Office of Public Works Properties

Ceisteanna (56)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

56. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works has received an application from an organisation (details supplied) to provide a day care centre in an OPW building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40831/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am informed by my officials that in August 2019, the OPW received email correspondence from Northside Home Care Services enquiring about obtaining floor space in the Northside Civic Centre.

My Officials have advised Northside Home Care Services that the space at the Centre is primarily assigned to Government Departments and other public bodies. The OPW is progressing the assignment of any current available space to a State body and, therefore, there is no space available for rent at the Centre.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (57)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

57. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he plans to achieve full pay equality for teachers who joined the public service since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I refer the Deputy to PQ 36684 of 6 September 2019. The position for teachers is the same as set out as follows:

PQRef: 36684/19

Under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) 2018 – 2020, it was agreed to examine the remaining salary scale issues in respect of post January 2011 entry grades. The attached report, laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in March 2018, estimates the point in time cost of pay equalisation of new entrants to the public service.

The report estimated a cost of €199.8m for pay equalisation for 60,513 new entrants, an average cost of €3,300 per FTE.

Following this report, an agreement on new entrant salary scales was reached in September 2018.

The main components of the agreement are:

- where two additional scale points were applied to pay scales under the Haddington Road Agreement, it was agreed that there will be two separate interventions in the pay scales as they apply to new entrant public servants recruited since January 2011.

- the two separate interventions will take place at point 4 and point 8 of the pay scales. The practical effect of this is that for new entrants the relevant points on the scale will be bypassed, thereby reducing the time spent on the scale for progression to the maximum point.

- this measure will apply from 1 March 2019 and will be applied to each new entrant as they reach the relevant scale points (point 4 and point 8) on their current increment date.

The cost of this measure during the remaining term of the PSSA is €75 million, with the full cost of the measure based on current data and public service numbers (2017) accruing over the period out to 2026. It is estimated that some 58% (35,750) of new entrants will benefit from this measure in year 1, rising to 78% (47,750) by year 2.

New Entrant Report March 2018

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (58)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

58. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the OPW will agree to purchase land beside Tubbercurry Garda station, County Sligo, in order to enable the station to be expanded due to size constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40948/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

A number of options to deal with accommodation issues at Tubbercurry Garda Station are under consideration. These include a possible acquisition of adjoining land. No decision has been made in the matter as yet.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (59)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress that has been made in the planned flood relief scheme for the Castleconnell area of County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As part of the Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, Castleconnell, Co. Limerick, was identified as being one of 300 areas believed to be of significant flood risk. As of the launch of 29 Flood Risk Management Plans nationally in May 2018, an initial phase of 50 flood relief projects throughout the country are to be progressed to planning, detailed design and construction; including the five largest schemes identified in the Plans, 14 other flood relief schemes, and 31 small projects (with an estimated preliminary project budget of under €1 million), which will be progressed directly by Local Authorities. The proposed flood relief scheme for Castleconnell is included in the 31 small projects under €1 million.

In January this year Limerick City and County Council invited tenders for Engineering and Environmental Consultants for the development of a flood relief scheme in Castleconnell. A preferred tenderer was identified and has now been appointed to progress the Castleconnell scheme.

Subject to project-level assessment, viable flood relief works for Castleconnell might include construction of a new flood defence wall, embankment and floodgates, and raising roads in key locations, along with maintaining the existing flood forecasting and public awareness campaign operated by the ESB.

A project steering group is in place for the Castleconnell Flood Relief Scheme, comprising personnel from the Office of Public Works and representatives from Limerick City and County Council, to oversee the project being undertaken by the engineering and environmental consultants. The role of the steering group is to identify and design a flood relief scheme that is technically, socially, environmentally and economically acceptable, to alleviate the risk of flooding to the community of Castleconnell to a determined standard of protection, and to procure, manage and oversee the construction of that scheme. This process is at Stage 1, scheme development and design.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (60)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

60. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 215 of 6 September 2019, if the project brief for the procurement of engineering and environmental consultants for the Limerick city and environs flood relief scheme has been submitted to the OPW; if not, when it will be submitted; when subsequent consultation will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41043/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Limerick City & Environs was identified as being one of 300 areas believed to be of significant flood risk as part of the Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme. As of the launch of 29 Flood Risk Management Plans nationally in May 2018, the proposed scheme for Limerick City and Environs in one of the largest of the initial phase of 50 flood relief projects throughout the country to be progressed to planning, detailed design and construction.

