Question No. 497 answered with Question No. 426.

School Transport Review

Ceisteanna (498)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

498. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a major review of the school bus transport scheme will be initiated in view of the serious issues which arose throughout the country for this academic year. [36759/19]

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 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.

Minister McHugh has sanctioned an additional €1m on the school transport budget to allow for temporary alleviation measures to address a shortage of school transport capacity on the post primary scheme in 2019. The cost of these measures is to be given to those areas where there is a significant concentration of post-primary children who have paid on time for the 2019/2020 school year and who are attending their second closest school.  A number of measures have been confirmed to alleviate some of the capacity issues in the areas of highest demand in some parts of the country.

Bus Éireann continues to work with the Department of Education and Skills to process applications and design routes to ensure that all eligible pupils who paid on time are facilitated with school transport. In doing this they are endeavouring to facilitate as many concessionary pupils as possible where capacity exists. Work is also ongoing with Bus Éireann to assess where limited resources can be invested to ease pressures in other parts of the country.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Ceisteanna (499)

John Brassil

Ceist:

499. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider a comprehensive review of the SUSI grant scheme with a view to increasing expenditure on grants and expanding income eligibility brackets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36761/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In 2019, €404.45m was provided for in the Revised Estimates Volume (REV) for student support and related expenditure. It is anticipated that circa €380m of this funding will be spent on SUSI grants and related activities.

The funding allocation for student grants is determined in the context of the overall Estimates and Budgetary process undertaken by all Government Departments.  It would not be appropriate to comment on specific issues or proposals including those relating to student grants at this stage.

However, all proposals made in relation to education expenditure will be considered in the context of Budget 2020, having regard to overall resource constraints and other competing demands in the education sector.

Third Level Fees

Ceisteanna (500)

John Brassil

Ceist:

500. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reduce the student contribution for higher education over the next three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36762/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, under my Department’s free fees schemes, the Exchequer provides funding toward the tuition fee costs of eligible students with students paying the student contribution which currently stands at €3,000.

The Student Contribution, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. While the student contribution now stands at €3,000, it is important to recognise that there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15. The exchequer pays this contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students who are in receipt of student grant assistance.

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 of the applications will be completed in September 2019 and the review commence following the appointment of a consultant.

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. I have no plans to implement policy changes with regards to funding options pending the outcome of this review.

DEIS Scheme

Ceisteanna (501)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

501. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the challenges faced by principals in large second-level DEIS schools as a result of the high level of social problems facing students in such schools; if he will consider enhancing the leadership staffing levels as requested by organisations (details supplied) to extend the additional deputy principal provision to all DEIS schools over 500 from 2019-2020 in view of the fact that DEIS schools between 600 and 699 students receive such provision immediately and that DEIS schools be prioritised in the allocation of outstanding posts of responsibility from 2019-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36763/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department’s overall annual spend on the DEIS Programme is approximately €125 million. Additional funding is provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the School Meals Programme and by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the School Completion Programme.  As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is currently undertaking data analysis with the ultimate aim of facilitating the matching of resources to identified need and to allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need.

A list of the various supports and resources available to DEIS schools is available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/deis-supports-to-deis-schools-effective-from-2017-2018-school-year.pdf

The Centre for School Leadership, established in 2015, is charged with the development of a coherent continuum of professional development supports for school leaders. The Centre gives priority to leaders from DEIS schools who apply for the various programmes offered by the Centre including the Excellence through Collaborative Leadership and Management Clustering Initiative and the Principal Coaching Service.

I am aware of the request raised by the organisations referred to by the Deputy. The circulars on leadership and management in both primary and post schools for the 2019/20 school year are currently being finalised and will be available on my Department's website in due course.  My Department has committed to revising the Posts of Responsibility table in the leadership and management circulars to take into account retirements during the school year.  This ensures that the current level of Posts of Responsibilities are maintained in the school system. The extension of an additional deputy principal in large DEIS schools will be considered as part of my Department's overall Budget process.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (502, 503)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

502. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the costs to date of the remediation work at schools affected by structural defects in an area (details supplied) and at other schools in the area; the estimated remedial costs upon completion of works; the estimated date of completion; the legal costs to date; the estimated legal costs of cases being taken against contractors deemed responsible for defects in construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36777/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

503. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all documentation processed concerning the serious defects in schools built in an area (details supplied) will be provided; if legal proceedings have been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36778/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 502 and 503 together.

The programme of structural remediation works at the schools to which the Deputy refers have now been undertaken.  This has facilitated the removal of precautionary measures that were put in place in October/November 2018. The schools have re-opened for the new school year.  For legal reasons, my Department is not in a position, at this time, to provide documentation in relation to the detailed nature of the issues arising in the buildings or in relation to the costs for the remediation works.

My Department continues to liaise with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office on the on-going legal process related to all 40 schools built by the contractor involved.  Proceedings have issued in a number of schools to date.  This includes for the schools in the area to which the Deputy refers.   The next date Court date is expected to be in October 2019.  At this early stage, details of legal costs are not available.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (504, 505)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

504. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all documentation processed concerning the serious defects in the school building at a school (details supplied) will be provided; if legal proceedings have been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36779/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

505. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all documentation processed concerning the serious defects in a school building (details supplied) will be provided; if legal proceedings have been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36780/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 504 and 505 together.

