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (LMETB). 

A number of design issues have arisen with this project. These have included issues relating to the need for additional security features for the proposed building that became apparent at tender stage and which required a change in brief with consequent design alterations. Currently, the capacity of the building is being reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of LMETB into the future. 

I can assure the Deputy that every effort to progress the project has been made in 2018 and 2019 and will continue to be made. A number of meetings between officials from my Department and LMETB and its design team, with a view to addressing the relevant issues, have taken place in the last year. However, it is still too early at this stage to give a commencement date for construction.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (411)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

411. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) has been waiting a long time for the person's SUSI grant review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35990/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives in making enquiries about their grant applications. This service complements the established channels provided by SUSI which include online application tracking, a dedicated website, a telephone helpdesk, email and social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

Enquiries may be emailed direct to SUSI at oireachtas@susi.ie. Staff in SUSI are responding to email queries within a matter of days.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (412)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

412. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the work being undertaken to expedite the new school project for a school (details supplied); the actions being taken with regard to same; and the timescale for construction work to commence. [35992/19]

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. The re-commenced process of compiling a shortlist of contractors for tender stage is currently nearing completion. 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.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (413, 414)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

413. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and post-primary schools, respectively, that require parents to pay voluntary contributions. [36002/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

414. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to end the practice of voluntary contributions in primary and post-primary schools; his plans to appropriately fund primary and post-primary schools to end the need to ask for money from parents to meet funding shortfalls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36003/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 413 and 414 together.

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998 the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. Ultimately it is a matter for each individual school to determine if it should seek a Voluntary Contribution, considering its individual circumstances. My Department does not hold records regarding payments collected from parents including voluntary contributions received by schools.

It should be noted that the term 'require' used by the Deputy appears to imply that voluntary contributions may be compulsory in schools. This is not the case. It is permissible for schools to look for voluntary contributions provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay and that, in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.  

In relation to school costs in general, I strongly support any measures that can be put in place to reduce costs for parents.  All schools must be sensitive to the financial pressures on parents in making decisions, not just about fees, but about any matter that has cost implications for parents including uniforms and books etc.  Specific guidance issued to schools on this issue (Circular 32/2017) and referenced the need for schools to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents.

I do, however, fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools. I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools from the start of the 2019/20 school year.  The first and full year cost of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures.  Where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year, I have to prioritise, especially in the context of increasing enrolments. It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets. I also intend that, under the draft legislation on a Parent and Student Charter, schools will be required to consult students and parents regularly in relation to school costs and working to avoid costs acting as a barrier to participation. In addition it is intended that every school will be required to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (415)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

415. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the schools issued with a notice pursuant to section 37A(5)(a) of the Education Act 1998 in the Dublin 7 and 15 areas; his plans to provide additional resources to the schools that have agreed to provide additional ASD spaces; his plans to meet the schools in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.  The legislation provides for a very transparent series of steps which can ultimately lead to the issuing of a legally binding direction to a board of management.  The initial step in the process is for the NCSE to inform the Minister there is a shortage of places in a particular area.

  The legislation was formally activated for the first time on April 18th following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15. The specific provision required was 8 additional primary ASD primary special classes and 40 special school places for students with complex needs. There has been very intensive engagement between the NCSE, the Department and patron bodies and schools to address this issue. To date, this has resulted in the establishing of the new Danu Community Special School in Dublin 15, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB catering for up to 40 students.

In addition, 4 ASD special classes have also been approved in mainstream primary schools in the Dublin 15 area leaving a total of 4 classes still required. On 23rd August, my Department issued a second statutory notice to six schools and their patron in the Dublin 15 area setting out the need to make more places available for children with special educational needs. The notice confirms my opinion that the schools should make additional education provision available and outlines the steps to be taken, together with information on the supports available. The schools and the patron have 14 days in which to make representations on foot of this notice. All of the notices that have been served and all the representations received from schools are published on the Department’s website at the following link:

h ttps://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Supports-for-Pupils-with-Special-Needs/section-37a-notices/

The notice follows a series of steps that have been followed under strict rules set down under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018)).  Further to the Section 37A notice dated 22 August which issued to 6 schools, these schools had a consultation with Department officials on 30 August. Subject to the agreement of the schools to establish a special class, a pactage of support is available to each schools which includes the following:

1 teaching post and 2 SNAs for every ASD special class of 6 children;

Additional SNA resources if required for students in special classes through NCSE;

Training support;

Funding for accommodation adaptation that may be required;

Enhanced professional supports from NEPS and NCSE.

There is a legal process now in process with these schools.  Schools have 14 days to make representations from the date of receipt of the S37A Notice.  My officials had a consultation with boards of management and the principal under the Act.  Accordingly, there are no plans to meet further with the schools concerned.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (416, 476)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

416. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional funding provided for school transport for schools (details supplied) to date in 2019, in view of the fact that the school population will be larger and the catchment bigger; the process used to calculate transport needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36075/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

476. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which the issue of students discommoded by the curtailment of a school bus (details supplied) has been resolved or is about to be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36650/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 416 and 476 together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres 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 have been 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. 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.