This scheme encompasses the King’s Island Flood Relief Scheme, for which Consultants were appointed back in 2015 to develop the permanent flood relief scheme. It is estimated that the full King’s Island scheme will protect approximately 450 residential and 23 commercial properties. Limerick City and County Council is scheduled to lodge a planning application with An Bord Pleanála later this year, with an anticipated construction completion date approximately two years thereafter.

The project steering group for the remainder of the Limerick City and Environs Flood Relief Scheme is currently preparing a Project Brief for the procurement of Engineering and Environmental Consultants. The appointed consultants will be tasked with identifying and designing a flood relief scheme that is technically, socially, environmentally and economically acceptable, to alleviate the risk of flooding to Limerick City and Environs to a determined standard of protection, and to procure, manage and oversee the construction of that scheme.

The tender for consultants is scheduled to go to the Office of Public Works’ Engineering and Environmental Consultants framework at the end of Q4 2019 and appoint consultants in Q1 of 2020. Once consultants are appointed to progress this Flood Relief Scheme, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, as well as the public, will take place at the appropriate stages to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to input into the development of these schemes.

The CFRAM programme indicated a preliminary project cost estimate for the preferred option for Limerick City and Environs (including King’s Island) of approximately €56m. Full information on the proposed scheme can be found at floodinfo.ie.

School Transport Data

Ceisteanna (61)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

61. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the accumulated surplus sums held by Bus Éireann in respect of the school transport scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40685/19]

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 Bus Éireann audited accounts are available on my Department's website for the years 2006 onwards and they contain the information sought by the Deputy in regard to costs of the school transport scheme.

School Transport Data

Ceisteanna (62)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

62. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the revenue raised by Bus Éireann in respect of the school transport scheme in the past three years to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40686/19]

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 Bus Éireann audited accounts are available on my Department's website for the years 2006 onwards and they contain the information sought by the Deputy in regard to costs of the school transport scheme.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (63)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

63. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) has had their shared access to a SNA withdrawn for the 2019-20 school year in view of the fact that the person still has a recommendation for one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40513/19]

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.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (64)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

64. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a matter regarding school bus escorts will be addressed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40534/19]

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 for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of this scheme.

My Department also provides funding to schools for the employment of escorts to accompany children, whose care and safety needs are such that they require this level of support, while they travel to and from school.

Contracts of employment for escorts are a matter between the relevant school authorities and the individuals they employ as escorts on school transport services.

Education Expenditure

Ceisteanna (65)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

65. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) concerning the need to increase investment in primary education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40544/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2019 marked the third year of a major reinvestment in education. The budget for the Department of Education and Skills has increased by €674 million this year, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget has increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

This school year sees the numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools have been funded, including more than 370 posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.

The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year. Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period.

The Budget 2019 measure which provided for an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes has been implemented for the current school year.

€2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions, i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 posts. The 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 Responsibility are maintained in the school system.

I fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools. I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post-primary schools for the current school year. The first and full year costs of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

All proposals made in relation to education expenditure are considered in the context of budgetary matters, having regard to overall resource constraints and other competing demands in the education sector.

Schools Mental Health Strategies

Ceisteanna (66)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

66. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration is being given to increase the amount of time being spent in schools on the social, personal and health education curriculum in view of increasing anxiety and stress being reported among children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40545/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum is the context in which social and emotional learning is addressed in primary and post primary schools. A wide range of supports and programmes are available to support schools in the implementation of the SPHE curriculum.

My Department is strongly supportive of the promotion of positive mental health awareness in schools. This Department adopts a holistic and integrated approach to supporting schools in promoting positive mental health.

All students commencing Junior Cycle from September 2017 onwards undertake an area of learning called Wellbeing. Wellbeing crosses the three years of Junior Cycle and builds on substantial work already taking place in schools in support of students’ wellbeing. It is envisioned that the school’s commitment to this area of learning will increasingly have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the students. It will include learning opportunities to further enhance the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of students.

The Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme began with a minimum of 300 hours of timetabled engagement in 2017 and will build up to 400 hours of timetabled engagement by 2020 for students entering first year in September 2020, as the new Junior Cycle is implemented fully in schools.

My Department published guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention in 2013 and my Department also provides other supports such as educational psychological services and guidance and counselling services, and an interface with other agencies.

My Department has published a Wellbeing Policy and Framework for Practice (2018-2023) for all schools which will inform how schools can promote student wellbeing.

