Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (172, 173)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

172. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the breakdown of the €40 million spent to date on remediation works for schools built by a company (details supplied). [47279/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

173. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeline for the completion of the remediation works on schools built by a company (details supplied) at which works have not commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47280/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

Safety is the number one priority for my Department since the structural and fire safety issues, which are the subject matter of the Deputy’s Parliamentary Questions, arose and I am pleased to be able to inform him that significant progress has been made on the remediation programme for the 40 schools involved.

A substantial programme of remediation work took place during the summer months in relation to these 40 schools and plans are well advanced for the next phases of the programme.

Over the summer, permanent remediation work was carried out in 14 schools, which enabled the removal of precautionary measures from those schools in full. Partial structural remediation was carried out in another school. Structural remediation work for another 6 schools is advancing since October.

Planned detailed structural investigations were carried out in 17 schools over the summer months also and, based on engineering advice, precautionary measures and other engineering solutions were put in place in parts of 13 of those schools before they reopened after the summer holidays.

As well as this, a solution has been devised for Ardgillan Community College. The design phase for this work is progressing and the project will move to delivery when this is completed.

The bulk of the remainder of the Schools Remediation Programme is scheduled to be undertaken on a phased basis over 2020 and 2021 and work is well underway in my Department to underpin this. Details will continue to be communicated to the schools as my Department’s plans develop and progress.

About €40m has been spent this year up to the end of quarter 3 2019 on the remediation programme, covering the cost of investigations, precautionary measures, fire safety upgrades and structural repairs.

The cost to date is less than was initially estimated and this is largely due to the well-managed way in which the remediation programme has been handled.

I am unable to provide a further breakdown on this figure at this time to avoid compromising either the legal process underway to recover costs against the contractor involved or the planned public procurement process to carry out the remaining remediation work.

The Public Spending Code requires Government Departments to make contingency provision within their overall capital programme to meet any unforeseen demands or additional costs which might emerge for the capital programme as a whole.

In accordance with this requirement, the cost for the schools remediation programme is being met to date through a contingency provision as part of the increased 2019 capital budget of €942m and also from the reduced funding requirement for the multi-annual capital development in TU Dublin Grangegorman following the sale of DIT Kevin Street. This approach does not undermine our commitment to planned school construction projects being delivered over the course of 2018, 2019 and 2020 which will provide 70,000 school places and the 29 building projects being progressed at third level.

It is my Department’s intention to pursue the original contractor, using all available contractual and legal channels, for the cost of implementing precautionary measures and remediation works in each of the schools. Two cases are currently before the Commercial Court. Those are for Ardgillan Community College and Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School. My Department continues to liaise with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office on the on-going legal process related to the 40 schools built by the contractor.

Institutes of Technology

Ceisteanna (174)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

174. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to plans by management at Dundalk Institute of Technology to develop a fifth school with the working title of new school of flexible and postgraduate provision at the institute arising from a recent report on the Review of Key Functional Areas relating to Admissions July 2019; if his Department has had engagement with the institute on this proposal; his views on the failure of the institute to progress an initiative for technological university status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47282/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As autonomous, independent Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) established under statute, it is a matter for the governing body of each Institute of Technology (IoT) to set its own strategic direction. I understand that Dundalk IT is currently undertaking a strategic planning consultation process with a view to producing its 2020 – 2023 strategic plan by year’s end. The Department has not had engagement with the HEI in relation to any specific structural organisation of the type the Deputy refers to and which remains a matter for the institution.

In terms of national higher education policy, Government policy as set out in the Programme for Government is to support the creation of technological universities (TUs) as HEIs of sufficient size, capacity and critical mass to have a significant impact at regional, national and international level. TUs will have greater links to industry and will have a major impact on the capacity to create and retain jobs in regions. They will assist in achieving national strategic objectives such as are set out under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan and Future Jobs Ireland. Government will continue to prioritise those institutions which have clear ambitions and plans for the furthering of industry-relevant technological research and education.

Under the statutory framework detailed in the Technological Universities Act 2018, two or more IoTs may jointly seek TU designation through a prescribed legislative process. Section 29 of the Act provides for the application jointly by two or more applicant institutes to the Minister of Education and Skills for an order seeking designation as a TU subject to their jointly meeting specified eligibility criteria. Section 38 of the Act provides that an applicant institute and an established technological university may apply to the Minister for an order. The undertaking of the relevant legislative process remains a discretionary matter for decision by the governing bodies of the HEIs involved.

