Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (51)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

51. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the site acquisition and development process in relation to a school (details supplied); the status of the expansion of the existing site; the current capacity and waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47505/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Following a demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country for the period 2019 to 2022 the requirement for new 1,000 pupil post-primary school, to be established in 2019, to serve the Galway City and Oranmore school planning areas, as a regional solution, was announced by the Government.

In October 2018, the patronage of the new school was awarded to Educate Together. My Department has identified the eastern environs of Galway City as the preferred location for the school in order to best serve the combined school planning areas.

The school to which the Deputy refers opened in September 2019 in interim accommodation at Grianach House, Murrough, Merlin Park, Galway City pending delivery of its permanent accommodation.

My Department has provided a level of accommodation to facilitate the school with an intake of up to 48 pupils in its first year.

My Department will be utilising all available space on the existing site to facilitate the required specialist rooms for the school and to allow operation at a continued intake level of 48 pupils as it is expected that the current location will have to accommodate the school for the next two years at a minimum.

My Department approached the owner of an adjoining property, in relation to possible expansion of the school onto that site. However, the owner of the adjoining property has confirmed their property is not available.

In view of the limited capacity on the existing site it is not currently possible for the school to expand its intake level beyond 48 pupils.

In relation to the permanent school site, a zoned site is currently under consideration and discussions are ongoing with relevant stakeholders in relation to the provision of access and services.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (52)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

52. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for ASD units not existing in any post-primary school in Navan, County Meath for children with autism. [43107/19]

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.   

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.

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.

In Meath alone, there are 60 special classes and 3 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

As approximately 1% of the school population require the support of a special class, it is not possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in every school.

Instead the NCSE ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements. 

Before approaching a particular school to request the establishment of a special class, the NCSE take into account both present and future potential need within the area and must be satisfied that the class is sustainable and appropriately located.

The NCSE has planned further expansion of special class and school places in Meath to meet demand for the coming years, which will include addtional post primary special class provision.

To this end, a major project under my Departments school building programme is currently being delivered in Coláiste na Mí, Navan, which includes provision for 2 post primary special classes.   

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 has a team of local Special Education Needs Organisers in Meath who can advise to parents of children with special educational needs and identify available school places.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (53)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

53. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress on a permanent school building for a school (details supplied); his plans to extend the use of the current site of the school in view of the fact that the lease ends in June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47485/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The building project to provide permanent accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department’s Design and Build Programme.

This project is included in the procurement process that is currently underway for a bundle of projects to be delivered under this programme. The Project Information Notice (PIN) was published recently and the contract notice is due to be published shortly which will determine a shortlist of interested contractors.  

The procurement process (and the associated tendering to short-listed contractors) for this bundle of projects will be ongoing during Q4 2019 and Q1 2020.

It is anticipated that construction of this school building project will commence in Q2 2020. A phased construction programme is planned to facilitate occupation of the new permanent school building as early as possible in the 2020/2021 school year.

My Department is aware of the urgency of delivering this accommodation and will be working with the school authorities to find solutions.

DEIS Applications

Ceisteanna (54)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

54. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider re-opening applications for schools to apply for DEIS band 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47491/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In the 2019/20 school year there are 891 schools in the DEIS Programme serving 185,000 pupils. This represents approx. 20% of the overall school population.  (691 primary (231 Urban Band 1; 104 Urban Band 2; 358 Rural) and 198 post primary. My Department will spend in the region of €125 million in 2019 on the DEIS programme. 

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model, for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS programme . This model does not require schools to apply for inclusion.

All schools at both Primary and Post Primary level are being assessed using this new methodology based on their enrolments from 2018/19 and the latest data available from Census 2016 under the HP Deprivation Index.  The accuracy of address data is vital to this process and an Eircode lookup function was added to the Primary and Post Primary Online Databases earlier this year to facilitate this.

Following a detailed analysis of the quality of the address data, my Department is now in the final stages of further data analysis on the new identification model to allow for the development of a resource allocation model to match resources to identified need.  The work is at an advanced stage and a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders will follow.

I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need. 

Until this analysis is complete it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

School Placement

Ceisteanna (55)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

55. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the escalating need for more primary school places in Rathcoole, County Dublin; his plans to address the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47459/19]

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. An update in relation to the previous demographic exercises is currently ongoing.