The Wellbeing Policy also builds on the work already taking place in schools including the new Framework for Junior Cycle which places a clear emphasis on overall student health and wellbeing. This Framework is underpinned by eight principles, one of which is "Wellbeing" covering the development of key skills of “Managing Myself" and "Staying Well" which cover issues such as mental health and mental ill-health, dealing with tough times, loss and bereavement.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (67)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

67. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration is being given to expanding the role of behavioural support teachers across secondary and primary schools; if costings have been done for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which was established to improve the delivery of Education Services to persons with special educational needs, now provides a Regional Support Service for schools.

The service includes the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children with sensory impairment (VTHVI service).

The role of the National Behavioural Support Service is to assist partner schools in addressing current behavioural concerns on three levels. The NBSS works with schools in addressing students’ social, emotional, academic and behavioural needs at Level 1: school-wide for all students, Level 2: targeted intervention for some students and Level 3: intensive individualised support for a few students.

The NBSS supports teachers to develop a school ‘Behaviour for Learning Programme’ specifically targeted at students in need of intensive individualised intervention

They can also support the provision of intensive individualised support to students in NBSS partner schools, by Behaviour for Learning Programme Teacher(s) or by various school personnel in partnership with NBSS team members.

The NBSS also researches, collates and disseminates evidence that informs the development of a school-wide positive behavioural approach that meets the needs of schools and provides sustainable long-term outcomes.

At present, the NBSS is working with over 103 post primary schools throughout the country.

Further details of the range of programmes and supports which can be provided to schools by the NCSE National Behavioural Support Service are available at https://www.nbss.ie/ncse

Schools are also supported in dealing with behavioural issues by the National Educational Psychological Services.

Special Needs Assistant Supports are also provided to schools to assist to provide for the care needs of pupils attending their schools, including where these care needs relating to behavioural issues, in accordance with the criteria set out in DES Circular 30/2014.

Over 13,400 additional special education teachers are also provided for mainstream primary and post primary schools to provide additional teaching support for pupils with special educational needs, or additional learning needs, including where those additional learning needs arise due to behavioural issues.

The NCSE Regional Support Service also provides for a range of Continuing Professional Development and Training programmes on behavioural support.

Furthermore, earlier this year, Government approved the trialling of a new School Inclusion Model, a new integrated education and health service model for supporting students with additional needs. One element of this new model is the establishment, on a pilot basis, of an expanded NCSE Regional Support Team in the Community Healthcare Organisation area (CHO 7), which will include behaviour practitioners. This is a new post within the NCSE and the work of the behaviour practitioners will be focused on building NCSE’s capacity to support schools in promoting positive behaviour and preventing and managing challenging behaviours should they arise.

Consideration of any further extension of the role of behavioural support teachers will be informed by the evaluation of the School Inclusion Model. Costings in relation to any possible expansion of the role of behavioural support teachers has therefore not taken place to date.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (68, 78)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

68. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter regarding a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40547/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

78. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40638/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 78 together.

€2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 middle management posts (Assistant Principal I and Assistant Principal II) at both Primary and Post-Primary (2,600 in total).

This measure allowed for the commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model and meant lifting the longstanding moratorium on these posts. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive and accountable.

In total almost 1700 leadership posts have been invested in our primary schools since 2017 which has led to 1 in 3 teachers now holding promoted positions. The 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 lifting of the moratorium is an initial phase in the restoration of middle management posts and any future changes to the number of posts allocated will be dependent on budgetary demands.

I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year. The first and full year costs of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets, however, I must have regard to the level of resources which will be available to my Department, in the context of the continuing need for the Government to prudently manage the economy and the public finances and have regard to risks, including those associated with Brexit.

The school the deputy refers to received funding of €193,470.00 in relation to capitation and ancillary services in 2019.

My Department's Loose Furniture & Equipment Scheme is the mechanism for all schools - primary and post-primary - to apply for replacement furniture for teaching spaces and other spaces and to fund the purchase of individual items of furniture and equipment for special needs pupils. In addition, primary school may use their minor works grant to purchase particular furniture if they consider this a priority for their schools.

Requests for funding for replacement furniture and equipment should be submitted to furnitureequipment@education.gov.ie accompanied by three quotations and photographic evidence of the furniture to be replaced.

Home Tuition Scheme Provision

Ceisteanna (69, 70)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

69. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to delays in granting home tuition supports; the reason home tuition hours have not been sanctioned; when this issue will be addressed; and his plans to ensure such delays do not recur in the future. [40552/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

70. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports he plans to put in place for teachers and parents of children affected by recent delays in the sanctioning of home tuition hours; and his plans in this area for the coming period. [40553/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 70 together.

I am aware of concerns regarding the operation of the Home Tuition scheme.

