Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (160)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

160. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46090/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Standing Order No. 164A of Dáil Éireann 2016 provides for post-enactment reports on the functioning of an Act, within twelve months of its enactment.

A post-enactment report on the Technological Universities Act 2018 (No. 3 of 2018) was laid before the Houses on 17 April 2019.  

A post-enactment report on the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 (No. 14 of 2018) was laid before the Houses on 28 August 2019.

Education and Training Boards

Ceisteanna (161)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

161. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is being purpose built by Wexford County Council and there has been consultation between Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board and the local authority on this project.

My Department is not directly involved in the building project but we have received a copy of the proposal from the ETB and this is still under review.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (162)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

162. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of SNAs allocated since budget 2020; and the geographical placing of same, in tabular form. [46136/19]

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, for allocation in 2020, which will bring the total number of SNA posts in schools to over 17,000 in 2020.

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 publish statistics on SNA allocations for each school year and this information is available on their website, www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (163)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

163. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46151/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

The major building project will deliver a new post primary school to cater for 650 pupils and a new primary school on a shared site. The project is currently in Stage 2b (Detailed Design) of Architectural Planning which includes statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. Planning permission, fire certificate and disability access certificate have all been secured for this project. 

The Design Team has carried out a pre-qualification process to produce a shortlist of building contractors and also a separate list of mechanical and electrical contractors. The Department is continuing to liaise with the Project Manager in that regard.

When all items have been satisfactorily completed the Department expects to be in a position to authorise the project to progress to tender stage which normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

Health and Safety Authority

Ceisteanna (164)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

164. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a Health and Safety Authority, HSA, investigation (details supplied). [46154/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am aware of the tragic circumstances of the project to which the Deputy refers and I share fully the Deputy's concerns and his desire to progress this project as a matter of urgency.

As a Summer Works Scheme project, it has been devolved to the school for delivery.  The current position is that the consultant for the project has experienced considerable difficulty in appointing a suitable and qualified contractor to carry out the necessary asbestos removal works. In the absence of same, the consultant cannot provide the HSA with the method statement it is awaiting to allow these works to proceed. This work will continue to be done while respecting the important job the HSA has to conclude its investigation into the tragic circumstances referred to by the Deputy.

Please be assured that my Department is working closely with those involved to ensure the project is advanced as quickly as possible.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (165)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

165. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a SNA was refused in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46184/19]

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.

Education and Training Boards

Ceisteanna (166)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

166. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the future of a school (details supplied) at a centre in view of the fact that the grounds are for sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46198/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) currently provides two thousand ‘co-operation hours' annually to the Sacred Heart House located in the Bessborough Centre in Cork.  The co-operation hours scheme is a longstanding arrangement under which Education and Training Boards (ETBs) provide teaching hours for settings run by a range of organisations. In this case CETB employs 3 teachers who deliver education and training to early school leavers in the Bessborough Centre.  No funding is provided by my Department or CETB to the centre for its early school leaver provision.

I understand from CETB that they are aware that the Sacret Heart Order wishes to dispose of the property and that a sale is being pursued. They are currently engaging with the Bessborough Centre to explore options for the continued delivery of education and training to early school leavers.

Cork ETB previously funded a Local Training Initiative (LTI) in horticulture on the site. The provision previously delivered on the site has already been relocated to the Ardfoyle Centre in Cork.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (167)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

167. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made on an appeal for special needs assistant hours by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46203/19]

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 school, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

Special Educational Needs Data

Ceisteanna (168)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

168. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of new applications made for SNA access for the 2019-2020 academic year; and the number of new SNA posts created solely based on these new applications. [46224/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I announced on 27th May that 792 additional SNA posts would be allocated to schools for the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, with almost 130 additional posts expected to be allocated by December 2019.

By the end of this year, there will be up to 15,950 SNAs working in our schools, an increase of over 51% since 2011.  

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for SNA application process and I will forward the Deputy's question to the NCSE for their direct reply.

National Council for Special Education

Ceisteanna (169)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

169. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, is funded; the amount of the budget allocated to provide for SNA access; and the number of new applications made for the 2019/2020 academic year. [46225/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department meets  the pay and non-pay costs of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). The NCSE is an independent statutory agency which has a number of functions set out in Section 20 of the EPSEN Act, including:

a) planning for, and co-ordinating, the provision of education for children with special educational needs and ensuring that a continuum of special educational provision is available;

b) conducting and carrying out research;

c) providing policy advice to the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to special education;

d) review provision and advise on educational provision for adults with disabilities;

e) disseminating information, including best practice, on special education to parents, schools and other interested persons and

f) Consult with voluntary bodies to ensure that their knowledge and expertise can inform the development of policy by the Council

Provision for SNA posts is made separately through the annual budget process. For 2019 the number of posts available for allocation will be in the region of 15,950 by the end of December.  The annual pay cost of providing SNA support is currently in the region of €551 million for 2019.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (170)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

170. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the SENO will fulfil the recommendations of private reports to facilitate SNA support as per the findings of each report; and if not, the reason therefor. [46226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The consideration of professional reports is an integral part of determining the extent of supports to be provided for pupils with special educational needs.  However, whereas health reports provide valuable assistance to education providers in identifying a diagnosis or identifying appropriate interventions, health staff have been directed by the HSE not to include references to the specific quantum of educational resources in their reports, but should state the outcome of assessments carried out and the range of needs of the child as clearly as possible.

