Questions Nos. 212 and 213 answered with Question No. 188.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (214)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

214. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a new 600 pupil post-primary school for south Drogheda and east County Meath announced in April 2018, which was to open in 2019, has not been built; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that temporary accommodation for the school can only accommodate 48 pupils; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that demand for places at this school is very high with a large number of disappointed applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47730/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project to deliver the school’s permanent accommodation requires the acquisition of a suitable site and engagement with a landowner in respect of an identified site option is currently underway.

A planning application was submitted to the Local Authority for Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School to be located on third party lands at Colpe, in interim accommodation pending purchase of the permanent site. Final Grant of planning was issued on 16 September 2019.

In the meantime the school opened in September 2019 in interim accommodation in a building in Laytown, which is owned by the Department of Education and will remain there until they relocate to the site at Colpe.

Having reviewed the planning permission granted my Department is satisfied the school could accommodate up to 72 pupils in first year intake from September 2020.

The temporary accommodation has been tendered. There are significant elements of new road access requirements which are currently under discussion with the landowner. It is anticipated that the installation of the temporary accommodation together with the ground works and road access will commence early in the New Year.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (215, 216, 217, 218)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

215. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of provision of ASD unit capacity for Skerries; the number of additional places that will be available for the September 2020 intake; the location of the places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47771/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

216. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of provision of ASD unit capacity for Swords; the number of additional places that will be available for the September 2020 intake; the location of the places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47772/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

217. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of provision of ASD unit capacity for Rush and Lusk; the number of additional places that will be available for the September 2020 intake; the location of the places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

218. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of provision of ASD unit capacity for Balbriggan; the number of additional places that will be available for the September 2020 intake; the location of the places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 218, inclusive, 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 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 Dublin alone, there are 251 special classes and 37 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 213 in 2019/2020.

The NCSE has planned a further expansion of special class and school places in Dublin to meet identified need 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 particular school areas I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (219)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

219. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he will take to counteract an ongoing misinformation campaign on the reform of the relationships and sexuality education curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47786/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The entire focus of Relationship and Sexuality Education is on preparing young people for adult life, on emphasising the importance of respect for themselves and each other, developing healthy relationships, understanding the importance of consent and helping young people to develop and mature in a positive light.

Access to Relationship and Sexuality Education is an important right for students. Schools have a responsibility to provide for this vital aspect of education to young people. Importantly, a school’s Relationship and Sexuality Education programme should be planned in consultation with parents and having regard to the ethos of the school.

The most recent phase of consultation by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) closed on 26th October. This phase invited feedback on the NCCA's draft report on its review of RSE and, again, there was significant public engagement in this process. The consultation took the form of an online survey, invitations to make written submissions, and a major seminar took place in Dublin Castle.

I understand that the feedback arising from the NCCA consultation will be incorporated into a draft final report which will be considered by the members of the Council at its December 2019 meeting. I expect to receive the NCCA's report shortly after this, and it will be carefully considered by my Department.

I am aware of material that was circulated as part of a campaign of misinformation to spread misleading claims about what type of Relationships and Sex Education will be taught to young children in our schools. I have said publicly, and I repeat it again today, that these claims are untrue and also deeply unhelpful. They amount to malicious scaremongering.

Under no circumstances will my Department impose a curriculum whereby young children are exposed to instruction or information in relation to sexual activity that is inappropriate to their age.

As Minister for Education and Skills, I am committed to ensuring that any RSE curriculum will be appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the children in our schools.

It is vital that we provide future generations with an understanding of the importance of consent, the development of relationships, safe use of the internet and a healthy positive attitude to sexuality.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (220, 221)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

220. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the school planning areas in which Meakstown and Charlestown belong; the reason they have not been defined in their own school planning area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47788/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Rock

Ceist:

221. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the need for a primary and-or secondary school which serves the Meakstown and Charlestown areas will be investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47789/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 221 together.

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. For school planning purposes Meakstown and Charlestown are located in the Finglas East_Ballymun_Dublin 11 school planning area in which there are currently nine primary schools and one post-primary school.

Using school planning area boundaries within my Department’s Geographic Information System (GIS) allows data within those boundaries, including data for enrolments in schools, child benefit and other relevant data to be added to the mapping information, grouped and analysed. The GIS records the number of primary and post-primary schools within each planning area, the combined enrolments for all of the schools within each area, including total enrolment and enrolment in each class group, together with child benefit data for the 0-4 age group relevant to the area.

Each school planning area, including Finglas East_Ballymun_Dublin11, encompasses a number of areas, including Charlestown and Meakstown in this case. It is not necessary to have an individual school planning area for Charlestown and Meakstown as comprehensive analysis of school requirements must take account of demand across a wider area.

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 information 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 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 4 years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country.

In addition to the new schools announced, there may be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future which can be addressed through either planned capacity increases in existing schools or additional accommodation or extensions to existing schools. Approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

While the announcement did not include a new school for the Finglas East_Ballymun_Dublin 11 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.

