Curaclam Scoile

Ceisteanna (52)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

52. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén fáth nach bhfuil sé chun ábhar éigeantach a dhéanamh athuair den stair i gcomhair an Teastais Shóisearaigh, agus cad iad a thuairimí ar an ábhar sin. [41408/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I mí na Samhna na bliana anuraidh d'iarr mé ar an gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta (CNCM) athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an stair a bheith ina hábhar roghnach faoin gCreat nua don tSraith Shóisearach. D'iarr mé freisin ar CNCM a fháil amach cén tslí is fearr chun staidéar ar an stair inár scoileanna a chur chun cinn.  Fuair mé tuarascáil chomhairleach CNCM i mí Iúil na bliana seo agus táim fíorbhuíoch don chomhairle as an obair atá déanta aici.

Rinne mé machnamh cúramach ar thuarascáil CNCM, ina gcuirtear in iúl go soiléir go soláthraítear leis an tsonraíocht nua don Stair faoin gCreat don tSraith Shóisearach bealach níos fearr chun an Stair a mhúineadh agus a fhoghlaim ná mar a bhíodh ann roimhe seo. Cé go bhfuil a fhios agam go bhfuil an t-ábhar le hathbhreithniú i gceann dhá bhliain, tá fonn orm, áfach, beart a dhéanamh anois chun a chinntiú nach dtagann aon laghdú ar líon na ndaltaí atá ag déanamh staidéir ar an Stair.  Sin an fáth ar fhógair mé le gairid go bhfuil stádas lárnach speisialta le bheith ag an Stair i gcuraclam na Sraithe Sóisearaí.

Beidh mé ag iarraidh tacaíochta ón gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta chun a fháil amach conas is fearr is féidir é sin a bhaint amach. Táim ag dúil go mbeidh na socruithe lena ndéantar foráil do stádas lárnach speisialta i leith an ábhair i bhfeidhm ag tús na chéad scoilbhliana eile, le go mbeadh feidhm aige i gcás na ndaltaí a bheidh ag tosú ar an tSraith Shóisearach ag an am sin.

Small Schools

Ceisteanna (53)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

53. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his hosting of a symposium on small schools before summer 2019 and his introduction of changes to the PTR for small schools and additional release days for teaching principals, signals a policy shift to support small schools. [42606/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2020 has provided for improved teacher staffing levels for schools with four teachers or less.  This measure will see a more favourable pupil teacher ratio in small schools from September 2020.  This improved schedule will apply in two, three and four teacher schools and ensure one less pupil is required to retain/recruit a teacher.

In addition, Budget 2020 is the third successive budget to provide for an increase in the number of principal release days.  One additional release day will be allocated to each school with a teaching principal with effect from 1 September 2020.  This will bring the number of release days to 19, 25 and 31, depending on the size of school.  This is an increase from 14, 18 and 22 days since 2015.  In addition, a further four additional release days are allocated to schools with special classes.

Rural schools make up the majority of our primary school sector: nearly 2,000 out of just over 3,100 schools. As such, I fully recognise their value to communities right across the country. They provide a vital link to local heritage and history, help sustain rural populations and often act as a link for sports and social activity.

The majority of rural schools (over 1,200) are classed as small - having 4 or fewer teachers. Whilst facing the challenges and opportunities that all schools do, this particular group of schools has specific challenges. I have been listening to our partners around this and discussing what we can do to support small schools and ensure that they have a sustainable future.

The Programme for Government makes a commitment not to close any small school without the consent of parents and I am honouring this partnership approach as I examine the issue.

I have spoken with international colleagues to hear their perspective and, together with my colleague Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, hosted a Symposium on Small Schools. I want to actively engage with the people and organisations who work in and with small schools and who understand the value and opportunities they offer to their communities.

