School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (205)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

205. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) is only in short-term accommodation; when the official temporary accommodation on the designated site for the permanent school will be ready; the reason for the delay in providing this official temporary accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39535/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy is in temporary accommodation on the grounds of Grange Community College. 

A planning application (Planning Ref. No: 3009/09) is ongoing to facilitate the provision of interim accommodation on the permanent site.  When the planning application is granted a date will be agreed with the school to move to its permanent site.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (206)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

206. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) will be awarded a grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In March 2015 a grant was approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme to enable the Board of Management to provide a Resource Room.  This grant was increased in December 2016 to allow for additional works to be carried out to the school.

The project went to tender in February 2018 with a significantly increased scope which included works that had not been approved by my Department. The school has been advised that the Department will not fund these unapproved works. It has been informed that if it wishes to proceed with the proposed accommodation then any consequential additional costs will have to be met from its own resources. Otherwise, it should revise its project to be consistent with its grant approval.  The school has not, to date, confirmed that it will cover the shortfall on the project.

Gaeltacht Policy

Ceisteanna (207)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

207. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reintroducing free Gaeltacht places for national trainee teachers that must attend and pay to attend a Gaeltacht twice during their four year course. [39556/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The decision to stop the Gaeltacht placement grants was taken during the economic crisis when, unfortunately, very difficult decisions had to be made to stabilise the nation's finances.  At the time, priority was given to protecting resources for front line education services as far as possible.

While there is no provision currently in my Department's budget for this grant, because of ongoing budgetary pressures which continue to be acute, the matter remains under consideration in my Department.

To assist with the costs of the Gaeltacht placement, students who are in receipt of a student grant which includes a 100% fee grant, or who would have qualified for a full fee grant but for the Free Fees Scheme, can apply for funding towards travel and accommodation costs under the field trip element of a fee grant, subject to the normal terms and conditions of the student grant scheme.  Apart from this, in circumstances of particular need, students may apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund.  Information in relation to this fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (208)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

208. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a policy to deal with the use of the Irish language from preschool to university will be published. [39558/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Department of Education and Skills has already developed a comprehensive policy for education in the Gaeltacht and is advancing the implementation of this policy.

The D.ES Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 is underpinned by the principles of key Government strategies including the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language and as such is committed to advancing the education elements of the Strategy.   This is a cross government, cohesive strategy which provides a more effective engagement with Government objectives in relation to the Irish Language.   

The Department is a key stakeholder and collaborates with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (D.CHG) in progressing the 48 education measures set out in the 5 year action plan for Irish

This comprehensive plan presents agreed time bound measures to progress State policy on the teaching of Irish in the education system at all levels from preschool to third level.

The 48 education measures are set out in detail in the plan (Action 1: Education), with timelines for delivery.  The measures are set out in the key areas of:

- Education in the Gaeltacht

- Partial Immersion

- Curriculum

- Assessment

- Teacher Training

- Resources

- School Provision and Teacher Supply

- Out of School usage of Irish

- Early Years Education

- Higher Education

Implementation of the Action Plan is led by DCHG in collaboration with relevant Departments and the Department of Education and Skills is represented on the Higher Level Oversight Group.

The Department has no plans at present to develop a further stand-alone policy for Irish-medium education outside the Gaeltacht. Instead, it is ensuring that the interests of Irish-medium education are incorporated into existing polices and that whole of government objectives in relation to the Irish Language are addressed in a cohesive and collaborative manner under the 20 year strategy.

University Global Rankings

Ceisteanna (209)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

209. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether education is key to maintaining competitiveness here; and his further views on the continuing falling in the rankings by universities here in the university league. [39564/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

An agile education system is vital to maintaining and enhancing Ireland’s competitiveness into the future, particularly in the context of the rapid rate of change evident at the current time which is driven by rapid technological development. Increased levels of lifelong learning will ensure that those in the workforce, and outside the workforce, are supported to take advantage of these developments.

The National Strategy for Higher Education (2010) and the National Skills Strategy (2016) were published to ensure that the education system is appropriately structured to meet the challenges of this rapid rate of change and facilitate ongoing upskilling and reskilling of the workforce. 

The higher education system is delivering programmes in a more flexible manner than before. There were 7,967 remote enrolments and 40,101 part-time enrolments in the higher education system in the 2017/2018 academic year.  An increase of 70% in remote enrolments and 12% in part time enrolments over four years. 

The private higher education ranking systems, of which there are many, each monitor different aspects of international higher education institutions.  The systems award different weightings to various components of the area under review. 

