School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (71)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

71. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which accommodation provision for students with autism is being made in respect of primary and second level schools and in accordance with the identified needs in respective geographic areas nationwide and in particular County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47499/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 Kildare for next year, including additional post primary special class provision in Maynooth Community College and Maynooth Post Primary School.

The local Special Education Needs Organisers in Kildare are available to assist and advise to parents of children with special educational needs and identify available school places.

Third Level Funding

Ceisteanna (72)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has had meetings with his officials recently to discuss third level policy funding. [45813/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that I met with my Officials to discuss third level funding requirements in the context of Budget 2020 and in relation to the development of a sustainable funding model for higher education. 

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.

The development of a sustainable funding model for higher education 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.

Digital Strategy for Schools

Ceisteanna (73)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

73. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish a digital literacy education programme at both primary and secondary level in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47493/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Considerable work has been done in the development of curricula on digital literacy. At both primary and post-primary levels considerable scope for building the capacity of students in the area of digital literacy is provided for through the emphasis on dispositions, competencies and skills as foundational elements of the curriculum.

Specifically, in the newly introduced Framework for Junior Cycle digital literacy skills are promoted through the eight Key Skills (all skills have an ICT/digital component) and through the Statements of Learning. In addition, in the ongoing reviews of the Primary Curriculum, the new primary mathematics curriculum in particular, and of the Senior Cycle the skills of, or skills closely related to, digital literacy, have featured strongly in all discussions on future provision. 

Currently at post-primary level, there are several programmes and courses in ICT and Digital Literacy already in place, particularly the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Literacy and the IT courses in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. The recently-introduced Leaving Certificate subject in Computer Science also looks at aspects of digital literacy.

In studying the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Media Literacy, students learn to use digital technology, communication tools and the internet creatively, critically and safely, in support of their development, learning and capacity to participate effectively in social and community life.

The Information and Communication Technology module forms part of the core curriculum for all Leaving Certificate Applied students. It is intended to develop the students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding of Information and Communication Technology to enable them to use digital technology in both their current and future lives.

The principles underpinning the Digital Strategy for Schools requires schools to embed digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment practices. This will help to further develop digital literacy skills for pupils and students in primary and post primary schools. The Digital Learning Framework for Schools, which commenced dissemination to all schools from September 2018provides guidance to schools on how best to embed digital technologies in their teaching and learning practices.  It is accompanied by an extensive professional development programme.

In addition, areas such as Wellbeing and its constituent programmes in Social, Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education and Civic, Social and Political Education also underpin skills of digital literacy in engaging with the subject material in these courses.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (74)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

74. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the cost of remediation works for schools built by a company (details supplied) at which structural issues were identified. [47466/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technological Universities

Ceisteanna (75)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

75. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if arrangements have been made to relocate staff working at the Technological University Dublin city campus offices at Park House, North Circular Road, to alternative offices for the duration of work to remove asbestos at the site; when a risk assessment on the site was completed; the reason for the proposed removal of asbestos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47444/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Higher education institutions are autonomous bodies. Operational matters, including in relation to building management, health and safety, and staff accommodation, are a matter for each institution.

The issues raised by the Deputy are therefore a matter for the management of TU Dublin.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (76)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

76. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the short, medium and long-term plans for a school (details supplied) for children on the autism spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47383/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

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

School Accommodation

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 66.

Ceisteanna (77)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

77. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the updated funding request by a school (details supplied) will be reviewed in line with planning permission awarded and associated increase in costs in line with additional works which had to be undertaken in respect of facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47502/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers has been approved one mainstream classroom and one ASD classroom under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2018. 

The school obtained planning permission without first getting authorisation to proceed to planning stage, which is a condition of the Additional Accommodation scheme, and included unapproved works in this planning application. On that basis, the school has been requested to resubmit an application to the planning authority based on the approved works only.

It is now a matter for the school authority to resubmit an approved planning application.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 66.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (79)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

79. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will meet with a delegation of parents and board of management of a school (details supplied) to discuss the short, medium and long-term plans for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47384/19]

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

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

Any meeting requests can be forwarded to diary@education.gov.ie and they will be considered.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (80)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

80. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been made in the appointment of a specialist to carry out an investigation at a primary school (details supplied) which when completed will lead to the completion of works at the school and enable pupils and staff to return to same. [47097/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that approval has been granted to appoint a new specialist to enable the contractor to carry out the preparatory work necessary to proceed with the repair works. This includes the final steps in the preparation of a method statement for the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) to allow it to carry out the first phase of these works.

