School Transport Appeals

Ceisteanna (422)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

422. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if correspondence forwarded to the school transport appeals office by a person (details supplied) on 12 July 2019 will be acknowledged and replied to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36135/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

Decisions made by, or on behalf of, the Department of Education and Skills regarding the provision of school transport services and/or grant-aid under the terms of the School Transport Schemes may be appealed to the School Transport Appeals Board. 

The School Transport Appeals Board has no record of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy.

Appeals should be made on-line to the School Transport Appeals Board at www.schooltransportappeals.ie or by downloading a School Transport Appeals Form on my Department’s website at www.education.ie

Departmental Internships

Ceisteanna (423)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

423. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of unpaid internships issued and-or granted to persons to work in his Department over the past five years to 28 August 2019; the number of persons who took up unpaid internship roles in that timeframe; if his Department continues to offer unpaid internships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36146/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department tries to facilitate, where appropriate, internships where an individual, their college/university or an advocacy group/charity has requested a work placement. 

The following are the unpaid internships/work placements facilitated over the last five years:

Myself and Minister Mitchell O’Connor have both facilitated interns through the Student Placement Programme in the Houses of the Oireachtas, my office in 2019 and Minister Mitchell O’Connor in 2018 and 2019.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor has also facilitated three EUSA placements (2017*, 2018, 2019) taking one intern per year through this programme.  EUSA is a not-for-profit international education organization that implements academically-directed internship programs on behalf of colleges and universities.  She also facilitated an internship through Global Experiences, which is a part of the American Institute For Foreign Study’s (AIFS) family of programs which results in academic credits for the intern as part of their studies, in 2018.

Since 2015, my IT Unit has facilitated six student work placements requested by TU Dublin Blanchardstown Campus (in association with Springboard) in order to provide students with the practical experience necessary to complete their IT studies.   

My Department has also facilitated unpaid work placements in Dublin and Tullamore for five people from the National Learning Network (NLN) in this time period. This NLN provides a wide range of vocational training and education programmes, funded by SOLAS, as well as rehabilitative training, funded by the HSE, for people who need specialist support to gain employment (long term unemployed and people with an illness or disability).

* One of these placements commenced when the Minister was in DJEI and moved across to my Department in 2017 when the Minister’s role changed.

Schools Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (424)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

424. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the refurbishment and extension of a school (details supplied); when work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers is devolved to Dublin & Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) for delivery.

My Department is fully aware of the need to urgently progress this project. However, it is of the utmost importance that the final outcome for this project will be the correct one for both the school authority and the pupils. In that regard, I would like to inform the Deputy that arising from its due diligence in respect of the preparation of the revised pre-qualification process for this project, DDLETB has carried out a review of the project which puts forward an alternative option for progressing it. In that respect, DDLETB recently met on-site with officials from my Department who have now sought further documentation from the ETB. This documentation, when received, will further inform my Department’s active consideration of this proposal and will assist in determining the next steps to be taken in progressing the project. 

In this respect, it is therefore not possible to give a date as to when work will commence at this time.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (425)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

425. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has met representatives of Bus Éireann or the RSA since September 2018 regarding the safety of the school transport fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 safety of children and those on board school transport vehicles is the number one priority for the Department and Bus Éireann.  The Department holds regular meetings with Bus Éireann and the Road Safety Authority to discuss road safety issues of relevance to school transport. The Department has met with Bus Éireann and the RSA on a number of occasions since September 2018 and is in regular communication with both organisations in regard to school transport safety related issues.

Mental Health Services Provision

Ceisteanna (426, 497)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

426. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide additional supports to students experiencing mental health difficulties at third-level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36183/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brassil

Ceist:

497. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to invest in mental health services at third-level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36758/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 426 and 497 together.

My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to HEA designated higher education institutions (HEIs). The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to the institutions. As autonomous bodies, the internal disbursement of this funding, including the funding of appropriate student services, is a matter for the individual institution.

