Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (232)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

232. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in respect of the timescale for replacement and upgrading of primary school facilities at a school (details supplied) with particular reference with the need to ascertain when the necessary works will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47818/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, a building project for the school to which he refers is included in my Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan.

My Department is continuing to engage with the school in this regard and details of the accommodation to be provided as part of the project are expected to be determined shortly. Officials from the Department will then be in further contact with the Patron and school authorities in relation to progressing the project into the architectural planning process.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (233)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

233. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which his Department continues to address the issue of classroom overcrowding with particular reference to demographics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47819/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In the current school year, the number of teachers employed in our schools have reached the highest ever level. Teacher numbers at primary level have increased by almost 3,500 when comparing the 2015/16 school year with the current school year. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher, the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

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

Budget 2020 has provided for a budget of more than €11 billion for the Department of Education and Skills in 2020. This is the highest ever allocation to the sector and an increase of nearly €2 billion since 2016.

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

School Patronage

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 230.

Ceisteanna (234)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

234. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools in County Kildare that have changed patronage in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47820/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that one primary school continues to serve its local community in Brannoxtown under new multi-denominational patronage. Since 2018, this school is operating as a Community National School under the patronage of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board. The school had previously been under Catholic patronage.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 230.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (236)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which it is expected to restore school transport to children who previously availed of the service but can do so no longer following a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.

The purpose of the School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2019/20 school year.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis and are facilitated where spare seats exits after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets using an agreed selection process.

I recently sanctioned an additional €1m on the school transport budget to allow for temporary alleviation measures to temporarily increase the capacity for concessionary seats on the post primary scheme for the 2019/2020 school year.

In October 2019, I announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way to meet the objectives of the scheme. Terms of reference and the scope of the review are being considered by my officials and it is expected that a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department will be established shortly to oversee the review.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (237)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

237. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when school transport will be available to children (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann has advised that the child in question is not attending her nearest post primary centre and is therefore not eligible for school transport.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis. Concessionary transport is subject to a number of terms and conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service once all eligible children have been catered for and payment of the annual charge.

The family is advised to liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of transport on a concessionary basis.

School Catchment Areas

Ceisteanna (238)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

238. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the manner in which the patronage and catchment of the proposed new second level school in Enfield, County Meath, is being determined; if parents in Johnstown Bridge 3 km away are included in the catchment area; if they will have a vote in respect of the determination of catchment area or patronage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47843/19]

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.

The school planning areas are used in the demographic exercise as a basis for the assessment of areas of growth and to inform recommendations on the establishment of any new schools required in that school planning area. For school planning purposes Johnstown Bridge is located in the Longwood school planning area.

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 a new 500 pupil post-primary school for Enfield (Kilcock school planning area) to be established in 2020.

New schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required, in the first instance, to prioritise pupil applications from within the designated school planning area(s) which the school was established to serve. This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the school planning area where they have sufficient places, rather it reflects the need to accommodate in the first instance the demographic for which the school was established.

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education. The OPPS closed for parental preferences on October 4th for the new post-primary schools to be established in 2020, including the school referred to by the Deputy.

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

Ceisteanna (239, 240)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

239. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of SNAs allocated to primary schools from budget 2016 to budget 2020; and the geographical location of each in tabular form. [47846/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

240. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of SNA's allocated to post-primary schools from budget 2016 to budget 2020; and the geographical location of each in tabular form. [47847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 240 together.

In 2016, in the region of 12,900 Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts were allocated to schools by the end of the year. This increased to 13,015 posts by the end of 2017.

Funding provision for SNA posts, by way of the normal estimates/budget process, has been undertaken, on the basis of a Government decision, since Budget 2018.

Budget 2018 provided for 1091 additional SNA posts, bringing the total number of SNA posts available for allocation to 15,000 in 2018.

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

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, an increase of over 60% since 2011.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating 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, including allocations by county, for each school year and this information is available on their website, www.ncse.ie.

Home Tuition Scheme

Questions Nos. 244 to 246, inclusive, answered with Question No. 176.

Ceisteanna (241, 242, 243)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

241. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of home tuition applications submitted in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47848/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

242. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of home tuition applications for post-primary pupils approved or refused since 2016; the reason for refusal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47849/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

243. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the minimum and maximum number of hours of home tuition that can be granted to a post-primary pupil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 to 243, inclusive, together.