This is because, while a medical or relevant professional report can indicate the care needs that a child may have, the health professional will not have knowledge or awareness of the current resources available to a school to cater for these care needs, will not be aware of the layout of the school, or have had an opportunity to observe the child in class or observe their interaction with their teachers and classmates on an on going basis.

It is the role of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to process applications from schools for SNA support, taking into account the frequency and extent of the care needs as referenced in the professional report, the manner in which they arise in a school setting and in this regard, the evidence the school can provide to support the application.  The NCSE can also consult with other professionals, eg, NEPS and will allocate a level of SNA support to a school to ensure that the school has sufficient resources to cater for the significant care needs of the relevant children who are enrolled in the school for whom it has been indicated there is a care requirement.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (171)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

171. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person or body to which the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, is answerable to in cases in which a school is dissatisfied with the provision of SNA access further to an appeal. [46227/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 the Department's SNA 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.

Whereas appeals will be considered by Senior NCSE Special Education Needs Organisers in the first instance, there is potential for independent oversight in that schools/parents have access to an independent Appeals Advisory Committee should they consider that the operation of the appeals process was flawed or deficient.

Psychological Assessments

Ceisteanna (172)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

172. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria for determining the number of National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, assessments per school in view of the fact demand exceeds supply. [46228/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can inform the Deputy that in 2017 my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resource.  This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with learning, social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention. NEPS psychologists are afforded a degree of flexibility in responding to need as it presents in their allocated schools.

By way of clarification NEPS psychologists are assigned schools based on a weighting process which takes into account school size, DEIS status, gender mix, special class occurrence and geographical spread and equating roughly to a 5,000:1 pupil to psychologist ratio. 

I can inform the Deputy that starting from a level of 173 whole-time equivalents in 2016 and following increases allowed in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019 the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist currently stands at 204 w.t.e. Some 197 of these posts are currently filled which represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000. The filling of the remaining posts is being actively pursued by my Department in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service and a number of new appointments are imminent.

I would advise therefore, if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any child, that these should be raised by parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school concerned, with a view to that Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (173)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

173. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he plans to roll out the school inclusion model nationally in view of the fact schools outside of the 75 schools in the pilot programme have lost SNAs and have not benefited from in-school support. [46229/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

On 27th March I announced the trialling of the School Inclusion Model, a new model of support for students with special educational and additional care needs, which is being piloted in 75 schools in the Kildare/Wicklow/South Dublin region in the current school year.

The School Inclusion Model aims to build schools’ capacity and to provide the right supports at the right time for students with additional needs.

A comprehensive independent evaluation of the pilot will be required to test its effectiveness and provide guidance on issues to consider in any potential mainstreaming of the School Inclusion Model.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (174, 175, 176)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

174. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications made for access to a SNA by primary schools during the 2018-2019 school year by county; the number of SNAs allocated to special classes for the same period by county; and the number of posts lost due to children leaving sixth class in each school. [46230/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

175. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of SNA posts in post-primary schools that followed the children from sixth class in primary school to first class in post-primary school; the remaining allocation for post-primary schools by county; and the number of applications made for access to a SNA by post-primary schools during the 2018-2019 school year. [46231/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

176. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications made by special schools for access to a SNA during the 2018-2019 school year by county. [46232/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 176, inclusive, together.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are responsible for the management of the application process for Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support and I will forward the Deputy's questions for their direct reply.

The NCSE has published details of SNA allocations for all schools which are available to view on a per county basis, including special schools.  Details can be accessed on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie or by using the following link http://ncse.ie/statistics.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (177)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

177. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions being taken to ensure there are adequate school places at second level in Skerries, County Dublin; his views on whether the current secondary provision requires extension or a new educational facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date data on significant new residential development in each area.  This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development.

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within  a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022).  While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the Skerries school planning area, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.  

The 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.  

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application has been received for additional accommodation from the existing secondary school in the area. The application is currently under assessment and a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities when the assessment process has been completed.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (178)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

178. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the case of a child (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46279/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils is the responsibility of the management authorities in each individual school. My Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent’s choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where the appeal involves an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, the appeal must be made to the local ETB in the first instance. Further information on the Section 29 Appeals process is available on my Departments website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/

In addition, the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. The EWS can be contacted at Educational Welfare Service Child and Family Agency, Floors 2-5, Brunel Building, Heuston South Quarter, Dublin 8 or by phone on 01-7718815.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (179)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

179. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of vacant desk spaces available in accommodation allocated to his Department in Civil Service accommodation outside Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46292/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department does not maintain data on the number of desks spaces available, however space utilisation is maximised with the support of the Office of Public Works.  Currently 68% of the staff compliment in my Department are based outside Dublin.  Within our larger offices, Tullamore and Athlone, there is a greater than 100% subscription for the available desk spaces.  A number of refurbishment and reconfiguration programmes have been undertaken to increase staff to space ratios. In addition, 18% of staff occupy office space in approximately 37 other locations as part of the National Education Physiological Service and Inspectorate networks. This office space is largely fully occupied.