This work must be done while respecting the important job the HSA has to conclude its investigation.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (81)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

81. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve pay and conditions of school secretaries funded through the ancillary services grant system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47489/19]

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.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (82)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

82. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the provision of autism education in Dublin 7 and 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Minister I am prepared to use the legislation when necessary to ensure that children can access a suitable education. However my preference is for schools to engage with this challenge on a voluntary basis because it is the right thing for the children in their community.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special needs school places in Dublin 7 and 15 for next year and beyond.

As the Deputy's question relates to the NCSE planning in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 for the forthcoming school year, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Insurance Costs

Ceisteanna (83)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

83. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to the spiralling insurance costs for special schools (details supplied) which can cost up to 38% of the capitation grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47399/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is aware of issues relating to very significant increases in insurance costs in some special schools, through correspondence received from some special schools, discussions with the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE) and media reports.

These increases appear due, in some instances, to an annual increase in insurance costs generally and, in some cases, an increase in claims against special schools.

Separately, a number of special schools under the patronage of organisations that are funded by the HSE to provide health and personal social services on behalf of the HSE under Section 38 and 39 of the Health Act, experienced significant increased insurance quotes, when the Section 38 funded bodies were delegated to the General Indemnity Scheme (GIS) under the State Claims Agency and the Section 39 organisations experienced similar increases in their insurance costs.  The effect of this was that the special schools under their patronage needed to seek separate insurance cover.

While securing and maintaining adequate and appropriate insurance cover is a matter for the managerial authority of each school, my Department has been working as a matter of urgency with NABMSE and relevant Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the State Claims Agency, to seek a resolution to the issue of increased insurance costs in special schools.

A number of options have been identified to address the issue.  These include the development of a group insurance scheme for special schools, which appears to be the most viable option. 

NABMSE met with boards and patrons of special schools most affected by increases in insurance, on 6th June last to discuss the matter and options available.  An official from the Department attended this meeting. The importance of all schools signing up for such a scheme was emphasised at the meeting and 47 schools subsequently signed up for the Group Scheme option.

A broker was appointed on foot of a tender process conducted by NABMSE and a request for a policy quotation has now gone to market. NABMSE expect an outcome to this process in the coming weeks.

It is hoped that a speedy and cost effective resolution can be secured for impacted special schools, and the outcome of the NABMSE group scheme is awaited in this regard.

The special school to which the Deputy refers is not among the special schools that have made contact with my Department to date in relation to insurance issues. 

It is not sustainable however for my Department to continue to advance capitation payments as a way of meeting vastly increased insurance premiums.

I know that this is a cause of concern to schools as well and it is my hope that a speedy and cost effective resolution can be secured for impacted special schools.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (84)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

84. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to support small rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47442/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Rural schools make up the majority of our primary school sector: nearly 2,000 out of just over 3,100 schools. They are valued in their communities in that they provide a vital link to local heritage and history, help sustain rural populations and often act as a link for sports and social activity.

The majority of rural schools (over 1,200) are classed as small- having 4 or fewer teachers. Whilst facing the challenges and opportunities that all schools do, this particular group of schools has specific challenges. I have been listening to our partners around this and discussing what we can do to support small schools and ensure that they have a sustainable future.

The Programme for Government makes a commitment not to close any small school without the consent of parents and I am honouring this partnership approach.

I have spoken with international colleagues to hear their perspective and, together with my colleague Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, hosted a Symposium on Small Schools. I am actively engaging with the people and organisations who work in and with small schools and who understand the value and opportunities they offer to communities.

We have already announced additional supports in Budget 2020. This record level of investment in the sector is providing for an extra release day for teaching principals and improved teaching staffing levels for small schools. The work now underway in relation to small schools seeks to build on this and is being advanced through the Primary Education Forum.  It is planned that policy supports for small schools will be developed to feed into the Estimates process for 2021.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (85)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

85. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans for new school places and new school buildings in the Cork City area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47495/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date 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 the following new schools for the Cork City area:

- a new 8 classroom primary school established in 2019 to serve the Glasheen_Cork City/Pouladuff school planning area; and

- a new 8 classroom primary school to be established in 2021 to serve the Gurranbraher_Cork City 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.  