The purpose of the Home Tuition Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for children who, for a number of specific reasons, are unable to attend school.

Home tuition is not an alternative to a school placement and is provided in very limited and specific circumstances. By its nature, it is intended to be a short term intervention.

The scheme provides a compensatory educational service for

- Children with special educational needs seeking an educational placement in a recognised school

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

- The scheme also provides Home Tuition for pre-school/early educational intervention for children with autism who meet the schemes eligibility criteria.

Each of the strands of the scheme prescribe the hours available for allocation. For children with Autism aged from 2.5 years to 3 years the number of tuition hours available is 10. From 3 years, for children with Autism for whom school placements are not available, the number of available tuition hours is 20 per week.

For children with special educational needs over 4 years for whom school placements are not available, the number of available tuition hours is 20 per week.

For children with medical conditions the hours granted are reflective of the time the child has been absent from school and these are listed in my Department's Home Tuition circular.

I have attached in the following link my Department's Circular 0043/2019, which sets out the number of hours applicable under each strand of the scheme.

Home Tuition statistics as requested by the Deputy, are not readily available. My officials are currently compiling this information and it will be forwarded to the Deputy in due course.

Home Tuition Circular

Questions Nos. 244 to 246, inclusive, answered with Question No. 176.

Policing Issues

Ceisteanna (247)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

247. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to correspondence to this Deputy from him of 1 November 2019, concerning the new operating model for An Garda Síochána, the level of consultation he was engaged on with the Garda Commissioner in respect of the four pilot projects that were trialled in the context of the new structural changes to policing here; if control divisions were evaluated as part of the four pilot schemes; if he was provided with a report in respect of the four piloted projects from the Commissioner; the actions he took based on the report findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47120/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

A functional model for policing has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, including the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI).

Prior to its inclusion in CoFPI and its implementation plan, A Policing Service for the Future, the Divisional policing model was piloted in four Divisions – DMR South Central, Cork City, Galway and Mayo – under the Government’s Five Year Reform and High-Level Workforce Plan. Implementation of these pilot programmes was being monitored by the Policing Authority as part of their wider oversight of implementation of the Garda reform programme. As such, the Policing Authority reported progress on a regular basis, the formal reports of which are published on my Department’s website.

The reform programme progressing under the Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan has of course, now been subsumed by ‘A Policing Service for the Future’ , the four year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing and rollout of the new Operating Model meets a key commitment in that regard.

As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have warmly welcomed the announcement by the Garda Commissioner of a new Operating Model of An Garda Síochána.

As I have previously confirmed, I was informed of the Commissioner's decision about the location of the new Divisional and Regional Headquarters on the morning of 25 September, shortly before the official announcement.

Neither I nor my officials were previously consulted in relation to the choice of those locations - in accordance with the law, the decision on the location of Garda Divisional and Regional Headquarters is and was solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team. This is the case in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, under which the allocation of Garda resources and deployment of Garda personnel are for the Commissioner. As recently as December 2018, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in its report “Policing with Local Communities” confirmed that it is appropriate that the Commissioner should continue to hold responsibility of this sort.

I understand that the new model will be implemented on a phased basis throughout 2020 and that the Commissioner and his team are meeting with Joint Policing Committees across Ireland, providing opportunities for detailed engagement at the local level.

Garda Data

Ceisteanna (248)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

248. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí by rank and civilian staff by grade by Garda division nationwide in An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47123/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

It is important to be clear that under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel across the various Garda Divisions. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

As the Deputy will be aware, a record €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year and this is increasing to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for 2020. This level of funding will allow the Garda Commissioner to recruit up to 700 new Gardaí next year and additional Garda staff, the balance of which will be an operational matter for the Commissioner to decide.

This ongoing investment is supporting significant growth in the organisation towards the Government's target of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2021.

The information requested by the Deputy is available on my Department's website at

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Staff

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Workforce

For more general information on Garda facts and figures, the Deputy may also wish to see the information on the link below:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Garda Data

Ceisteanna (249)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

249. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí permanently attached to specialist units and or sections by rank; the number of full-time civilian staff attached to specialist units and or sections in An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47124/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

A record €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. I am pleased to have secured an overall increase of €122 million to increase An Garda Síochána budget for 2020 to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for next year.