All HEIs are required to put in place appropriate student services, which can fall under a number of headings, particularly ‘Welfare and Guidance’ which includes counselling services, health promotion, careers service, multi-faith, racial and ethnic cultural support. As such, the provision of appropriate services to students experiencing mental health issues would be included in this context. As part of their services to students, each HEI needs to consider what is most appropriate in the particular context of its own institution and students, while also considering best practice models such as peer-led support programmes and seeking to liaise with external services to the fullest extent possible. Students in HEIs can also access primary care and specialist mental health supports through their General Practitioner, and a number of institutions operate their own additional counselling service for students.

The Department of Health is currently advancing a number of e-mental health initiatives to augment this work such as the development of tele-counselling pilots with a view to national roll-out following successful evaluation. In addition, a 24-hour crisis texting service will be available to students and the general public in the near term. At present, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is also supporting mental health initiatives in the higher education sector, such as the recently launched ‘ReCharge’ mental health campaign and ‘+Connections’ mental health support. The Union of Students in Ireland also receives funding from the HSE to provide training courses in SafeTALK and ASIST. A working group has also been convened by the HEA to progress actions assigned to it under ‘Connecting for Life’, the national strategy to reduce suicide.

The National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report 2017 made a number of recommendations in this area and highlighted the good practice and innovative initiatives aimed at supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties in many institutions, as outlined in the AHEAD report Mental Health Matters. The Department of Health is developing a National Healthy Campus Framework which aims to support and recognise the work of institutions in improving the health and wellbeing of campus communities, and to generate and disseminate knowledge for promoting health and wellbeing on campus.

In relation to Budget 2020, I cannot comment, or pre-empt any decisions to be taken by Government at this stage, other than to state that funding for the higher education sector will continue to be a key focus for myself and the Department.

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (427)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

427. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the major school building projects scheduled to be completed in the next six and 12 months respectively; the number of projects scheduled to commence works in the next six and 12 months respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36185/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to major school building projects is currently being collated. I will arrange for the information to be forwarded directly to the Deputy shortly.

Departmental Communications

Ceisteanna (428)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

428. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the communications he has undertaken to date with patrons and schools on the provision of school places for children with autism in Dublin 15; the date on which each communication took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36186/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them is a key priority for me and the Government.

I am deeply conscious of the stress and anxiety facing parents and their children where difficulties are encountered in securing a school place.

As Minister 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 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.

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).

- April 18th - The legislation was formally activated following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

- April 30th - I appealed to schools and patrons to make more provision for children with special education for September 2019.

- May 27th - I wrote to the principals and chairpersons of boards of management in 22 schools in Dublin 15 requesting that they give serious consideration to the need for more special education provision.

- May 28th - The establishment of the new Danu Community Special School, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB, was confirmed, with places for 40 children with special needs for the 2019/20 school year.

- June 27th - The Department served statutory notices under Section 37A (5) on 18 schools and 2 patrons in Dublin 15. These notices communicated my opinion that they should make additional provision for children with special educational needs.

- 30 July & 1 August – Consultations on the need for additional special education provision took place with two patron bodies.

- August 7th - Technical teams began site visits, with 10 schools initially, to carry out first-hand assessments of the accommodation available and consider its suitability for additional provision of special classes.

- August 23rd – Second legal notice served under Section 37A on 6 schools in Dublin 15, one of which has since agreed to establish a special class

I would of course prefer to see children welcomed into a school without the need for legal compulsion.

However I am determined to do my utmost to ensure every child is allocated a school place, including using the provisions of the Education Act to direct schools to make additional provision.

School Placement

Ceisteanna (429)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

429. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the areas in which he has been advised to use his powers in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 to increase school places by State bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36187/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them is a key priority for me and the Government.

I am deeply conscious of the stress and anxiety facing parents and their children where difficulties are encountered in securing a school place.

As Minister 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 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.

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).

- April 18th - The legislation was formally activated following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

- April 30th - I appealed to schools and patrons to make more provision for children with special education for September 2019.

- May 27th - I wrote to the principals and chairpersons of boards of management in 22 schools in Dublin 15 requesting that they give serious consideration to the need for more special education provision.

- May 28th - The establishment of the new Danu Community Special School, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB, was confirmed, with places for 40 children with special needs for the 2019/20 school year.

- June 27th - The Department served statutory notices under Section 37A (5) on 18 schools and 2 patrons in Dublin 15. These notices communicated my opinion that they should make additional provision for children with special educational needs.