Already, we as a Government have shown that we are listening and I was pleased to announced additional supports in Budget 2020. The work now underway in relation to small schools seeks to build on this in a sustainable way. Between now and next March, I will continue to engage with the main partners through the Primary Education Forum and my Department’s Small Schools Steering Group to develop a new policy of supports for small schools and feed into the Estimates process for 2021.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (54)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

54. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the process to move a school (details supplied) to tender stage; the status of conveyancing of the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy has recently completed Stage 2(b) of architectural planning and has been progressed to tender stage.

A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

The estimated construction duration for this project is 18 months. 

In regard to the site acquisition, good progress is being made and it is anticipated that conveyancing will conclude in the near future. There is good ongoing engagement between both legal teams on finalising matters.  It is not possible to elaborate on specific details due to commercial sensitivities, however, the Department will continue in its commitment to keep all parties generally appraised of progress in the transaction.

The Deputy may be aware that the outcome of the re-commenced pre-qualification process for the main contract has been notified to contractors who expressed interest in tendering for this project.  Feedback and issues arising from same has resulted in a legal challenge to the re-commenced pre-qualification process for the main contract from one unsuccessful contractor. This matter is being handled on my Department's behalf by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.

My Department is fully aware of the urgency of this project for Monasterevin and the need to get the tendering process underway as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (55)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

55. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress of the new building for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the timeline for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42513/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy has recently completed Stage 2(b) of architectural planning and has been progressed to tender stage.

A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

The estimated construction duration for this project is 18 months.

The Deputy may be aware that the outcome of the re-commenced pre-qualification process for the main contract has been notified to contractors who expressed interest in tendering for this project.  Feedback and issues arising from same has resulted in a legal challenge to the re-commenced pre-qualification process for the main contact from one unsuccessful contractor.  This matter is being handled on my Department's behalf by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.

My Department is fully aware of the urgency of this project for Monasterevin and the need to get the tendering process underway as quickly as possible.

Small Schools

Ceisteanna (56)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

56. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to support rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41800/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Rural schools make up the majority of our primary school sector: nearly 2,000 out of just over 3,100 schools. As such, I fully recognise their value to communities right across the country. They provide a vital link to local heritage and history, help sustain rural populations and often act as a link for sports and social activity.

The majority of rural schools (over 1,200) are classed as small- having 4 or fewer teachers. Whilst facing the challenges and opportunities that all schools do, this particular group of schools has specific challenges. I have been listening to our partners around this and discussing what we can do to support small schools and ensure that they have a sustainable future.

The Programme for Government makes a commitment not to close any small school without the consent of parents and I am honouring this partnership approach as I examine the issue.

I have spoken with international colleagues to hear their perspective and, together with my colleague Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, hosted a Symposium on Small Schools. I want to actively engage with the people and organisations who work in and with small schools and who understand the value and opportunities they offer to their communities.

Already, we as a Government have shown that we are listening and I was pleased to announced additional supports in Budget 2020. This record level of investment in the sector is providing for an extra release day for teaching principals and improved teaching staffing levels for small schools. The work now underway in relation to small schools seeks to build on this in a sustainable way. Between now and next March, I will continue to engage with the main partners through the Primary Education Forum and my Department’s Small Schools Steering Group to develop a new policy of supports for small schools and feed into the Estimates process for 2021.

Budget 2020 reduced PTR for small schools.

Schools Building Regulations

Ceisteanna (57)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

57. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the situation of schools affected by an issue with a company (details supplied); if a full independent review will be conducted; if so, when such a review will take place; and the mechanisms his Department is using to procure the school building programme. [42576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that the Department commenced a programme of structural assessments in over 40 schools built by the company in late October last year.  At that time, a part of 1 school building was closed, immediate precautionary measures were put in place in 22 schools, with the remaining 17 schools not requiring immediate precautionary measures pending further detailed investigations.  Detailed investigations in the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place took place between January and May 2019.  The first phase of the School Remediation Programme for these schools took place during the 2019 summer holiday period with permanent remediation work carried out enabling the removal of precautionary measures in full in 14 schools and preparatory work well advanced to commence structural remediation work in the remaining 8 schools.

