Schools Establishment

Ceisteanna (196)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

196. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the catchment area of the planned new primary school in Carrigaline, County Cork for 2020 excludes Crosshaven and its hinterland from the area; if he will review the issue with his officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49853/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including a new 16 classroom primary school to serve the Carrigaline school planning area to be established in 2020.

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

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

The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education. The OPPS website opened for parental preferences on 28th November for the new primary schools to be established in 2020, including the school referred to by the Deputy.

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

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (197)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

197. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports available to students with learning disabilities and autism when sitting the junior certificate examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49855/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (198)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

198. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are circumstances in which students sitting the junior certificate examinations can apply for an extra allocation of time to complete the paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49856/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (199)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

199. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the policy regarding students who are sick or suffered a bereavement on the day of a State examination; and if students with ongoing conditions can advise the State Examinations Commission in advance for the examination in case the symptom of the condition arises on the day of an examination. [49857/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (200)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

200. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a building project application by a school (details supplied) [49861/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy was approved funding under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme for one mainstream classroom with ensuite toilets, one WC for assisted users, and one SET room. This funding was initially approved in July 2018 and the project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority.

The current position with respect to the project is that it was recently given approval to proceed to planning.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (201)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

201. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied) for an ASD unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy has been approved funding under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme for the following provision: a two classroom SEN base; one Music Room; three general Classrooms; three standard WCs; one WC for assisted users.

The project has been devolved to the school authority for delivery with the assistance of Tipperary Education and Training Board. It is currently at the Stage 1 Design stage.

Emergency Works Scheme Funding

Ceisteanna (202)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

202. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for funding by a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork will be supported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49882/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers applied for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for repair of its boundary wall. As the scope of the works were outside the terms of the scheme, the application was refused and the school was advised that the correct mechanism for delivery of works of this nature was the Summer Works Scheme.

The school authority is entitled to appeal this decision by forwarding additonal relevant information by email to emergency_works@education.gov.ie.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (203)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

203. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision on the status of a school (details supplied) will be postponed until the new policy on small schools is published following the small schools symposium which met in June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.

The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location.

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

This builds on measures in previous budgets which has seen improvements in the appointment and retention thresholds for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th classroom teacher and more favourable enrolment thresholds for one teacher schools situated 8km or more from the nearest school of the same type of patronage and/or language of instruction.

Small schools have also benefitted from the 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule for all schools implemented in 2016 and again in 2018. The staffing schedule at primary level currently operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.

In addition, the staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria, including a specific appeal measure for small schools, to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.

Staffing arrangements for the 2020/21 school year have not yet been finalised and so it is not possible, at this stage, to confirm a school’s staffing. The arrangements will be published early in 2020 and at that stage, schools will be able to establish their staffing for the next school year.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (204)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

204. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special classroom will open in a school (details supplied) for September 2020. [49889/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has received an application from the school, in question, for capital funding for the provision of additional accommodation. As soon as the assessment process is completed the school authority will be informed directly.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (205)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

205. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a summer works application by a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been declined; the other appropriate funding stream that may be available for the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49892/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school in question applied for funding under SWS 2020 for Toilet Facilities.

The Deputy may be aware that I recently announced details of the schools that will receive funding in summer 2020 in respect of applications submitted for 'Life Safety Systems projects'.

Commensurate with the level of funding set aside for the Scheme, applications are being assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the Scheme. In that regard, applications submitted for other works will be considered under future rounds of the Summer Works Scheme. The school in question will be considered in this regard.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (206)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

206. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of external consultant reports commissioned by his Department in each year from March 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the cost of each report; the company involved; and the title and publication date by report, in tabular form. [49902/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Details of consultancy payments made by my Department for the years 2011 to 2018 inclusive are available on the Department's website www.education.ie/en/Publications/Corporate-Reports/Financial-Reports/Expenditure-on-Consultancy/.

Information in relation to consultancy expenditure is compiled annually in respect of the previous year. Information in respect of consultants engaged in 2019 will be compiled in Q1 2020 and will be published as soon as it is available.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (207)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

207. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the school building project at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49936/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the deputy is to be delivered as a joint project with another school, with both schools sharing the same site.

This major project is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) Detailed Design which includes the application for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

The Design Team for this joint project was appointed in 2012, and progressed through early architectural planning to Stage 2(b) in November 2014.

Stage 2(b) is one of the most complex and detailed stages in architectural planning. Following a detailed and long planning process, this project received Planning Permission in May 2017. An appeal was lodged with An Bord Pleanála and the decision to uphold was issued in October 2017. Disability Access Certification was secured for both schools in July 2018, and Fire Safety Certification was secured in August 2018.

The Boards of Management requested their Design Team to submit a Brief Change Request to my Department, to include for additional refurbishment items to those approved in the original brief for the project. It also includes proposals to make the school a Nero Zero Energy Building (NZEB), in order to comply with the 2017 amendment to Part L of Building Regulations.

In February 2019, my Department approved the Brief Change in principle, with detailed costings to be submitted prior to Stage 2(b) completion, for review and final approval by my Department.

In June 2019, at a meeting with the schools, their design team and officials from my Department, discussions took place regarding the current conditions at the schools. My Department advised the schools to submit an application for consideration, for replacement/additional temporary accommodation required to address their current accommodation needs pending the delivery of the major school building project.