The outcome of the rankings in any particular year therefore not only depend on how an individual institution has performed, but also on how it has performed in relation to all other institutions under review. 

In the context of overall system performance progression and excellence, the fulfilment of specific broader Government policies may also impact on rankings.  For example, national policy on Initial Teacher Education (ITE) saw the incorporation of a number of smaller teacher training colleges in Mater Dei, St. Patrick’s Drumcondra and CICE into Dublin City University in accordance with recommendations by the Report of the International Review Panel on the Structure of ITE Provision in Ireland (2012 Sahlberg Report).

This beneficial policy objective increased the proportions of undergraduate students in the university, which, in turn, impacted negatively on the Universty’s ranking in some systems. This reflects the narrow and distorting views which can be encapsulated in university ranking methodologies.

The European Commission fund a ranking system (U-multirank) which focuses on the needs of students and end users, producing summaries of specific areas of interest (where measures are rated from ‘very good’ to ‘weak’) rather than a blunt ranking number, this provides a more accurate view of how institutions are improving/changing year on year.

School Transport Administration

Ceisteanna (210)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

210. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the public services card will soon be required to make an appeal to his Department in relation to the provision of access to school transport schemes in view of the fact that under the current system of school transport appeals, if an appeal is submitted online or offline, no identity validation or description is required; the way in which or the reason a SAFE 2 level of identity authentication is now to be introduced as a core requirement of an appeal regarding a local school transport decision to the exclusion of all other forms of identification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39568/19]

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.

It is not currently a requirement to have a public services card to make an appeal to the School Transport Appeals Board in relation to a decision by my Department on an application for school transport.  It will not be part of the online school transport appeals process for the 2019 scheme applications.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (211)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

211. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the engagement since 16 September 2019 with unions representing school secretaries in an effort to resolve the dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39579/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ 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 terms of employment 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.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

FÓRSA's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of the survey analysis.  In these circumstances any industrial action by FÓRSA members is considered unwarranted, not least because the period of the current arbitration agreement has not expired. 

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives last week. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action. 

The Department restated to the trade union that their claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of these surveys. The Department reiterated its view to the union that any industrial action is premature and unwarranted, and called on FÓRSA to reconsider their action.

As the Union has previously been advised, the Department remains fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA on completion of the survey work.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (212)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

212. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new Gaelscoil primary school for areas (details supplied); when enrolment is expected to commence; the details of an additional ASD unit for the peninsula in view of a previous commitment given by him which stated that the provision of an ASD unit formed part of the delivery of the new primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39587/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, I recently announced that five new primary schools being established from 2020-2022, including the new school to be established in Donabate in 2020, are being designated for Irish-medium education.  The patronage process for the new school will commence later this year, when parents of eligible children in the school planning area will be asked to express their preference for patronage by way of an online survey called the Online Patronage Process System (OPPS). It will subsequently be a matter for the successful patron to make arrangements for enrolment for the following September.

The school will be established in September 2020 in suitable interim accommodation. The Department is also working on plans for the permanent accommodation.

In the case of all new schools, it is general practice to include a Special Education Needs Base in the accommodation brief for new school buildings being constructed, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (213)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

213. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the online patronage process system for new primary schools to be established in 2020 will commence in order for parents of eligible children to be provided an opportunity to indicate their preferences for the patron body to run the school; the timeline for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39588/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country. 

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required.  This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education.

The patronage process for the new post-primary schools to be established in 2020 is currently open for parental preferences on the OPPS website and closes on October 4th.  

The patronage process for the primary schools to be established in September 2020, will commence later this year. Updates in relation to further patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website (https://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and the Department’s website (www.education.ie).

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.

Construction Contracts

Ceisteanna (214)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

214. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a contractor has been appointed to a college (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which she refers has been devolved for delivery to Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB). I can inform the Deputy that a preferred tenderer in respect of the project has been identified by KWETB.

As the tender process in that respect has not yet concluded, I am not in a position to confirm the identity of the relevant contractor at this time. However, I can say that the school authority will be provided with this information as soon as the tender process has concluded, which is expected to happen shortly.

Minor Works Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (215)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

215. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the minor works grant is being provided to schools for the 2019-2020 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39670/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department's approach in relation to the Minor Works Grant is for it to be paid in either December or January of each school year. 

An announcement with regard to the timing of the payment of the Minor Works Grant for the current school year will be made in due course.