- 30 July & 1 August – Consultations on the need for additional special education provision took place with two patron bodies.

- August 7th - Technical teams began site visits, with 10 schools initially, to carry out first-hand assessments of the accommodation available and consider its suitability for additional provision of special classes.

- August 23rd – Second legal notice served under Section 37A on 6 schools in Dublin 15, one of which has since agreed to establish a special class 

I would of course prefer to see children welcomed into a school without the need for legal compulsion.

However I am determined to do my utmost to ensure every child is allocated a school place, including using the provisions of the Education Act to direct schools to make additional provision.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (430)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

430. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the engagements which have taken place between his Department and representatives of school secretaries since June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36188/19]

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 had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives in May 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.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (431)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

431. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the work underway to examine the Cassels report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36189/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Following a request from the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills for an economic examination of the three policy options proposed by the report on future funding of higher education (Cassells report), my Department engaged with the European Commission Structural Support Service throughout 2018 to ascertain the scope for the economic evaluation to be carried out with support from the European Commission Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP).  The SRSP provides tailor-made support to all EU countries for their institutional, administrative and growth-enhancing reforms to carry out the analysis of the three policy options identified by the Expert Group. 

A formal application for support under the SRSP was submitted in October 2018 and subsequently approved by the Commission. The Commission has sought the submission for proposals to undertake the work as outlined in the detailed Terms of Reference.  It is currently expected that the evaluation will be completed in September 2020. 

Having this evaluation undertaken through the Commission’s SRSP will provide access to the type of independent international expertise and analysis that will be very beneficial to a major evaluation of this nature.

Student Universal Support Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (432)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

432. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of SUSI grant applications made for the 2019-2020 term; the number granted and refused, respectively to date; the number of appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36190/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Up to the week ending 1st September 2019, the total number of SUSI applications for the 2019/20 academic year was 89,400.  Of these, a total of 74,400 had received an initial assessment decision with 63,000 assessed as eligible for grant support, 9,500 refused grant support and 1,900 applications cancelled.

With regard to appeals, it is open to any applicant to appeal a decision. Some applicants appeal a decision not to award a grant, while others appeal the value of the grant awarded. Up to week ending 1st September 2019, a total of 2,486 decisions were appealed to an appeals officer in SUSI.

Departmental Circulars

Ceisteanna (433, 434)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

433. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the monitoring of the implementation of circular 0032/2017 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36191/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

434. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the value of rewards paid to schools to date for the implementation of circular 0032/2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36192/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos 433 and 434 together

In circular 0032/2017 my Department published measures to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs.

While the circular provided, as resources permit, to reward schools that can provide evidence of having adopted the principles of cost-effective practice, my Department, having regard to the available budgetary resources, has focused on commencing the process of restoration by improving capitation funding for all schools. My Department has not issued a premium in capitation grants under this circular letter.

In 2019, my Department has provided for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post-primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/2020 school year. Over the course of the school year 2019/2020, an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post primary schools, of which €4 million will be allocated in 2019.

It is important that schools consult with parents and the school community, and the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 will require each school to implement a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines to be published by the Minister after consultation with the education partners, including the recognised national associations of parents. One of the key concepts in the Bill is the need for schools to seek to reduce the costs to parents as far as is practicable.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (435)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

435. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the work undertaken to date to update the sexual education curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36193/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In April 2018, a review of Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE) in schools was announced by Mr. Richard Bruton TD, the then Minister for Education and Skills.  The Minister asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to undertake a review not just of the content of the curriculum but of how it is taught, and in particular how young people can get factual information about sexual behaviour, orientation, consent and contraception. 

Included in the areas for particular consideration during the review are:

- Consent, what it means and its importance

- Developments in contraception

- Healthy, positive sexual expression and relationships

- Safe use of the internet

- Social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem

- LGBTQ+ matters 

Given the scope of the request, the review is comprised of three inter-related dimensions:

- Desk-top review of recently published research/studies in this area.

- Consultations with key individuals and organisations who have responsibility for or who are working in this area.

- Working directly with schools to examine the experience of RSE in schools and in classrooms.

A review of research was commissioned by the NCCA in June 2018 and a report on this was published in November 2018. 