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 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 a new 8 classroom primary school to be established in 2020, which has been designated as a gaelscoil, to serve the Newcastle_Rathcoole/Saggart school planning area.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department approved two temporary classrooms and a Special Education Teaching room for Scoil Chronain National School, Rathcoole in 2018 to provide for additional school places. These additional classes are currently being accommodated in Rathcoole Community Centre pending installation of the temporary classrooms at the school.

The responsibility for this installation has been devolved to the Board of Management. In addition, my Department has recently approved 2 further mainstream classrooms for Scoil Chronain to cater for additional primary school places in Rathcoole for September 2019. The responsibility for the installation of these classrooms has also been devolved to the Board of Management.

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.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (56)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

56. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to equip teachers and schools, particularly within the subjects of geography, CSPE, science and English, with the tools and guidance to explore the topic of climate change through their specification and curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47486/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Department’s National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland 2014 2020 is one of the key strategies underpinning the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019. Since the publication of the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the Government in recognising the need to share in the international responsibility to address the increasingly global challenges we face, launched The Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2030, a whole-of-Government initiative to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. This is informed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many complementary themes can be identified between the Government’s National Implementation Plan for SDGs and the ESD Strategy in, for instance, areas such as awareness raising and sustainability in action.

The ESD strategy aims to ensure that education contributes to sustainable development by equipping learners with the relevant knowledge (the ‘what’), the key dispositions and skills (the ‘how’) and the values (the ‘why’) that will motivate and empower them throughout their lives to become informed active citizens who take action for a more sustainable future.  This is achieved through the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the curriculum, into Initial Teacher Education and teacher CPD, into assessment and into the inspection process.

An Interim Review of the ESD Strategy was completed in 2018 and the report is available on the Departments website: www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Education-for-Sustainable-Development/Education-for-Sustainable-Development.html.

The NCCA conducted an audit: Education for Sustainable Development: A study of the opportunities and linkages in the primary and post-primary curriculum (2017). The audit identified key ways in which the curriculum supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The full audit is available at the link:

 www.ncca.ie/en/resources/education-for-sustainable-development-a-study-of-the-opportunities-and-linkages-in-the-primary-and-post-primary-curriculum.

The SEAI will develop a Junior Cycle short course on Climate Action under the National Climate Action Plan. The Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will provide any support the SEAI may require in this regard.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (57)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the matter of geography as a core subject for junior cycle will be reviewed in view of the wide scope of the subject, including the issues leading to and contributing to climate change. [47476/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has carried out an audit of the curriculum and have identified areas where climate change and Education for Sustainable Development are integrated:

www.ncca.ie/media/3573/esdreport_final_june2018.pdf.

e.g. Geography aims: 7. To develop and promote active citizenship and to encourage informed participation, through lifelong learning, in society at local, national, European and global level.

Politics and Society aims to develop the learner’s capacity to engage in reflective and active citizenship, informed by the insights and skills of social and political sciences’ and includes strands on active citizenship and a citizenship project

NCCA short course in Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE) - There is a strong focus on student action aimed at giving students an experience of active citizenship.  CSPE is an important part of a wellbeing programme within junior cycle as it enables students to feel connected to and take responsibility for the wellbeing of others. It also develops students' confidence, agency and engagement which are important characteristics of student wellbeing.

The recent review of the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) highlights the various resources available to schools in this area:

World Wise Global Schools, one of our ESD partners, provide Global Citizenship Education:  www.worldwiseschools.ie/development-education/.

The SEAI engage with schools in relation to energy, sustainability and climate change:  www.seai.ie/teaching-sustainability/.

Green Schools engage with 97% of schools:  https://greenschoolsireland.org/.

INTO provide Global Citizenship schools information and resources:  www.into.ie/ROI/GlobalCitizenshipSchool/.

SCOILNET has a designated ESD portal which includes links to ESD resources:  www.scoilnet.ie/www.scoilnet.ie/esd/.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (58)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

58. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the frustration of school secretaries at the delay in actions that would have their pay and conditions put on a par with all other public servants; his views on the matter ; and if he will work towards a speedy resolution that avoids potential industrial action at schools. [47091/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.  I have spoken to a number of staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised. 