A total of just under €29m was paid out from my Department under the Minor Works Grant in 2018 for the school year 2018/19.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (216, 218)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

216. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an appeal by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39734/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

218. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39745/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 218 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circulars 0007/2019 for primary schools and 0008/2019 for post primary schools provide details of how the allocations of Special Education Teachers have been updated for schools from September 2019, based on updated profile data.

All schools have now received revised allocations for September 2019.

As the re profiling occurred, some schools gained additional allocations, where the profile indicator data indicates these schools have additional needs. Some schools received slightly reduced allocations, where the data indicates less need, and some schools maintained their existing allocations.

No school has lost a full special education teaching post as a result of the re profiling process.

There has also been be no reduction to the overall number of special education teaching posts within the school system. There are currently over 13,400 special education teachers in schools, an increase of 37% since 2011.

Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

The school referred to by the Deputy has 20 special education teaching hours, or 0.8 of a special education teacher post, for an enrolment of 83 pupils at the time the profile was developed.

Both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring that all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.

Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published details of an appeal process for the 2019 allocation process for schools on their website www.ncse.ie.

Schools were advised that the appeal will consider circumstances where schools considered that their school profile was calculated incorrectly, using the data set out in DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019. An appeal could be submitted for a review of the information used and of the calculation of the allocation.

The NCSE wrote to schools on 31st May, 2019 to advise them of the outcome of the appeals.

A second process will be put in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2019/20 school year.

Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts, in accordance with these criteria, will also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

Finally, it is acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.

These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

A process will also be available where schools can seek a review of their allocations in the coming months, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

This process will recommence in the coming weeks.

I am satisfied that there are in place a number of processes which can review the special education teacher allocation for schools where necessary.

The very significant levels of additional provision we have made in recent years to provide additional Special Education Teachers means that all schools are resourced to provide for the special educational needs of children in their schools.

School Services Staff

Question No. 218 answered with Question No. 216.

Ceisteanna (217)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

217. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to implement proper pay and working conditions as sought by school secretaries following the recent work stoppage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39737/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ 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 terms of employment 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.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

FÓRSA's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of the survey analysis.  In these circumstances any industrial action by FÓRSA members is considered unwarranted, not least because the period of the current arbitration agreement has not expired. 

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives last week. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action. 

The Department restated to the trade union that their claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of these surveys.   The Department reiterated its view to the union that any industrial action is premature and unwarranted, and called on FÓRSA to reconsider their action.

As the Union has previously been advised, the Department remains fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA on completion of the survey work.

Question No. 218 answered with Question No. 216.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (219)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

219. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for a SNA for a child (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39757/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.  

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.  

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with.  Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

Where a school has received its allocation of SNA support for 2019/20, but wishes new enrolments or assessments to be considered, which were not taken into account when the initial allocation was made, they may continue to make applications to the NCSE.  

As this question relates to a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (220)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

220. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the length of time a school (details supplied) has been at the pre-qualification stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39758/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

The project is currently at Stage 2B of the Architectural Planning process – Detailed Design Stage which includes securing statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. The pre-qualification of contractors process to compile a shortlist of suitable contractors is complete and tender documentation is being finalised.  

Stage 2(b) Detailed Design is arguably the most complex and detailed of all the stages in Architectural Planning. In addition to securing the necessary statutory approvals it also includes the preparation of complex and detailed tender documents. In completing Stage 2(b), Design Teams are now required to upgrade design details to ensure that new school buildings are Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

The next step for this project is Stage 3 - tender stage which normally takes 7-8 months to complete. My Department will be in contact shortly with the school and Design Team regarding the progression of this project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (221)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

221. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a building project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39761/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am aware that the project to which the Deputy refers provides for two mainstream classrooms and a WC for assisted users under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this project has been approved to proceed to the planning application stage.

The project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority so it is now a matter for the Board of Management to advance the project.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (222)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

222. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding payments to examiners under the SEC; if there are delays; and when outstanding payments will issue. [39775/19]

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.

Schools Amalgamation

Ceisteanna (223)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

223. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the amalgamation of the national schools in Cahir, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39782/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron/Trustees of the school, and this is subject to the approval of the Department. My Department understands that the school authority will consider the timing of the amalgamation in the context of the delivery of the building project. The project is currently at stage 3, tender stage, of the architectural planning process.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (224)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

224. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the agencies that have been permitted to provide sex education in schools; and the amount each agency has received for its services in each of the past five years. [39793/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The engagement of external providers to support delivery of the curriculum is a matter for the board of management of the school in question.

Department Circulars set out the best practice guidelines for engagement of external facilitators for schools at Post Primary and Primary level and can be found at the following links:

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0043_2018.pdf.

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0042_2018.pdf.