Planned detailed investigations in the remaining 17 schools also took place over the summer months. The engineering advice following those detailed investigations was that some temporary engineering solutions and other precautionary measures should be completed in some parts of some of these buildings until permanent remediation works were designed, programmed and delivered.  These works were completed in advance of these schools re-opening for the new school year.

The programme to complete the remediation of all the impacted schools is continuing, with the intention to maximise the summer holiday periods in 2020 and 2021 to carry out permanent works.

I wish to advise the Deputy that I recently announced that the independent review of current use and practices in the Design and Build Procurement/Construction Model for the delivery of school building internationally has been awarded to the School of Surveying and Construction Management, Technological University Dublin.  The scope and nature of the current review is designed to ensure that it does not prejudice the on-going legal process initiated by the Department against the company and others.

The report arising from this review will be finalised by the end of Quarter 4 this year. 

The independent review will be an important precursor in a planned wider independent review of the Department’s Design & Build Programme which will commence when the ongoing legal process has concluded. 

Design and Build has been one of a mix of procurement routes used by the Department of Education and Skills to deliver school places over the past 10 years. 

Other procurement methods employed by the Department include traditional procurement, i.e. the design work is contracted separately from the construction; Public Private Partnerships (PPPs); and devolved delivery, i.e. where a project is devolved to another entity, such as an Education and Training Board (ETB), the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), local authority or OPW, for delivery. It is considered that the use of a mix of procurement routes has been, and continues to be, essential to delivering school places at the pace required, taking account of capacity both in the construction industry and the public sector.

Digital Strategy for Schools

Ceisteanna (58)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

58. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish a digital literacy education programme at both primary and secondary level in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42544/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Considerable work has already been done in the development of curricula on digital literacy.  At both primary and post-primary levels considerable scope for building the capacity of students in the area of digital literacy is provided for through the emphasis on dispositions, competencies and skills as foundational elements of the curriculum.  Specifically, in the newly introduced Framework for Junior Cycle, digital literacy skills are promoted through the eight Key Skills (all skills have an ICT/digital component) and through the Statements of Learning. In addition, in the ongoing reviews of the Primary Curriculum and of the Senior Cycle the skills of, or skills closely related to, digital literacy, have featured strongly in all discussions on future provision. 

Currently at post-primary level, there are several programmes and courses in ICT and Digital Literacy already in place, particularly the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Literacy and the IT courses in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. To a lesser extent, the recently-introduced Leaving Certificate subject in Computer Science also looks at aspects of digital literacy.

In studying the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Media Literacy, students learn to use digital technology, communication tools and the internet creatively, critically and safely, in support of their development, learning and capacity to participate effectively in social and community life.

The Information and Communication Technology module forms part of the core curriculum for all Leaving Certificate Applied students. It is intended to develop the students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding of Information and Communication Technology to enable them to use digital technology in both their current and future lives.

In addition, areas such as Wellbeing and its constituent programmes in Social, Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education and Civic, Social and Political Education also underpin skills of digital literacy in engaging with the subject material in these courses.

The Digital Learning Framework is currently being disseminated to all schools. The Framework promotes student engagement in the teaching and learning process and will help towards the development of digital literacy skills. The development and adaption of this Framework is a key objective of the Digital Strategy for Schools which is currently being implemented.

Oideachas Tríú Leibhéal

Ceisteanna (59)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

59. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé chun aon athrú a dhéanamh ar an éagóir atá i gceist maidir leis na táillí suntasacha is gá d’ábhair múinteoirí a íoc as an gcoicís éigeantach a chaitheann said sa Ghaeltacht mar chuid den chúrsa bunmhúinteoireachta i mbliain a haon agus i mbliain a trí den chúrsa, agus an bhfuil sé i gceist aige an táille a ísliú nó deireadh a chur léi. [41407/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Rinneadh an cinneadh le deontais do shocrúcháin Ghaeltachta a stopadh le linn na géarchéime eacnamaíochta nuair a bhí gá, ar an drochuair, le cinntí an-deacair a dhéanamh chun airgead an náisiúin a chobhsú. Mar sin féin, thuig mé go maith an dúshlán atá ann do mhic léinn i dtaca le costas an tsocrúcháin.