It is open to an individual school to apply for accommodation under the additional accommodation scheme if the school does not have sufficient capacity to meet school places.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (222)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

222. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the misinformation and scaremongering occurring in relation to the relationship and sexuality education curriculum in primary schools; if a public awareness programme will be undertaken to ease any fears parents may have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47790/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The entire focus of Relationship and Sexuality Education is on preparing young people for adult life, on emphasising the importance of respect for themselves and each other, developing healthy relationships, understanding the importance of consent and helping young people to develop and mature in a positive light.

Access to Relationship and Sexuality Education is an important right for students. Schools have a responsibility to provide for this vital aspect of education to young people. Importantly, a school’s Relationship and Sexuality Education programme should be planned in consultation with parents and having regard to the ethos of the school.

The most recent phase of consultation by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) closed on 26th October. This phase invited feedback on the NCCA's draft report on its review of RSE and, again, there was significant public engagement in this process. The consultation took the form of an online survey, invitations to make written submissions, and a major seminar took place in Dublin Castle.

I understand that the feedback arising from the NCCA consultation will be incorporated into a draft final report which will be considered by the members of the Council at its December 2019 meeting. I expect to receive the NCCA's report shortly after this, and it will be carefully considered by my Department.

I am aware of material that was circulated as part of a campaign of misinformation to spread misleading claims about what type of Relationships and Sex Education will be taught to young children in our schools. I have said publicly, and I repeat it again today, that these claims are untrue and also deeply unhelpful. They amount to malicious scaremongering.

Under no circumstances will my Department impose a curriculum whereby young children are exposed to instruction or information in relation to sexual activity that is inappropriate to their age.

As Minister for Education and Skills, I am committed to ensuring that any RSE curriculum will be appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the children in our schools.

It is vital that we provide future generations with an understanding of the importance of consent, the development of relationships, safe use of the internet and a healthy positive attitude to sexuality.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

223. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he is meeting the primary school place requirements at locations (details supplied) in view of the increased need arising from demographics; the position regarding each school project; when increased facilities as required are likely to become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47808/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

224. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which primary and post-primary school places as identified by the various school authorities in Leixlip, County Kildare continue to be met in full; the arrangement in place to meet deficiencies; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47809/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

225. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the identified requirement in respect of primary and secondary school places in Naas, County Kildare; the degree to which each project is progressing or failing; the number of places involved; when all the accommodation as set out will be available for occupation in line with the requests of the local school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47810/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

226. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the identified requirement in respect of primary and secondary school places in Clane, County Kildare; the degree to which each project is progressing or failing; the number of places involved; when all the accommodation as set out will be available for occupation in line with the requests of the local school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47811/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

227. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the identified requirement in respect of primary and secondary school places in Prosperous, County Kildare; the degree to which each project is progressing or failing; the number of places involved; when all the accommodation as set out will be available for occupation in line with the requests of the local school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47812/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

228. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the identified requirement in respect of primary and secondary school places in Sallins, County Kildare; the degree to which each project is progressing or failing; the number of places involved; when all the accommodation as set out will be available for occupation in line with the requests of the local school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47813/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

229. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which the current primary and second-level school accommodation at Kilcock, County Kildare continues to meet the requirements and demographics set out by the various school authorities; the proposals to assess these issues; the progress therein in respect of each case with a view to meeting in full as required the places necessary now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47814/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 to 229, inclusive, together.

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.

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in an 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 information on significant new residential developments 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) including the following new schools to serve the areas referred to by the Deputy:

- a new 8-classroom primary school established in 2019 to serve the Leixlip school planning area,

- a new 8-classroom primary school to be established in 2021 to serve the Naas school planning area.

- a new 500 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2020 to serve the Kilcock school planning area to be located in Enfield.

This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

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. My Department will also continue to monitor areas where the accommodation of existing schools may need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the local population.

Under Project Ireland 2040, my Department continues to make progress to increase the infrastructural capacity in the schools sector, in order to meet demographic and other demands.

The Capital Programme details the school projects that are being progressed under Project Ireland 2040. I wish to advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects being delivered under Project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

The Capital Programme also 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 also updated regularly.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (230, 235)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

230. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which adequate provision is being made for primary and second level schools nationwide and in County Kildare to meet the educational requirements of children with autism in accordance with local requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47815/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

235. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree of the availability of early intervention classes and classrooms at schools in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47821/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 235 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 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 Kildare alone, there are 75 special classes and 4 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 nationally to meet identified need for next year.

This will include a further expansion of special class and school places in Kildare for next year, with additional post primary special class provision planned in Maynooth Community College and Maynooth Post Primary School.

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.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (231)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

231. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he is in a position to respond to requests from various primary and second level school authorities for extra accommodation; the upgrading of existing accommodation or replacement of new school buildings nationwide with particular reference to meeting population requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47816/19]

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.

Under project Ireland 2040, my Department continues to make progress to increase the infrastructural capacity in the schools sector, in order to meet demographic and other demands.

The Capital Programme details the school projects that are being progressed under Project Ireland 2040. I wish to advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects being delivered under project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

The Capital Programme also 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 also updated regularly.