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.

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.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (86)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

86. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of progress being made on securing a new site for a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47445/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a new site is required for the replacement building for the school in question and my Department has commenced the site identification process. In line with protocols for the use of State property assets, my Department has written to the Department of Defence enquiring if the Department is in a position to provide a site that could be suitable. My Department has also been in liaison with Kildare County Council in regard to identifying a potential site.  

Due to commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions in general, I cannot comment further at this point in the process, though I can assure the Deputy that my Department is making every effort to progress the matter.

School Equipment

Ceisteanna (87)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

87. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to providing a grant for the servicing of equipment for special schools (details supplied) as this can result in a large financial outlay for schools from the capitation grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47400/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides hoists and other equipment for special schools from the Furniture and Equipment grant. While this grant does not provide for the servicing of this equipment, funding for same is made available through the minor works and/or capitation grant.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (88)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

88. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the changes to the way in which SNAs are allocated to students with additional needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.  

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.  

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with.  Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

Where a school has received its allocation of SNA support for 2019/20, but wishes new enrolments or assessments to be considered, which were not taken into account when the initial allocation was made, they may continue to make applications to the NCSE.

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.

One feature of the School Inclusion Model is the development of a frontloaded allocation model of SNAs to be allocated in line with profiled need having regard to the approach taken by the allocation model for Special Education Teachers which was introduced in 2017.

Frontloading SNA support eliminates the need for an individual assessment for each student, ending the link with the requirement for a formal diagnosis to gain access to support, and will reduce the delays in making supports available to schools.

Schools participating in the pilot received their initial SNA allocation for the 2019/20 school year in the normal manner, by way of the NCSE application based process. subsequently they were informed of the determination of support calculated through the frontloaded allocation model and received additionality where it was indicated.

Teacher Supply

Ceisteanna (89)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

89. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on sharing teachers across schools in view of the fact that a shortage of substitute cover and that pupils across many schools are being left without qualified teachers in Irish, science, foreign languages and maths due to a supply shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47490/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Earlier this year I introduced a new scheme to allow post-primary schools to share teachers in priority subjects. The “Scheme to Share Teachers between Recognised Post-Primary Schools” is intended to ease recruitment pressures in specific subject areas such as STEM, modern foreign languages, Irish, and home economics. I would strongly encourage Principals and boards of management to take the opportunity provided by this scheme to work with a neighbouring school by sharing a teacher to ensure availability of these subject specialisms. Details of the scheme are set out in Circular 0015/2019, which is available on my Department's website.

The teacher sharing initiative is one of a range of actions contained in the Action Plan for Teacher Supply. Other actions in the plan include:

- My Department launched the “Teaching Transforms” campaign (digital, radio and video) to promote the teaching profession, supported by a new dedicated webpage.

- Following engagement with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the higher education institutions (HEIs) have put in place new initial teacher education (ITE) undergraduate programmes in 2019 in a number of priority subject areas, including mathematics, modern foreign languages, Irish and Computer Science. More new undergraduate ITE programmes are also planned to commence in September 2020.

- The HEA is engaging with the HEIs to explore the development of programmes to upskill existing teachers in targeted post primary subject areas.

- The Teaching Council has reviewed the implementation of student teacher school placement guidelines and a report on this is expected before the end of 2019 

- Stakeholder consultative forums and focus groups for teachers, principals, parents, student teachers and school students have been held with further forums and focus groups planned over the coming school year to inform ongoing policy to address teacher supply challenges.

- An online teacher recruitment portal to match available teachers with short term substitute vacancies in primary and post primary schools is being developed. Final testing is ongoing and it is intended that this portal will be operational shortly.   

The Steering Group on Teacher Supply, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, is overseeing the implementation of the Plan. The Steering Group continues to meet on a regular basis and I hope to make further announcements in this area the near future.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (90)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

90. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of outstanding completion works for a school (details supplied). [47234/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware this project has been devolved for delivery to Westmeath County Council (WCC). He will also be aware that senior officials from my Department and WCC are working closely with the contractor to resolve issues that have arisen on this project under the dispute resolution mechanisms set out in the Public Works Contract.

I can inform the Deputy that further meetings in that context took place on Friday and again today. I am not in a position to provide detail on the outcome of those meetings other than to say that all parties to this process continue to focus on completing the project by the end of the year.