Tá áthas orm, mar sin, go n-áirítear le Cáinfhaisnéis 2020 tiomantas chun an deontas Gaeltachta a chur ar ais do mhic léinn i gcláir oiliúna tosaigh múinteoirí atá maoinithe ag an Stát. Beidh feidhm leis an mbeart ón mbliain acadúil 2020/2021.

Bainfidh mic léinn fochéime agus mic léinn iarchéime araon tairbhe as an mbeart, a chosnóidh €1.8 milliún in aghaidh na bliana, meastar.

Tá an socrúchán Gaeltachta an-tábhachtach mar eispéireas tumtha Gaeilge do mhúinteoirí faoi oiliúint. Cuireann sé feabhas ar a gcumas cumarsáide sa Ghaeilge, i gcomhthéacs an róil a bheidh acu amach anseo mar mhúinteoirí Gaeilge agus ábhair eile trí Ghaeilge. Cuireann sé feabhas freisin ar a dtuiscint ar shaol agus cultúr sa Ghaeltacht agus ar an saol mar atá i bpobail dhátheangacha. Is chuige sin a chinn an Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta go mbeadh an socrúchán riachtanach sa chaoi is go bhféadfadh na múinteoirí faoi oiliúint go léir ar leibhéal na bunscoile cáiliú.

Bainfidh thart ar 2,400 múinteoir faoi oiliúint tairbhe as an mbeart seo sa chéad bhliain.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (60)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

60. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the 1,000 SNA positions announced in budget 2020 are additional to the 900 announced in 2019; the number of the 900 positions that have been filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42352/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2019 provided for 950 additional SNA posts. To date over 900 of these posts have been allocated with the remainder expected to be allocated by the end of the year.

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.  

Budget 2020 has provided for 1,064 additional SNAs posts which will bring the total number of SNA posts in schools to over 17,000 in 2020.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (61)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

61. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of funding for accommodation adaptation available to the schools in the Dublin 7 and 15 areas that have been served with notices pursuant to section 37A of the Education Act 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42580/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department administers a number of grants which together aim to improve and maintain school buildings and which can be used to address the issues raised. My Department's Emergency Works Grant is one such source of funding and its purpose is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils.  Primary and post-primary schools seeking emergency works funding must refer to the Emergency Works Circular 0018/2011 and apply under this scheme by completing the Emergency Works Application Form, both of which are available on the Department’s website.

My Department’s Capital Programme provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed.  Details of schools listed on this programme can be found on my Department's website www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly.  School authorities who wish to apply under the Additional Schools Accommodation Scheme can do so by completing the application form which is available on the website. 

I am also pleased to inform the Deputy that, on approval of a special class in a school, my Department provides lump sum grant aid (€6,500 per class) towards the purchase of educational aids and equipment for special needs pupils enrolled in that class.  My Department also provides a once-off lump sum grant aid (€7,000 per school) towards the purchase of educational equipment for schools with approval for a multi-sensory room.  General classroom furniture and an ICT grant of €5,000 per classroom is also grant aided by my Department. This funding is provided on a devolved basis and it is a matter for the school authority to decide on the educational items to be purchased. 

Grant aid is also made available to schools under my Department’s Loose Furniture & Equipment Scheme to fund the purchase of special items of furniture for special needs pupils. This scheme applies to all children who are diagnosed as having special needs. Items funded include classroom  seating, desks and changing/toileting items for both primary and post primary schools.