A consultative event was held in November 2018 at Collins Barracks, Dublin and involved approximately 60 groups and organisation who have expressed an interest in or who are known to have an interest in contributing to the review.  A further round of public consultation is currently ongoing and due to run up to approximately October 2019, after which the NCCA Council will agree a final report to be sent to the Minister.

The NCCA’s draft review of its findings is currently open to consultation to ensure the findings and related draft advice is reflective of the needs of students, schools and parents. This can be found at:

https://www.ncca.ie/en/updates-and-events/consultations/review-of-relationships-and-sexuality-education-rse.

Teacher Supply

Ceisteanna (436)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

436. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who will commence training to qualify as secondary school teachers in schools in September 2019; and the number who will continue training in schools in September 2019. [36194/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is not in a position to provide the actual figures for enrolment in post-primary initial teacher education (ITE) programmes requested by the Deputy, at this time, as the CAO offers and acceptance process for September 2019 entrants has not yet concluded and the verified returns of students currently on other years of study are not yet confirmed.

The following are indicative figures provided to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) by the HEA-designated higher education institutions (HEIs) providing initial teacher education (ITE) programmes. It is important to note that these figures are based on estimates and projections provided to the HEA and are not based on actual enrolment data.  

The projected number of places available in Year 1 on undergraduate and postgraduate ITE (post-primary) programmes in State-funded higher education institutions as of September 2019 is circa 1,949 places.

It is projected that there will be in excess of 5,000 students enrolled across all post-primary ITE Programmes in State-funded HEIs in September 2019. 

These estimated figures include projected available places in priority subject areas arising from measures identified in the Teacher Supply Action Plan.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Ceisteanna (437)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

437. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) can receive a full recheck on their SUSI application; if so, if it will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36205/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Assessment of means under the Student Grant Scheme 2019 is based on gross income from all sources, of the applicant and his/her parents. 

Under Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2019 a student may apply to the awarding authority to have his/her eligibility assessed or reassessed in the event of a change in circumstances between 1 January 2019 and the end of the academic year, which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future or the duration of the course attended. 

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

If an individual applicant considers that she/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 SUSI. 

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer in SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (438)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

438. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress in the construction of a permanent school building for a school (details supplied). [36207/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The permanent accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department’s Design & Build Programme. 

A planning application for the project was lodged in January 2019.  Additional information sought by the Local Authority was provided and a notification of decision to grant planning permission was received on 24th May 2019.  Tender documentation is currently being finalised and the project will  proceed to tender shortly.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (439)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

439. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase resources for children with additional needs in mainstream schools who have multiple diagnoses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36209/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that from September 2017, a new model for allocating special education teachers to mainstream schools 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. 

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 13,450 at present.

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 provided 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 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.

This allocation allows schools to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who require such support in their schools and for schools to deploy resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.

It gives greater flexibility to schools as to how they can deploy their resources, to take account of the actual learning needs pupils have, as opposed to being guided by a particular diagnosis of disability, and schools are guided as to how they should make such allocation decisions.

The school will take account of learning needs of children as evidenced by performance in schools but also supported where relevant by information provided regarding the nature of a condition that a pupil may have, including where a pupil may have multiple diagnoses.

The provision of support for small groups of pupils, or use of in class support teaching for a number of pupils, as opposed to primarily one to one teaching, also means that qualifying pupils will often be able to receive more support than they otherwise would have done.

The Department of Education and Skills has published guidelines for schools as to how they should utilise and deploy their resources under the new allocation model. These guidelines are available at:

https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Pupils-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf and

https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Post-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Students-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf

The guidelines support schools in how they identify pupils for additional teaching support and decide how much support to provide for pupils who need it. 

Where pupils who have multiple diagnoses of special educational needs have additional care needs, Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support may also be provided to schools to support such pupils, in accordance with the criteria set out in my Departments Circular 30/2014.

The total number of SNA posts available for allocation to schools by the end of this year is 15,950 SNAs, which represents an increase of 50% on the total number of SNAs available for allocation in 2011, which was 10,575.  

Additional supports such as Assistive Technology Support or Special School Transport arrangements may also be provided, where required. 