In addition to the enactment of the 2018 Act, Government have put in place a number of very important supports enabling the establishment of TUs.

The TU Research Network (TURN) established by my Department completed a report which was launched on 6 November 2019 entitled ‘Technological Universities: Connectedness & Collaboration enabled by Connectivity’ and which details the case and requirements for a state change in higher education reform whereby TUs will assist in the delivery of national strategic objectives for regional socioeconomic development, higher education access, research and skills progression.

The report makes recommendations for the strategic development of TUs in a structured system-wide approach and identifies the need for investment in integrated multi-campus digital infrastructure, research capacity building and realignment of the policy framework and funding for TUs.

In response Government announced in Budget 2020 the provision of €90 million over the next three years under a new TU Transformation Fund to support IoT consortia to achieve TU designation and the further advancement of established TUs. This is additional to the €31 million in Exchequer funding invested in TU development to date.

However, there continues to be diversity within the national higher education landscape. Under the 2019 higher education landscape funding call for restructuring, consolidation and collaborative projects, €2.45 million in Exchequer funding was allocated to non-TU related projects with €1.05 million being allocated to a number of HEIs building and deepening cross-border strategic alliances with higher and further education and training providers in Northern Ireland. Of this funding element an allocation of €0.55 million was made to Dundalk IT for the work the IoT is undertaking in developing a region of learning in the North Leinster – South Ulster area.

Institutes of Technology Staff

Ceisteanna (175)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

175. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the failure of Dundalk Institute of Technology to appoint a financial controller and the fact that this position in which the occupant also performs the role of secretary of the governing body has remained unfilled for in excess of one year; his further views on the impact of same on good financial and corporate governance at the institute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47283/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Institutes of Technology such as Dundalk IoT are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006. Day to day operations, including the filling of vacancies, are therefore a matter for the institute concerned.

It should also be noted that the Code of Governance for Institutes of Technology advises that while the secretary of the Governing Body of an Institute of Technology is normally the Secretary/Financial Controller, the role may also be designated to another employee in accordance with the agreed structure of the Institute.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (176, 177, 178, 244, 245, 246)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

176. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is on the major projects buildings works programme: if not, the reason therefor; when the school will be listed on the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

177. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is on the school designs building works programme; if not, the reason therefor; when the school will be listed on the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47294/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

178. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when tenders for the construction of a new school building (details supplied) will be published; the reason no tender for such works has been yet published on e-tenders.gov.ie; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47295/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

244. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is on his major projects buildings works programme; if not, the reason therefor; when the school will be listed on the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47857/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

245. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is on the school designs building works programme; if not, the reason therefor; when the school will be listed on the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47858/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

246. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when tenders for the construction of a new school building (details supplied) will be published; the reason no tender for such works has been published on e-tenders.gov.ie; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47859/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 to 178, inclusive and 244 to 246, inclusive, together.

The school to which the Deputies refers opened under the patronage divestment process in 2015 and is currently in interim accommodation pending delivery of the school's permanent accommodation.

Under the patronage divesting process, a school can be opened where a school building became, or was due to become available as a result of an amalgamation/closure of an existing school. In some areas, including in the case of Birr, in responding to demand for diversity where existing patrons were unable make school properties available, my Department also included an examination of properties held in public ownership.

In this regard, my Department has been liaising with a State body in relation to the possible provision of the school's permanent accommodation in part of it's property.

The delivery of permanent accommodation for divested schools can involve complex factors and my Department officials are considering the best way to provide for same.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (179)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

179. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of SEN places in Dublin 15, county Cork and south county Dublin which have previously been identified by the NCSE. [47327/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

The NCSE has planned a further expansion of special class and school places nationally, including in Cork and Dublin, for next year.

The extent of new classes being opened in recent years shows the willingness of schools to open special classes and normally this is the case.

However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

The legislation was activated on the 29th October, 2019 following a report by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which identified a shortage of special school and special class places right across south Dublin.

The NCSE has identified 82 children needing special education school places for this or next year in south Dublin.

This is the second time the power under section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) has been used.

The law contains a procedure through which the NCSE can test the capacity of schools in an area to provide more special education places and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education places available.