Student Accommodation

Ceisteanna (62)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

62. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of additional provision made for student accommodation in budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42595/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The development and financing of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in the University sector is a matter for the Universities themselves.   

Since the publication of Rebuilding Ireland in July 2016 2,508 PBSA bedspaces have been completed or are under construction within the universities.  There are an additional 3,100 bedspaces either within the planning process or at plans granted within the sector as at the end of September this year.   

This is in addition to the significant pipeline of supply from activity in the private sector which amounts to over 18,000 additional bedspaces which are known to be in development by the private sector (from plans applied, granted, on-site developments at the current time and includes the 6,900 bedspaces completed by the sector since July 2016).

University Global Rankings

Ceisteanna (63)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

63. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to develop a strategy to address the falling university rankings. [42528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The private higher education ranking systems, of which there are many, each monitor different aspects of international higher education institutions.  In the most recent set of rankings (Times Higher Education global rankings) two Irish universities ranked lower than last year while three maintained and two increased their ranking band.

Each of the systems award different weightings to various components of the area under review and the ranking assigned in any particular year not only depends 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 have adversely impacted on rankings for the long term benefit of the higher education system and its wider role in Irish society.  This is evident in terms of investment in access and inclusion, skills development and structural reform which will futureproof the system.

It is therefore important that we set goals for the system and then benchmark these against best international practice rather than solely depending on comparison across variable ranking systems. While the rankings are informative when taken in context, they should be seen as one element of feedback on the higher education system and I do not propose to deliver a specific strategy in this area.

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (64)

John Curran

Ceist:

64. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects at stage 2B detailed design; the number that have been at this stage for up to one, one to three, three to five, five to seven, seven to ten and more than ten years, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41420/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In terms of current projects at Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, 19 projects have recently been approved to Stage 2(b) and are at this latter stage of architectural planning for less than 1 year, 28 such projects have been progressing through the stage from 1-3 years, 15 projects have been progressing from 3-5 years, 8 further projects have been progressing from 5-7 years and 2 projects have been progressing through the stage from 7-10 years.

This is in the context of currently over 70 major school building projects in advanced architectural planning and a continuous throughput of projects moving into Stage 2(b) and onwards to Tender Stage and Construction.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (65)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

65. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider changing the status of turntables to deem them musical instruments on the school curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Leaving Certificate Music syllabus states clearly that:

‘Students will be expected to demonstrate an ability to input via electronic instruments (and/or conventional instruments with electronic controllers providing a midi interface) a musical score of at least two real parts.’

Turntables do not allow for the input of musical score, and are therefore not suitable for the purpose of demonstrating an ability to understand and to use microtechnology music-making systems.

It is therefore not considered to be an instrument and is not equitable with other acoustic or electronic instruments for practical/performance purposes.

Students are, however, free to use electronic instruments for performance purposes.

While electronic instruments are referenced in the Leaving Certificate syllabus no specific electronic musical instruments are named, but nor is there an exhaustive list of recognised acoustic instruments. Electronic musical instruments are referenced generally, as synthesisers, MIDI interfaces and computerised music systems. Likewise, no electronic music equipment is specified in any syllabus documentation.

In relation to the Junior Cycle specification 2018, there are no references to specific instruments electronic or otherwise. There is no distinction made between acoustic and electronic in the Junior Cycle specification for Music, allowing for the inclusion and exploration of a variety of instruments by students.

For the purposes of assessment at Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Music, students can perform as a soloist or as a group on any instrument or combination of instruments, and this can be acoustic or digital/electronic. The State Examinations Commission issue guidelines on this every year, to ensure that there is clarity on what is allowed and not allowed in the practical examination. Here is an example of their guidelines from 2019: https://www.examinations.ie/schools/EN-1011-11962080.pdf

At primary level, the primary school curriculum incorporates the subject’s visual arts, music and drama within the curriculum area of arts education. In the primary school music curriculum, enabling pupils to record compositions on electronic media is referenced in all strands of the curriculum from infants up to sixth class.