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries; schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two secretary posts filled, and schools of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers.  These measures will take effect from September 2020. 

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.  These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies.   My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars.  Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take.  Secretaries and Caretakers who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management. 

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0076_2018.pdf.

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0077_2018.pdf.

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action. 

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute.  As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.  

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (59)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

59. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the delivery of a permanent site and building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47501/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The building project to provide permanent accommodation for the school is being delivered under my Department’s Design and Build Programme.

This project is included in the procurement process that is currently underway for a bundle of projects to be delivered under this programme. The Project Information Notice (PIN) was published recently and the contract notice is due to be published shortly which will determine a shortlist of interested contractors.  

The procurement process (and the associated tendering to short-listed contractors) for this bundle of projects will be ongoing during Q4 2019 and Q1 2020.

 It is anticipated that construction of this school building project will commence in Q2 2020. A phased construction programme is planned to facilitate occupation of the new permanent school building as early as possible in the 2020/2021 school year.

My Department is aware of the urgency of delivering this accommodation and will be actively working with the school authorities in relation to solutions for same.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (60)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

60. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to enhance supports for children with a learning disability within the education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47441/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Very significant levels of financial provision are made to ensure that all children with special educational needs, including children with Mild, Moderate and Severe/Profound General Learning Disabilities, can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

My Department currently spends approximately €1.9 Billion or €1 in every five of its total current educational and training budget annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs.

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

The main supports this funding provides for are: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased by almost 200% from 548 to 1,621 for 2019/2020 school year. 167 new special classes have been established nationally for 2019/20 school year. This includes special classes for mild, moderate and severe/profound learning disabilities.

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

- The NCSE is currently undertaking Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs. This Policy Advice is to be completed and a report submitted to the Minister no later than June 2020. A progress report has been submitted to me, and this is currently under consideration.

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

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

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

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

The number of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels and so too is the number of children receiving support across the continuum that includes mainstream classes, special classes and special schools. The Department’s commitment is to provide each child with an education in accordance with his/her needs.

Increased investment in teachers, SNAs, therapeutic and other supports reflects the priority which is put on helping children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential.

The investment also reflects the growing participation of children with Special Educational Needs in the education system and the capacity of the education system to better support their full participation and progression.

Education Schemes

Ceisteanna (61)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

61. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the school inclusion model is fit for purpose, providing the necessary resources for children with additional needs and not placing undue pressure on schools to manage the provision of the resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

The School Inclusion Model pilot, comprises the trialling of:

- a frontloaded SNA allocation model based on schools’ profiled need having regard to the special education teacher allocation model introduced in 2017;

- an expanded National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) to support pilot schools;

- the continuation of the Preschool and In-school Therapy Demonstration Project in the pilot area to ensure a wrap-around service for the pilot schools;

- the establishment of an NCSE Regional Support team in the pilot area to include speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and behaviour practitioners, in order to inform teacher Continuing Professional Development and best practice in schools;

- the development of a national training programme for SNAs with pilot roll-out; and

- the provision of nursing support for children with complex medical needs in schools. 

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

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (62)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

62. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the best interests of the students of a school (details supplied) are being best served by their accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47387/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy was 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.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (63)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

63. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that children are being taught in schools without the necessary supports needed due to delays in assessments for children attending school that have developmental issues and may require specialised support; the efforts being taken by him to clear this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47090/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

Additionally pupils with developmental issues may require an assessment of need, which is provided by the HSE services.

My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service delivers a tiered, consultative model of service. Each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with difficulties including those with developmental delay. Teachers consult with their NEPS psychologist for assistance should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts, in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become directly involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological support. I would advise that parents of children in schools for whom concerns exist in relation to developmental delay should, in the first instance, raise the matter with the principal of the relevant school with a view to involving the assigned NEPS psychologist in the issue, where appropriate.

DEIS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (64)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

64. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to include more schools, both primary and post-primary, in the DEIS programme; if so, the likely timescale for such developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47475/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model, for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS programme.