The necessary steps in the Admissions Act process, will continue to be expedited to ensure that children with special needs are provided with access to a suitable education.

I am concerned that engagement with schools in south Dublin has not secured sufficient special education provision but I am also conscious that schools need to be properly supported to provide special education.

I appreciate the concerns of principals and their staff but my message to them is this – I am committed to ensuring that a partnership approach will ensure we provide sufficient special education school places in south Dublin.

It would be preferable to see schools offering to provide more places for these children rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

The legislation was used for the first time back in April in respect of the Dublin 15 area. We have made significant progress in a relatively short period with the establishment of Danu Special School as well as six schools offering to open special classes. The new places will help these families and ensure that the children concerned have access to education.

The experience of Dublin 15 shows that real and practical challenges can be addressed by working together to provide additional special class and special school places.

Special Educational Needs Data

Ceisteanna (180)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

180. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the NCSE has determined there are sufficient spaces in Limerick city; the specific measures it has used; the primary school-going population of Limerick city; the value of 1% of same; the number of spaces currently available in schools in Limerick city that have ASD units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47329/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents and identifying the need for special class and school provision in an area.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Limerick alone there are 57 special classes and 5 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE has planned a further expansion of special class and school places in Limerick for next year.

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, there is a range of supports including capital funding available to the school.

Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

The NCSE team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist parents/guardians to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs.

As the Deputy's question relates to the NCSE planning for special class provision in a particular area, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (181)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

181. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the short, medium and long-term plans for a school (details supplied) for children on the autism spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47339/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy were allocated a devolved grant for prefabricated accommodation in October 2018 under my Department Additional Accommodation Scheme which will enable the school authority deliver 5 x Mainstream Classrooms, En-suite Toilets, Shower Area & Staff Toilets, Multi-sensory room, 3 x Small Safe Places, Storage, Staff Room & Office/Administration Room to meet the short to medium term accommodation needs of school and pupils concerned.

I understand that the project is currently going through architectural planning and that a planning application has been submitted to the relevant local authority.

The school is not included in my Department's current school building programme for a permanent building.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (182)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

182. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the shortage of school places in a school (details supplied) for September 2020; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that places are not available for children living in Kilcock, County Kildare; the steps he will take to remedy the matter and ensure there are sufficient places available for children in Kilcock attending the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school to which he refers has been approved a project under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2018. This project will provide for 9 Mainstream classrooms, 9 WC's, 1 Assisted Users WC, 2 Science Labs and Prep Area, and 1 x 119m2 Arts & Crafts Room.

This project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority. It is a matter for the Board of Management to advance this project in that context.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has not been made aware by the School Authority that there is an issue concerning a shortage of school places for September 2020.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (183)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

183. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a design team will be put in place to progress the architectural planning for a school (details supplied) in view of the decision by KWETB to agree in principle that the permanent school can be located at a campus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47347/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is currently finalising the accommodation brief for a permanent building for the school in question to facilitate the commencement of the architectural planning process.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (184)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

184. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the value of the education capital contingency fund in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 by category. [47358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Public Spending Code requires Government Departments to make contingency provision within their overall capital programme to meet any unforeseen demands or additional costs which might emerge for the capital programme as a whole.

In accordance with this requirement, the cost for the schools remediation programme is being met to date through a contingency provision as part of the increased 2019 capital budget of €942m and also from the reduced funding requirement for the multi-annual capital development in TU Dublin Grangegorman following the sale of DIT Kevin Street

Prior to 2019 my Department’s approach has been to manage contingencies at individual capital programme level rather than as part of an explicit global contingency provision.

As a strengthening of the contingency provision process, from 2019, my Department made explicit provision of €40m to cover contingencies across the Capital Programme. This process will be continued for the years 2020 onwards. In addition, my Department continues to manage its overall capital budget through effective programme management of the rollout of projects under the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (185)

John Lahart

Ceist:

185. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to issues in relation to SUSI criteria (details supplied); his plans to amend the legislation to allow for change in this criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47369/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The purpose of the Student Grant Scheme is to provide additional assistance where parental income is below a certain threshold or in the case of independent mature students, where the level of income of the student and his or her spouse warrants additional assistance by way of a grant.

For student grant purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or a legal guardian, or as independent mature students.For a dependent student, the reckonable income for grant purposes includes both his/her own income and that of his/her parents/legal guardians.