The music curriculum for 3rd and 4th classes confirms that pupils should be enabled to select different kinds of sounds, including electronic instruments. For 5th and 6th classes the curriculum advises "creativity and uniqueness are given a means of self-expression through the provision of opportunities to experiment and gain control of a range of musical materials. These include manufactured instruments and home-made percussion and melodic instruments as well as electronic media.”

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (66)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

66. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects the teaching requirements of children with special needs will be met in the coming year with particular reference to the availability of special needs teachers, special needs assistants, speech and languages therapists and occupational therapists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42552/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Very significant levels of financial provision are made to ensure that all children with special educational needs can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

My Department currently spends approximately €1.9 Billion or almost 20% of its total current educational and training budget annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs.

This represents an increase of over 50% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 Billion per annum was provided.

The main supports this funding provides for are:

- Over 13,400 special education teacher posts currently allocated to mainstream primary and post primary who support the mainstream class teacher by providing additional teaching support for pupils with special educational needs in schools.

- The total number of Special Educational Teachers has increased by 37% since 2011, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

- Budget 2020 provides an additional 120 special education teacher posts which means that 13,620 Special Education Teaching posts will be available for allocation to mainstream primary and post primary schools by the end of 2020. 

- Provision has been made for up to 17,014 Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts to be allocated to primary, post primary and special schools in 2020, with Budget 2020 providing an additional 1064 Special Needs Assistants for schools.

- The SNA scheme provides mainstream Primary, Post Primary schools and Special Schools with additional adult support staff to assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs from a disability.

- Provision for 17,014 SNAs represents an increase of 60% since 2011.The number of SNAs in the school system has increased by almost 50%, from 10,575 in 2011 to over 15,800 at present.

- The additional SNAs provided for, will support the roll out of the New School Inclusion model, including a new allocation methodology for mainstream schools in the 2020/21 school year, which will ensure students with additional needs get the right supports at the right time, as well as supporting new special class and special school places.

- A pilot of the new School Inclusion Model approved by Government on 8 February last, is being implemented in HSE CHO7 for this school year, which is designed to test a new integrated education and health service model for supporting students with additional needs.

- The demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services which was introduced for the 2018/19 school year will continue to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services as part of the School Inclusion Model in order to ensure a wraparound service. The purpose of the demonstration project is to test a model of tailored therapeutic supports that allows for early intervention in terms of providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’. This innovative pilot complements existing HSE funded provision of essential therapy services. 

- Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased by almost 200% from 548 to 1,621 for 2019/2020 school year. Of these 1,355 special classes will cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

- 167 new special classes have been established nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 will be new ASD special classes, comprising 6 Early Intervention, 100 primary and 50 post-primary ASD classes. udget 2020 provides for an additional 265 special class teachers in 2020, which will allow for the opening of additional classes to cater for over 1,300 additional places, where required.

- 124 special schools providing specialist education for approximately 7,500 pupils annually with over 1,400 teachers. Budget 2020 provides for an additional 23 teaching posts for special schools, designed to meet expected increases in enrolments in 2020, providing over 8,000 pupil places in special schools. It also provides for the continued provision of administrative deputy principal posts in special schools with 15+ teaching posts, introduced in special schools for the first time this September.

- The NCSE is currently undertaking Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs. This Policy Advice is to be completed and a report submitted to the Minister no later than June 2020. It is anticipated that a progress report will be submitted by the NCSE in the coming weeks.

- Other supports provides for assistive technology supports and equipment, special school transport arrangements including additional transport assistance such as bus escorts; teacher training and continuing professional development in the area of special education; enhanced capitation levels for special schools and special classes and modification of school buildings to assist with access and new build provisions to ensure inclusive settings in newly built schools.

- The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) includes a new Regional Support Service within the NCSE to support the inclusion of children with special educational needs in schools.

- A Home Tuition scheme provides for the education of children with special educational needs who are awaiting school placement and the July provision provides for an extended school year scheme.