For legal reasons my Department is not in a position to provide documentation in relation to the nature of the issues arising in the school buildings to which the Deputy refers. My Department has, however, provided the schools with written confirmation that the buildings are safe to occupy.

My Department continues to liaise with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office on the on-going legal process related to all 40 schools built by the contractor involved. Proceedings have already issued in a number of schools to date.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (506)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

506. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress of the building of a permanent school on the Phoenix Park racecourse site for a college (details supplied); when construction of the new permanent school building will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36781/19]

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. 

The next step in the process will be the application for planning permission which is expected to be lodged shortly. Thereafter, the timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission. My Department is working to deliver the school's permanent accommodation at the earliest possible date.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (507)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

507. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the school bus transport for primary school children (details supplied) in County Cork will be resolved in view of the large number of pupils involved. [36816/19]

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.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed 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.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that there were a number of children in the area referred to by the Deputy were not allocated a ticket for the 2019/20 school year due to late applications, late payments, or being unsuccessful in the allocation of concessionary transport.

Bus Eireann has also confirmed that the service in question is operating to capacity.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (508)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

508. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants allocated to schools in the Dublin 22 area; and the funding allocated for SNAs in the Dublin 22 area in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, respectively. [36840/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

At the end of the 2018/19 school year there were approximately 15,030 SNA posts allocated to schools. I announced on 27 May that 792 additional SNA posts will be allocated to schools for the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, with almost 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.

The number of SNAs allocated to schools at the end of the school year 2018/19 was 15,030.  At the start of the current school year, 2019/20 there are approximately 15,800 SNAs posts allocated.  Expenditure on SNA pay for 2018 was in the region of €525 million and approximately €551 million for 2019.  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 information requested is not available in the format requested by the Deputy. However, the NCSE publish the SNA allocations for individual schools for each school year on their website, www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (509, 510)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

509. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of construction of a new school building (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

510. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his Department's assessment of the need for decanting of students during the period of construction of a new school building (details supplied); the details of the plans and preparations being made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36881/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 509 and 510 together.

The major building project for the school 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.

A replacement Quantity Surveyor has recently been appointed to the project who is currently working with the Design Team members on the completion of the Stage 2(b) submission which will incorporate NZEB requirements.

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

My Department has recently received correspondence in relation to a suggested decant proposal during construction. The school have been advised that any proposals in relation to decant would need to be discussed in the first instance with the school’s design team and would then require the submission of a fully costed Brief Change Request by the design team to the Department.

The Department understands from the school that it intends to have a meeting with the Design Team in the immediate future to discuss further the proposals in relation to the decant.

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (511)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

511. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if free school transport will be extended for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my 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.

Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed 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.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that the child referred to by the Deputy is not attending her nearest school and is therefore not eligible for school transport under the terms of the above scheme. Only children who are eligible for school transport and who hold a valid medical card (GMS scheme) are exempt from paying the annual charge.

Bus Éireann has also confirmed that no application was received for this pupil for the 2019/20 school year.

The terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.

Student Universal Support Ireland Administration

Ceisteanna (512)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

512. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if SUSI higher level education funding will be made available to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36897/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Student Grant Scheme 2019, opened for applications on 25 April 2019. The priority closing date (11 July 2019) for receipt of new applicants has now passed. However, SUSI is still accepting applications for the 2019/2020 academic year. Therefore, the student in question can still submit an application to have her eligibility for a student grant assessed by SUSI.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (513)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

513. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of planned works at a school (details supplied). [36898/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a Request for Tenders for the appointment of a Programme Manager and Design Team for the project has recently been issued by the NDFA.

While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (514)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

514. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of planned works at a school (details supplied). [36899/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a Request for Tenders for the appointment of a Programme Manager and Design Team for the project has recently been issued by the NDFA.

While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Schools Building Projects Status

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 486.

Ceisteanna (515)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

515. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the new building for a school (details supplied) will be completed; if the way in which State contracts are awarded will be reviewed in view of the delay; and if the project is within budget. [36900/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As previously advised, the project to which the Deputy refers is devolved to Westmeath County Council (WCC) for delivery.

I remain extremely disappointment and frustrated that the most recent programme provided by the contractor indicates a completion date for the school in October 2019, and with the unsatisfactory position that the school now finds itself in as described by the Deputy.

I have already informed the Deputy that it is in the nature of any building contract that difficulties can arise and the project in question is no different in that respect.  Additional costs have arisen in this project in that context and some of these have already been paid out. However, there are also matters that are being addressed through the dispute resolution mechanisms set out in the Public Works Contract. Consequently, I am not in a position at this stage to comment any further at this time.

The Department is continually reviewing, within the constraints of EU procurement regulations, the way state contracts are awarded. The Department is also guided by the Capital Works Management Framework (under the remit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) which is under review at present.

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 486.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (517)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

517. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application by a school (details supplied) for capital funding to replace an undersized classroom and old prefabricated unit; if he will consider this application as a matter of urgency in view of poor conditions being endured by teachers and pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36936/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has recently approved capital funding under the Additional School Accommodation (ASA) scheme for the school in question.  The School Authority has been informed accordingly.