A student may be assessed as an independent mature student if he or she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st January of the year of first entry to an approved course, or of re-entry following a break in studies of at least three years, and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous October. Otherwise he or she would continue to be assessed on the basis of parental income.

An applicant's class is defined at his/her first point of entry to an approved higher or further education course and will continue to apply for the duration of his/her studies.

The re-entry provision of the scheme allows mature students who have previously attended an approved course and are now entering an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, to have their status reclassified from dependent to independent student.

The Student Grant Scheme contains a number of qualifying thresholds for various grant values. These gradations allow students just over a threshold margin, to remain in receipt of a grant, albeit at a reduced rate that reflects their relative income vis-à-vis other applicants.

There are no plans at present to change the current arrangements in place. Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Office in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (186)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

186. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the new primary school in Kanturk, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the project for construction of a new primary school in Kanturk has been devolved to the Office of Public Works (OPW) for delivery.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Stage 2B revised report recently submitted by the OPW has been assessed and approved by officials in my Department. The OPW has now been instructed to proceed with the tendering process.

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Ceisteanna (187)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

187. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the budget allocation to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in each of the past three years in tabular form. [47394/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The budget allocation for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (the NCCA) for the past three years is as follows:-

NCCA Budget Allocation

2017

2018

2019

Pay

€3,050,000

€3,336,000

€3,375,000

Non-Pay

€2,100,000

€2,300,000

€2,600,000

Total

€5,150,000

€5,636,000

€5,975,000

In 2019 there was also an additional €120,000 ring fenced for the NCCA in the Foreign Languages subhead to support the development of Modern Foreign Languages. .

The overall allocation to the Department of Education and Skills was announced in Budget 2020 but the final allocation will not be decided until the Revised Estimates Volume (REV) is agreed between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform towards the end of the year. It is at this stage that current and capital allocations to individual budget line areas will be allocated for 2020 and that will be subject to the 2020 REV being approved by the Oireachtas later in 2020.

Special Educational Needs Data

Ceisteanna (188, 189, 212, 213)

John Brady

Ceist:

188. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school children in ASD units in County Wicklow by area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47401/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

189. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school children on the waiting list in County Wicklow that require access to an ASD units in primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47402/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

212. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of post-primary school children in ASD units in County Wicklow by area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47726/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

213. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of post-primary school children on the waiting list in County Wicklow that require access to an ASD unit in post-primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47727/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188, 189, 212 and 213 together.

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents/guardians of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role either in making or deciding on enrolment applications to schools or keeping waiting lists. In these matters, schools are required to adhere to the requirements of relevant legislation and the policies of my department.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Wicklow alone there are 62 special classes and 3 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE has planned a further expansion of special class and school places in Wicklow for next year.

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, there is a range of supports including capital funding available to the school.

Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

The NCSE team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist parents/guardians to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (190)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

190. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider removing the ex-gratia scheme implemented in view of the ruling in the O'Keeffe case in 2014 which continues to prevent victims of sexual abuse receiving payments from the State. [47434/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The ex gratia scheme was established on foot of the specific circumstances arising from and in response to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) relating to Louise O'Keeffe. Ireland submits biannual Action Plans to the relevant Committee of Ministers which is responsible for supervising the implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

The ex gratia scheme is not the sole vehicle through which compensation for sexual abuse in day schools has been paid out. Between 2005 and 2018, settlements involving the payment of compensation by the State to victims of day school child sexual abuse have been made in relation to 22 claimants.

Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, acting as an Independent Assessor to the Scheme was asked to review cases which had been submitted to him for consideration. On the foot of his determinations, payments are being made to a number of victims of child sexual abuse in day schools. The current position is that sixteen offers of payment have been made and, to date, eight have been accepted. Further payments will be made upon acceptance of the remaining offers.

In the aftermath of the Independent Assessor's determinations my Department committed to reviewing the ex gratia scheme, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.

I am sure the Deputy will understand the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved that require very careful deliberation before proposals can be finalised and brought to Government.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (191)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

191. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a college (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the delivery of the project at Naas Community College has been devolved to Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB).

I am delighted to be able to inform the Deputy that the letter of acceptance for the project has now issued to the preferred contractor. It is expected that work will begin on site shortly in that context.