- Special Arrangements for State Examinations – reasonable accommodations and supports are made available to support children with special educational needs to participate in state exams.

This increased investment in teachers, SNAs, therapeutic and other supports reflects the priority which this Government has put on helping children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential. It also reflects the growing participation of children with Special Educational Needs in the Education System and the capacity of the Education System to better support their full participation and progression.

Notwithstanding the extent of unprecedented level of investment, I am aware that issues remain. 

There are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to shortages in capacity in the school system. 

In these areas, some parents are experiencing difficulty in securing a suitable place for their children. This will continue to be a major concern for me and my Department.

Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 has been invoked already and it may need to be used again.  However, my stated preference is for schools to engage with this challenge on a voluntary basis because it is the right thing for the children in their community.

My Department will continue to support the NCSE to continue to work with schools, patron bodies and teachers so that they can establish special classes where required with confidence.  In that way, parents can be happy that the education needs of their children will be provided for in their local school in so far as possible.

Ensuring every child has access to a suitable school placement is a priority for me and my Department and we will continue to ensure that this can be provided for.

Special Educational Needs Staff Contracts

Ceisteanna (67)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

67. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the contracts of employment of SNAs allow for the loss of employment of a SNA worker in a school following a SENO assessment in which it is deemed a position is not required, for example; the security of employment or guarantee of another position elsewhere for SNAs affected by such an assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42591/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) were established on foot of proposals brought forward by the Labour Relations Commission when the Haddington Road Agreement was being agreed. These supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs continue to operate under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020, and both unions representing SNAs, namely SIPTU and FÓRSA, have signed up to that agreement. As set out in the LRC proposals, the supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs only apply to current SNAs who are notified that they are to be made redundant. Accordingly, the purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school/ETB.

Once an SNA with a minimum of one year's service (service in a substitute capacity i.e. covering for maternity leave, sick leave, career breaks, job-sharing etc. does not count) is notified by his/her employer that s/he is to be made redundant then s/he shall be deemed to be a member of a supplementary assignment panel for SNAs. The detailed supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2019/2020 school year are set out in Departmental Circular 0030/2019 which issued on 22 May 2019.

The operation of this panel is described and outlined in Circular 0030/2019 and it is designed to be as flexible as possible which enables all eligible SNAs, who have the requisite Panel Form 1 completed by their former employer, to apply for any SNA position that is advertised by a school or an ETB with no sectoral, diocesan or geographical limitations imposed. Every eligible SNA will remain on the panel for two years with a view to getting further employment. If they are not successful over that period of time in obtaining a further SNA position then they will be eligible for a redundancy payment. Furthermore, an SNA may opt out of this supplementary assignment panel at any point in time triggering the processing of his/her redundancy payment in line with the terms set out in the SNA redundancy scheme (DES Circular 58/06) or any revision of same that is applicable at that time.

It should be noted that this does not prevent any person, including newly qualified SNAs, from applying for SNA vacancies but employers are obliged to give precedence to applicants who are members of the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel.

The Supplementary Assignment Panel arrangements are reviewed by my Department on an annual basis in conjunction with an independent Supplementary Assignment Manager, the school management bodies and the two unions representing SNA staff (FÓRSA and SIPTU).

My Department has set up a dedicated e-mail address to deal with all queries in relation to the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel and any queries in respect of the operation of the Panel can be directed to this dedicated e-mail address: snasupplementpanel@education.gov.ie.

Youth Services

Ceisteanna (68)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

68. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered the CIPFA report initiated by the ETB and brought to his attention in July 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42344/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy is aware that my Department officials and I have engaged with City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) in relation to issues concerning youth services.

My Department understands that the report referenced in the Deputy’s question is an internal organisational review conducted on foot of an agreement between CDETB and a staffing union relating to resources, grant management and communications.