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána and the allocation of these resources, including personnel matters. As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters. I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

The following table, as provided to me by the Garda authorities, sets out the number of Gardaí assigned to CAB, the Economic Crime Bureau and Roads Policing Units. I hope the Deputy will appreciate that, for security and operational reasons, the strength of a number of specialist units, including SDU, ERU and NBCI cannot be provided. Similarly, a breakdown of civilian staff assigned to these units is not available.

Chief Super.

Super.

Inspector

Sergeant

Criminal Assets Bureau

1

1

2

6

National Economic Crime Bureau

1

2

3

10

In relation to Operation Thor, as referred to by the Deputy in the additional clarification provided to my Department, I would confirm that this is a national multi-strand anti-crime initiative. It involves a broad range of measures to tackle burglary and property related crime and actively targets organised crime gangs and repeat offenders and as such is not a defined unit.

Information in relation to the allocation of Garda resources to Roads Policing Unit can be found through the link below:

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Roads_Policing_Unit.

Additional information on Garda Resources can be found at the link below:

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Ceisteanna (250)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

250. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a direct provision centre is planned for a town (details supplied) in County Cork. [47165/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the State has a legal obligation to offer accommodation, food and a range of other services including utilities, healthcare and allowances to any person who claims a right to international protection in Ireland while their legal claim is being examined.

The number of applications for international protection has been steadily increasing (up 60% to date this year). To meet the associated increase in demand for accommodation, my Department has initiated two processes to source additional accommodation.

Firstly, we have sought expressions of interest from parties who would be interested in providing accommodation and related services to people in the international protection process. Premises assessed as suitable under this process may be offered a short-term contract (usually one year) which will help to meet demand while the regional tender process is rolled out nationally.

Secondly, we have run procurement competitions through the Government’s procurement portal, Etenders, on a regional basis throughout the country to procure accommodation. These contracts will be longer term with a minimum contract duration of 2 years on offer and a maximum contract duration of 4 years.

It is open to accommodation providers to offer premises both through the expressions of interest process or the tender process.

Tenders received are evaluated on the most economically advantageous tender method which assesses bids on the quality of service as well as price. The level, expertise and qualifications of staff are assessed as part of this process.

As the evaluation of offers is currently underway, my Department is not in a position to confirm the location of new centres under consideration at this time. When the evaluation and commercially sensitive aspects of the process are completed, my officials will engage with local communities and their political representatives. I can however, advise that there are no current plans to open a centre in the location referred to by the Deputy.

It is important to state that there are accommodation centres all over the State and the overall experience of the communities in which they are located has been very positive.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (251)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

251. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the provision of a new Garda station for Clonmel, County Tipperary; the position of the project in the process; the commencement and termination dates for same; if other details of the project will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47167/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.76 billion for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. An Garda Síochána’s budget for 2020 will increase further to a record €1.882 billion, in addition to €116.5 million in capital investment.

The capital investment being made includes major work to the Garda estate, to provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them. This is a significant undertaking, as there are over 560 stations nationwide.

Works include the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 as well as the development of a new facility at Military Road, the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station and the Pilot Garda station reopening project.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As a result, all works to the Garda estate involve close cooperation between the OPW and the Garda authorities.

The Building and Refurbishment Programme is based on agreed Garda priorities. It continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country as well as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement intended to deliver new stations in Clonmel, Sligo and Macroom. The OPW has agreed to provide its expert services in the design of the three stations in question.

PPP projects are progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). My Department, An Garda Síochána, the OPW and the NDFA are working closely in order to progress this project.

It is not possible to say at this stage when the stations included in the PPP will be completed. The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. Pending delivery of the new stations, I am informed that Garda management and the OPW have been working to improve conditions and facilities at the existing stations in Macroom, Sligo and Clonmel.

Substantive Reply

Specifically in relation to Clonmel, I understand that office space close to the station has been refurbished to provide additional space for operational use and that minor upgrade works have been carried out in the station. I understand that An Garda Síochána is working with the OPW to provide for additional upgrade works at the station, including fire safety upgrade works and the refurbishment of existing locker rooms.