The Special Education Home Tuition Grant scheme provides funding towards a compensatory educational service for children with special educational needs seeking an educational placement for whom such a placement is not available. The scheme also provides for early intervention for children with Autism.

The application forms and related Circular for this year’s scheme were published on 8 August 2019. Last year, the forms and circular were published on 26 July 2018.

The Department works closely with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which has responsibility for working with families and schools and for the provision and coordination of an adequate number of specialist educational places to meet local demand throughout the country.

The NCSE has a national network of Special Educational Needs Officers (SENOs) to plan the necessary provision to meet local need. SENOs assist and advise parents experiencing difficulty finding a suitable school place for their child.

Where a parent cannot secure a suitable school place for their child, they can make an application to the Department for the Home Tuition Grant. The Home Tuition Grant provides funding towards a compensatory educational service for children until a school placement is available. By its nature, it is intended to be a short term intervention.

The application is signed by the NCSE local SENO to confirm that no school placement is currently available for the child. SENOs are processing home tuition applications as a matter of urgency.

The Home Tuition Application form outlines that it may take the Department up to 15 working days to process home tuition applications. Since applications opened in this academic year, 699 applications have been approved. Currently, there are 90 applications on hand and these will be processed within the 15 day period.

Home Tutors are engaged by the parents/guardian of the child who is to receive tuition. Home tutors do not have a contractual relationship with the Department.

The operation of the scheme will be reviewed during the current academic year.

Home Tuition Scheme

Ceisteanna (71)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of hours and amount of funding allocated for home tuition hours for children with ASD and others in each of the years 2010 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [40554/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The purpose of the Home Tuition Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for:

1. Early educational intervention for children with autism who meet the schemes eligibility criteria

2. Children with special educational needs, including autism, seeking an educational placement in a recognised school

3. Students, enrolled in schools, with significant medical conditions which has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, major disruption to their attendance at school

The preferred approach is that children are educated in school settings where children may have access to fully qualified teachers, individualised education programmes, special needs assistants, school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

Accordingly, Home Tuition is provided as an interim measure only for children for whom a placement in a recognised school is not available and should not be regarded as an optional alternative to a school placement.

Allocation of hours under the terms of the Scheme

(1) Children between 2.5 and 3 years of age (who have been assessed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder based on the DSM V or ICD 10 criteria).

The maximum home tuition grant for children with ASD up to 3 years of age is based on 10 hours tuition per week.

(2) Children with Special Educational Needs seeking a school placement

The maximum home tuition grant for children awaiting a placement is based on 20 hours tuition per week subject to the appropriate school calendar.

(3) Students enrolled in schools with a significant medical condition which has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, major disruption to their attendance at school

Generally, grant aid based on a range of between 2 and 10 hours tuition may be approved with the allocation reflecting the level of attendance in the previous school year and whether the attendance was at primary or post primary level. As a general guide, up to 5 hours may be granted to children at primary level while students at post primary level may be granted between 2 and 10 hours.

Home Tuition Costs 2011-2018 (Please note 2019 is not available at present)

Year

Home Tuition Costs

2011

€ 9.4m

2012

€ 8.9m

2013

€ 9.6m

2014

€10.3m

2015

€11.3m

2016

€12.2m

2017

€14.5m

2018

€16.6m

School Transport Administration

Ceisteanna (72)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

72. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills when his Department will provide the Ombudsman for Children with a detailed measurement of routes and mileage of the distance between Quin and Ennis, County Clare, and Quin and Tulla, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

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.

In general, children are eligible for school transport where they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.

Bus Éireann determines distance eligibility by measuring the shortest traversable route, which may be either pedestrian or vehicular from a family's home to their nearest school.

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

The Department has sought this information from Bus Éireann and will forward same to the Ombudsman directly once received.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (73)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

73. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a situation relating to school secretaries (details supplied); if the matter will be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40572/19]

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 9 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 in September. 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.

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute. As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department will participate in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC. The Department will be requesting the assistance of the WRC in ensuring that once talks commence the industrial action be stood down to enable these discussions to progress.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (74)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

74. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to recognise large primary schools and extend the allocation of posts (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40602/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

€2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 middle management posts (Assistant Principal I and Assistant Principal II) at both Primary and Post-Primary (2,600 in total).

This measure allowed for the commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model and meant lifting the longstanding moratorium on these posts. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive and accountable.

In total almost 1700 leadership posts have been invested in our primary schools since 2017 which has led to 1 in 3 teachers now holding promoted positions. The 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 lifting of the moratorium is an initial phase in the restoration of middle management posts and any future changes to the number of posts allocated will be dependent on budgetary demands.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (75)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

75. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a major school building project (details supplied) is stuck at stage 2b detailed design since December 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40611/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been obtained.