CDETB has advised that they are considering the review and are engaging with relevant parties concerning the review content. There are discussions currently taking place regarding elements of this review and once this process has concluded CDETB will update my Department officials further as how they intend to proceed.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (69)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

69. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress of a new building for a school (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Major Project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at Stage 1 of architectural planning which entails preliminary design of site and location suitability and initial sketch scheme.

A revised Stage 1 submission, including an up to date cost plan, was requested from the Design Team following an increase in the schedule of accommodation to cater for up to 1200 pupils. That submission has been received and a review has been completed with comments for action issued to the School and its Design Team.

A further review has yielded a proposal for an increase in accommodation to a 1300 pupil school, which has been accepted by the school. The Design Team has been instructed to provide an initial sketch scheme for a 1300 pupil school, and submit to the Department for review. Professional fees have been agreed with the Design Team members for this additional task.

Following this review my Department will then be in contact with the Board of Management of the school with regard to the progression of the project.

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

Apprenticeship Programmes

Ceisteanna (70)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

70. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which funding for apprenticeships was allocated by his Department; and if preference was given to rural areas in such allocations. [30218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Apprenticeship training is funded from the National Training Fund (NTF) which is resourced by a levy on reckonabe employment.  There has been substantial  increased investment from the NTF in training those in employment through programmes such as apprenticeship in recent years.  The 2019 NTF allocation for apprenticeship training is €142m which represents an increase of over 16% on the 2018 allocation of €122m.  This will rise to €169 million in 2020.

The off-the-job elements of apprenticeship training provision are planned at a national level by SOLAS and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).  Applications for funding for apprenticeship training are made to SOLAS and the HEA by Education and Training Boards (ETBs), Technological University Dublin and the Institutes of Technology as part of the overall annual further education and training and higher education planning and funding processes.

Apprenticeship is a demand driven educational and training programme which aims to develop the skills of an apprentice in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market.  While apprenticeships are national programmes, it is the pattern of employer recruitment of apprentices that determines the availability of individual apprenticeship opportunities.  Employers do not receive any funding to recruit apprentices but off-the-job training is planned and funded taking account of where apprentices are employed.

Generally apprenticeships have a good regional spread and the delivery of Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship is bringing real opportunities for learners and employers throughout the country.  Apprenticeships are available in many sectors that have a strong regional presence such as manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, motor, construction and engineering.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (71)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

71. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the apparent overpayments by his Department in purchasing land intended for new schools in Dublin, specifically the purchase of sites in Harold's Cross and Sandymount; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42543/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware the Comptroller and Auditor General included a chapter in its recently published Report on the Accounts of the Public Services 2018 on the purchase of sites for school provision.  As part of its review the C&AG selected the acquisitions of Roslyn Park, Sandymount, Dublin 4; Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W and Cathal Brugha Street/Marlborough Street, D1 for closer examination.

Having thoroughly examined the case for the acquisitions and the process attaching to those, the only recommendation of the C&AG for my Department was that it should review its parameters for the size of school sites and seek to intensify the development of properties in its ownership.  My Department had already commenced implementation of this approach independently of the C&AG report.

As outlined in that report the Roslyn Park and Harold’s Cross acquisitions formed part of a site identification exercise in South Dublin city which commenced in 2012 and following that process, both site options were acquired: being the only solutions for the delivery of critically required school accommodation in the region.

The former Harold’s Cross Greyhound Stadium was acquired under the terms of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Circular 11/2015 Protocols for the Transfer and Sharing of State Property Assets, which includes the provision that the consideration be set by a binding independent valuation prepared by the Valuation Office.

The property at Roslyn Park had been advertised for sale and there was an extremely competitive market for the property in question.  My Department paid only what it had to in order to secure the only site which could deliver the required school accommodation. 

In summary, there is no question of overpayment by my Department for the properties in question and the purchase of these well-located sites is now enabling the planning and construction of four new schools that are meeting an identified requirement for school provision for circa 3000 students.