The terms of the scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.

Gaelscoil Issues

Ceisteanna (417)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

417. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if sufficient Gaelscoileanna will be established in the north County Dublin area to meet the demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36102/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, my 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 will afford particular consideration to the establishment of Gaelscoileanna, Gaelcholáistí, and Aonaid Lán-Ghaeilge as part of the new patronage process.

I recently announced that five new primary schools being established from 2020-2022 are being designated for Irish-medium education. The five new schools will serve areas of growing populations where there is no existing Irish-medium primary school or where there is more than one new school to be established between 2019 and 2022. Included in these schools are the new primary schools to be established in Donabate in 2020 and in the Donaghmede-Howth-D13 school planning area in 2021.

The Deputy may also be interested to note that my 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, for new schools. As the Deputy may be aware, this has resulted in patronage of three of the 13 primary schools to be established in 2019 being awarded to An Foras Pátrúnachta as gaelscoileanna, including the school in Drumcondra-Marino-D1 school planning area. The patronage process for the remainder of the primary schools from 2020 to 2022 will be carried out in due course and may result in additional gaelscoileanna.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.  My Department will also continue to monitor areas where the accommodation of existing schools, including gaelscoileanna, may need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the local population.

Details of schools that provide education through the medium of Irish are available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (418)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

418. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider developing a comprehensive course for oral Irish and Irish comprehension for pupils with literacy difficulties; if such a course can be given a worthwhile status through public examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36103/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Primary Language Curriculum, which is now available for all stages from junior infants to sixth class, is for teachers of children of all abilities in all school contexts. It seeks to support children in the development of their competence in the main language skills, including their competence in speaking and comprehension skills, at a level appropriate to their learning needs as they progress along their language learning journey. The Primary Language Curriculum promotes an integrated approach to language skills development and the transferability of those skills across languages.

Curricular provision for Irish at post-primary level is also underpinned by an integrated approach to the development of students’ language skills in Irish. The learning outcomes set out in the specifications for Irish in Junior Cycle are broad allowing teachers scope and flexibility to differentiate learning to meet the needs of the students across the language skills. A dual approach is adopted to assessment in Junior Cycle -  Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs) and a Final Assessment. The Final Assessment component is marked by the State Examinations Commission. Students complete two CBAs and both take account of student’ oral language skills.  This places assessment in the learning context and supports its integration into every day teaching and learning practices which will in turn develop and enhance students’ self-awareness and confidence as language users. CBA 1 requires that one piece of text included in the portfolio will be a sound/ video piece and, CBA 2 is based entirely on students’ oral language competence, including spoken interaction. In addition, the Assessment Task, which will be assessed by the State Examinations Commission, will be related to the learning outcomes on which CBA 2 will be based.

In senior cycle, Irish is offered in the established Leaving Certificate and also in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). The syllabuses in both cases support a differentiated approach to address students’ learning needs and assessment by the State Examinations Commission includes the assessment of students’ oral and comprehension skills.

The Primary Language Curriculum and the specifications for Irish in Junior Cycle are new and need time to embed in schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has already commenced the development of new specifications for Leaving Certificate (established) Irish.

I have no plans to develop a discrete course for oral Irish and Irish comprehension for examination through State examinations

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (419)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

419. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of a project (details supplied); the deadline for the scheme; the criteria for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36115/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

It is open to the school referred to by the Deputy to make an application for Major Capital Works to my Department.  The application form (Form FLE) is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.  There is no deadline for this scheme.  

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

Under the Ireland Project 2040, we will invest €8.4 billion (compared to €4.9 billion in the previous decade) in primary and post primary school buildings.

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

Commencement of Legislation

Ceisteanna (420)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

420. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he plans to commence section 7 of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018. [36118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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.

Following enactment, a number of sections of the Act were commenced in 2018 and are now operational. In February 2019, my Department began the process of consultation with the education partners on the regulations that will be put in place alongside the commencement of the remaining sections of the Act.

It is my intention to commence the remaining provisions of the Act, including Section 7, so that they will apply to applications for admission in respect of the 2021/22 school year.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (421)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

421. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if funding will be approved for categories 7 to 10 under the minor works scheme to a school (details supplied); when the funding will be set aside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36133/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that funding of more than €40 million was allocated for Summer Works projects in 2019.  This €40 million investment secured money for schools to upgrade windows, meet curricular requirements and make structural improvements to buildings and related to applications submitted by schools in categories 7, 8 and 9 under the multi-annual scheme announced in 2015, with works in these categories having been carried out over the summer months.

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has a Category 10 application under my Department's 2015/16 Summer Works Scheme. It is intended to undertake an analysis of these outstanding applications later this year. This analysis, together with funding availability and priorities for Summer Works Scheme 2020 onwards will determine the level of approval of such applications.