My Department understands from the Design Team Leader that delays were encountered in securing the Fire Safety Cert (FSC) and the Disability Access Cert (DAC). A decision on both these applications had been expected from Louth County Council in December 2017. A decision on the FSC and DAC were finally granted on the 10th and 12th April 2018 respectively.

My Department recently received the Stage 2(b) Submission for this project which is currently under review.

The Deputy will appreciate that the stage 2(b) submission is a detailed and complex set of documents including all tender documents. It is an extremely vital part in the design process and is the final step prior to my Department issuing authorisation to proceed to tender for the construction of the school building. The review by my Department of a Stage 2(b) submission would normally take at least 10 to 12 weeks for review and approval.

Upon review of this report my Department will revert to Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project.

School Costs

Ceisteanna (76)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

76. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the expected costs that accrue to schools for using external accountants or auditors; and if he has allocated additional funding to schools to ensure compliance with the provision of the Education Act 1998 that all accounts of schools are properly audit or certified. [40625/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

It is important to ensure that appropriate governance arrangements are in place for transparency and accountability in the management of public money.

Therefore, all Boards of Managements of schools are obliged to comply with Section 18 of the Education Act 1998 and the arrangements set out in my Department’s circulars 0060/2017 and 0002/2018 in relation to the operation of the Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU). This includes the submission of accounts to the FSSU by an external accountant/auditor who has a current Practicing Certificate, Professional Indemnity Insurance and is registered with a prescribed accountancy body in the State.

The independence of an external accountant/auditor provides assurance to the Board and the State that the accounts are prepared in line with good accounting practice and standards.

Schools are permitted to regard capitation and ancillary grants as a combined grant from which the Board of Management can allocate according to its own priorities.

Furthermore, a 5% increase in capitation funding was provided for Primary and Post-Primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year.

Responsibility for procurement of an external accountant/auditor and payment of same rests with the Board of Management in respect of schools operated by them. Boards of Management should take a proactive approach when it comes to sourcing accountancy services in order to ensure best value is obtained and to ensure compliance with public procurement procedures. Schools Procurement Unit which has a national remit is available to advise and assist schools in relation to procurement matters. The FSSU also provides assistance for schools when sourcing accountancy services.

Schools Data

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 68.

Ceisteanna (77)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

77. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools which have failed to submit their accounts to the FSSU in line with the provision of section 18 of the Education Act 1998; if alternative arrangements have been considered for the certification of school accounts in view of the costs associated with hiring external auditors or accountants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40626/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

It is important to ensure that appropriate governance arrangements are in place for transparency and accountability in the management of public money.

Therefore, all Boards of Managements of schools are obliged to comply with Section 18 of the Education Act 1998 and the arrangements set out in my Department’s circulars 0060/2017 and 0002/2018 in relation to the operation of the Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU). This includes the submission of accounts to the FSSU by an external accountant/auditor who has a current Practicing Certificate, Professional Indemnity Insurance and is registered with a prescribed accountancy body in the State.

The independence of an external accountant/auditor provides assurance to the Board and the State that the accounts are prepared in line with good accounting practice and standards.

The FSSU has been operating on this basis in the Voluntary Secondary Sector since 2005 and Voluntary Secondary Schools in the free education scheme have been submitting their accounts to the FSSU via an external accountant/auditor. Of the 322 schools in this sector, 6 schools have yet to submit this years accounts.

The FSSU rolled out its services on a phased basis to Primary Schools from September 2017 and Community & Comprehensive schools from January 2018. Primary schools will be required to submit their accounts by February 2020 and Community & Comprehensive by February 2021.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 68.

Capitation Grants

Ceisteanna (79, 81)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

79. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to restore and-or increase capitation grants for primary schools in 2019 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40652/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

81. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to restore and-or increase capitation grants for primary schools in 2019 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40661/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 81 together.

I fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools.

I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year. The first and full year costs of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

In looking at the competing demands for the next Budget, I must have regard to the level of resources which will be available to my Department, in the context of the continuing need for the Government to prudently manage the economy and the public finances and have regard to risks, including those associated with Brexit.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (80)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

80. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress he has made to date on reducing primary school class sizes to match an EU average of 20 pupils per teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40653/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget will have increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including more than 370 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.

It is the annual staffing schedule which determines the allocation of teachers to schools. For the current school year, it operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year. Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period.

All proposals made in relation to education expenditure are considered in the context of budgetary matters, having regard to overall resource constraints and other competing demands in the education sector.