All schools at both Primary and Post Primary level are being assessed using this new methodology based on their enrolments from 2018/19 and the latest data available from Census 2016 under the HP Deprivation Index.  The accuracy of address data is vital to this process and an Eircode lookup function was added to the Primary and Post Primary Online Databases earlier this year to facilitate this.

Following a detailed analysis of the quality of the address data, my Department is now in the final stages of further data analysis on the new identification model to allow for the development of a resource allocation model to match resources to identified need.  The work is at an advanced stage and a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders will follow.

I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need.

Teacher Supply

Ceisteanna (65)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

65. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to assist teachers from a diverse background to teach here; if his attention has been drawn to the benefits to schools of having teachers from diverse backgrounds on their staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47487/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The benefits of increasing diversity in the teaching profession are recognised by my Department.

The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education published in 2015 has as its overall vision the goal of ensuring that the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population. One of its specific objectives is to increase access by students from target groups to initial teacher education (ITE). The Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund supports innovative approaches to delivering the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2021 (NAP).

PATH 1 funding of €2.7m supports the objective in NAP to increase access to initial teacher education for students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan such as Lone Parents, Travellers and students with a disability.  Under PATH 1, the Department, through the HEA, invited six centres of teaching excellence, in partnership with relevant local stakeholders, to compete for PATH 1 funding by submitting proposals in accordance with a set of prescribed criteria. Funding was secured by the six centres of teaching excellence in 2017 to fund initiatives and these initiatives are now underway. 

My Department is also providing €50,000 over three years, 2019-2021, towards the Migrant Teacher project, which has been funded under the National Integration Strategy.  The Migrant Teacher Project, based in Marino Institute of Education, was established in 2017 to increase the participation of immigrant internationally educated teachers in the Irish primary and post-primary education sectors.  The Migrant Teacher Project aims to work with immigrant teachers to support them through the process of registration and seeking employment. 

Finally, work by the Teaching Council to streamline the process for the registration of teachers qualified in jurisdictions outside of the State, has been taken forward under the Teacher Supply Action Plan. As part of this work, the Council has engaged in a process of reviewing the Curricular Subject Requirements at Post-primary level with the aim of maintaining and protecting the standard while increasing flexibility in the system, thus helping to ensure that Ireland can welcome the diverse range of skills that foreign graduates bring to the modern learning environment.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (66, 78)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

66. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school building projects (details supplied); if funding is available for the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

78. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date on schools (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47367/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 78 together.

The current status of projects being delivered is listed on a county by county basis on my Department’s website at www.education.ie and updated on a monthly basis to reflect their progress through the various stages of capital appraisal, site acquisition, design, tender and construction.

Funding is available to school projects under my Department's Schools Buildings Programme, Additional Accommodation and Summer Works schemes. 

The information requested by the Deputy regarding the progress and position of particular schools in Donegal is set out below:

Scoil na gCeithrí Mhaistrí (20096E):

The major building project for Scoil na gCeithrí Mhaistrí is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

The project is currently working through the architectural planning process at Stage 2a (Developed Design) where the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully cost planned and prepared to lodge for statutory approvals.

My Department recently received the Stage 2(a) submission from the Design Team, which is now under review. Following the Department’s review of the submission, a stakeholders meeting will be arranged, to which the school will be invited, and if there are no issues outstanding after the Stage 2(a) meeting the project can then be authorised to progress to Stage 2b (Detailed Design Stage). This stage includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Certificate, Disability Access Certificate and the preparation of Tender Documents.

Scoil Adhamhnain (17503U):

  An Additional Accommodation Scheme approval has been given to the management authority for the provision of one Resource Room. A separate project under Emergency Works, approved to extend the General Purpose (GP) room and to allow for roof repairs, was incorporated into the project and the project was devolved to the school for delivery.

Abbey Vocational School (71180F):

Additional Accommodation Scheme approval has been given to the management authority of the school in question for the provision of a 2 classroom Special Education Needs (SEN) Base, six mainstream classrooms, a GP/Dining area and one moderate/mild learning disability classroom. The delivery of this accommodation has been devolved to school authority.