Cyber Security Protocols

Ceisteanna (440)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

440. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are dedicated, professionally trained and certified cybersecurity staff in relation to cybersecurity protocols under the remit of his Department; if such specialists are being recruited; if his Department maintains a risk register of security breaches; if so, if there are staff who analyse, log and maintain such a register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Department’s cybersecurity services are primarily provided by expert external service providers. In addition to this, personnel from the Department’s ICT unit hold qualifications and attend relevant ICT training courses.  A risk register is maintained of ICT risks and security breaches are handled as part of the Incident Management process and in accordance with data breach guidance from the Data Protection Unit within the Department.  Risks are continuously logged in the risk register and the risks are analysed as part of the operation of the Information Security Governance Committee whose purpose is to oversee the implementation, ongoing operation and governance of effective measures to protect the Department’s information held on ICT systems.  The committee is chaired by a Management Board member and is comprised of Management Board members, Principal Officers and Assistant Principal Officers.

Departmental Operations

Ceisteanna (441)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

441. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has a disaster recovery plan, business continuity plan and-or disaster recovery sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36242/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has a Business Continuity Plan which is updated as necessary. The Plan aims to mitigate the key risks that impact significantly on critical business operations and to ensure that the maximum possible service levels are maintained in the event of a major incident.

In this context, Disaster Recovery Plans are tested regularly to ensure that critical I.T. systems can be recovered. The Department utilises its geographically dispersed nature to provide alternative systems at a safe distance from the primary location of its I.T. systems.

School Playgrounds

Ceisteanna (442)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

442. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial supports available to a school board of management and parents association wishing to develop a playground on school grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36324/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Summer Works Scheme (SWS) is designed to allow schools, on a devolved funding basis, to carry out necessary improvement and refurbishment works that will upgrade existing school facilities, including play areas.

As the Deputy will be aware, Summer Works Scheme 2020 onwards, was open for applications up until 30th June 2019. 

It is also open to primary schools to use their minor works grant to carry out improvement works to the school's infrastructure. 

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (443)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

443. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills when construction will commence and be completed in respect of a planned new school building (details supplied) in Cork City; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36325/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The permanent accommodation for the school 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. 

A planning application for the project was lodged in May 2018.  The application was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.  A notification of decision to grant planning permission was received from An Bord Pleanála on 25th April 2019.   Tender documentation is currently being prepared and the project will proceed to tender shortly.

Schools Establishment

Ceisteanna (444)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

444. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the pledge to open an educate together national school in Dungarvan, County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36329/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The patronage divesting process arises from the recommendations of the 2012 report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, following which the Department undertook surveys of parental preferences in 43 areas of stable population in 2012 and 2013 to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas.  Analysis of the parental preferences expressed in each area surveyed indicated that there was sufficient parental demand to support changes in school patronage in 28 areas, including in Dungarvan.  

Under the patronage divesting process, a school can be opened where a school building became, or was due to become available as a result of an amalgamation/closure of an existing school.  In some areas, including in the case of Dungarvan, in responding to demand for diversity where existing patrons were unable make school properties available, my Department also included an examination of properties held in public ownership.

To date, it has not been possible to secure a school property to facilitate a new school being established in Dungarvan. However, the Department is continuing its efforts in relation to identifying a suitable solution under the patronage divesting process, which would facilitate a new Educate Together school being established to serve the Dungarvan area.  It is not possible at this stage, however, to give a timeframe for the establishment of such a school.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (445)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

445. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans in respect of an emergency situation which has arisen in a school (details supplied). [36348/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is working closely with the school authority in question in relation to this issue.

Alternative accommodation has been identified and works are being carried out to facilitate decanting the school to this accommodation.

I understand that the school authority is keeping parents and staff fully informed of the proposed contingency plan and its progress.  

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (446)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

446. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a UK course will be recognised for a student grant for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36355/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The definition of an approved institution is set out in Section 7 of the Student Support Act 2011 and Regulation 3 of the Student Support Regulations 2019.

The definition of an approved course is set out in Section 8 of the Student Support Act 2011 and Regulation 4 of the Student Support Regulations 2019

I have been advised that the institution in question is not an approved institution for student grant purposes. There are currently no plans to regulate to approve this institution for student grant purposes.