Scoil Mhuire (St.Mary's) NS, Stranorlar (19927O):

This project is currently out to tender. An extension of time was requested and subsequently granted to the tenderers.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (67)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

67. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the site acquisition to accommodate a school (details supplied); the timeline of works to ensure that the school campus is completed as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of new accommodation for the schools in question is included in my Department’s capital programme.  The project to provide this school accommodation requires the acquisition of a suitable site and this has proved to be extremely challenging to date, despite the best efforts of my Department and of officials in Donegal County Council.

I can confirm that Donegal County Council, acting on behalf of this Department under the Memorandum of Understanding for the acquisition of school sites, are pursuing all potential options for the provision of the required school accommodation including both campus and split site configurations. 

A number of site options are currently being pursued and I wish to assure the Deputy that officials in both my Department and Donegal County Council are actively engaged in this process to deliver a solution for the schools at the earliest possible date.

Third Level Institutions

Ceisteanna (68)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

68. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of funding being allocated to third level institutions; his view on whether it is adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47492/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As Minister for Education & Skills, I am committed to continuing the process of investing in our higher education system and to the development and implementation of a sustainable funding model for the sector.  The Government's commitment to investment in higher education is clearly demonstrated by the scale of investment in higher education over recent years.   

Following the further planned increases in higher education spending for 2020 announced in the recent Estimates, planned current spending on higher education for 2020 will have increased by 25% compared to that planned for  2016 – an increase in the order of €370 million.  This is estimated to bring current funding for the higher education sector to €1.88 billion in 2020.  This exceeds the previous peak level of planned investment of €1.78 billion made in the sector in 2008.

A key part of this investment is the Human Capital Initiative which will be a transformative development for the third level sector. The HCI will invest €300 million in Higher Education over the period 2020 to 2024. Funded from the surplus in the National Training Fund, the HCI will help to realise the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and the National Skills Strategy. At €60 million per year over the next 5 years, it will form a key part of our strategic response to addressing the skills needs of the economy,  mitigating Brexit risks, responding to digitalisation and the future world of work, and preparing ourselves for other challenges that the economy may face. 

I am confident that innovative initiatives such as this and the significant additional funding already committed are delivering real benefits on the ground.  However there is always a need to look to the future.  This is why I am progressing the development of a sustainable funding model for higher education.  This is essential in light of the centrality of higher education - both in terms of human capital development, research and innovation - to underpinning the future development of Ireland as a knowledge economy against the backdrop of rapid technological change.      

In that context, a comprehensive economic evaluation of the funding options presented in the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education is now commencing supported under the European Commission Structural Reform Support Programme to be undertaken by an expert independent international consortium.   We expect to have substantial work on this project completed by Quarter 3 in 2020. 

The comprehensive and detailed analysis of funding options for higher education and the assessment of the appropriate balance between provision across the tertiary education system is expected to play a very important role in informing and advising Government decision-making.  It will provide the basis for a national consensus on the appropriate policy approach which is fundamental to Ireland's economic and social sustainability and progress and the delivery of key policy objectives under Project Ireland 2040 and Future Jobs Ireland.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (69)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

69. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if each new school building being built will have an ASD unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47446/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In the case of all new schools, it is general practice to include a Special Education Needs Base (SEN Base) in the accommodation brief for new school buildings, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required. Typically, a two classroom SEN Base is provided in new primary schools and a two or four classroom SEN Base is provided in new post primary schools. 

The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education - about €1.9 billion in 2019.  We have significantly increased the availability of special placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned.  The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.  Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.e.ie.

School Management

Ceisteanna (70)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

70. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills when teaching principals in small primary schools will be given one administration day a week to allow for the proper management of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47076/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals and I appreciate the pressures they face. Earlier in the year, I hosted a symposium on Small Schools which gave me an opportunity to restate the Government’s commitment to small schools and to open a dialogue with all the key stakeholders. The purpose of this work by the Department is to develop a policy proposal to help support and strengthen small primary schools throughout the country.

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

There are arrangements in place for schools to cluster their principal release days into a full-time post which will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

In addition to the increase of release days, the Government lifted the moratorium on middle management posts in 2017.  In total almost 1300 leadership posts have been invested in our primary schools since 2017 which has led to 1 in 3 teachers now holding promoted positions.  My Department has committed to revising the number of available Posts of Responsibility to take account of retirements during the school year.  This ensures that the current level of Posts of Responsibilities are maintained in the school system.