At that meeting the consultant Design Team Quantity Surveyor advised that the company is withdrawing from the project.

In early October, the consultant Architect advised that it is also withdrawing from the project as the firm has gone into liquidation.

A tender process to replace both the design team Architect and Quantity Surveyor will commence shortly.

Upon appointment of the replacement consultants the design team will work on the completion of the Stage 2(b) report and arrange for it to be submitted to my Department for review. Upon review my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (208)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

208. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if alternative arrangements will be made by which there are no provisions for students due to sit examinations and due to unforeseen circumstances are hospitalised as an emergency and in many cases have no alternative to leave hospital to sit examinations in no fit conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49938/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. Earlier this year, I asked the State Examinations Commission to review the supports provided to Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students who suffer trauma or adversity around the time of the state examinations.

The Commission operates the scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations, known as the RACE scheme, to accommodate candidates who suffer bereavement, illness or other trauma, either immediately before or during the examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (209)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

209. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress on a new development (details supplied); if the deadline is the same for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49939/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A major school building project to provide completely new accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy is progressing well on site, in line with the programmed works and subject to no issues arising should be ready for occupation in the third quarter of 2020.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (210)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

210. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) is large enough to cope with existing pupil numbers and growing numbers at the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49940/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar 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, Department of Children and Youth Affairs 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.

The NCSE ensures that advance planning is in place to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who need special class and special school placements

The NCSE engages with schools in each school community to ensure that specialist provision is sanctioned in schools in a timeframe that allows schools to re-configure existing spaces within the school building and/or to construct additional accommodation.

When an identified need to expand provision in special schools is established, taking into account existing and future needs, the NCSE sanctions this provision and schools can then apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.

With regard to the special school referred to by the Deputy, the NCSE is satisfied that the new school currently under construction is large enough to cater for the special needs requirements in the area.

Education and Training Boards

Ceisteanna (211)

Michael Harty

Ceist:

211. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost in capital or rental terms and the staffing costs to establish and maintain on a yearly basis the payroll shared services centre for the education and training boards in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15; if the facility will be operated through central funding only; if not, the alternative funding mechanism to be deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49950/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Among the priorities identified in my Department’s Education and Training Sector Shared Services Plan 2017-2020 is the consolidation of the individual payroll functions of all 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to one shared pay centre. This centre has been established at the Department’s Education Shared Business Services (ESBS) offices in Blanchardstown, Dublin. As part of a wave migration strategy the ESBS operationalised payroll shared services for three ETBs in 2019. 2020 will see the migration of payroll operations of seven ETBs to the centre. Payrolls of the six remaining ETBs will be migrated in 2021.

The business case for the establishment of the ESBS Centre and the introduction of ESBS ETB Payroll Shared Services estimated that the total cost of processing payroll alone was approximately €6.6 million per annum in ETBs, including staff costs, overheads and technology costs. That business case further estimated the cost for implementing the shared payroll model at approximately €16.5 million. When fully operational, and providing payroll and related services to all 16 ETBs, it is envisaged that annual savings compared to existing annual costs will be in the region of €1.8 million per annum. Payback for the investment is expected in 8 years from the full commencement of ESBS-ETB payroll shared services. The shared services model is being used to facilitate and enable ETBs to further focus on their core education & training functions. The project will also yield significant non-financial benefits including improved efficiency, consistency and service delivery.

The project costs for the development of ESBS ETB Payroll Shared Services are being be incurred by my Department. Once fully established, the ESBS Centre operational costs will be shared by the sixteen ETBs for whom the ESBS Centre will be delivering this Payroll and T&S shared service. A detailed methodology for the apportionment of the costs associated with the ongoing running of ESBS ETB payroll shared service will be developed and agreed through consultation between the ETBs and my Department. This will be included in the Service Management Agreement which is entered into between each ETB and the ESBS in respect of the provision of payroll shared services.

School Admissions

Ceisteanna (212)

James Browne

Ceist:

212. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 16 children in a town (details supplied) have not secured a place in either of the two secondary schools in the town for the 2020-2021 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49952/19]

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. Approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

The Deputy will be aware that there area number of major capital projects included on my Department’s school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan. The Capital Programme details the school projects that are being progressed under project Ireland 2040. I wish to advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects being delivered under project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

The Capital Programme also provides for devolved funding under the 'Additional School Accommodation Scheme' (ASA) for additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed. The application form for this scheme is available on my Department's website www.education.ie, details of schools listed under this scheme can also be found on my Department's website, this information is updated regularly.

Public Sector Staff Sick Leave

Ceisteanna (213)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

213. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedure for a teacher teaching senior cycle on sick leave for more than one month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50000/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Public Service Sick Leave Scheme, which applies to teachers, is regulated by the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations 2014, as amended. The terms and conditions of the Sick Leave Scheme for teachers is contained in my Department’s Circular 54/2019.

The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, subject to procedures agreed under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012).

In the case of a teacher who is absent on continuous certified Sick Leave a school managerial authority may appoint an appropriately qualified substitute teacher.

School Admissions

Ceisteanna (214, 219)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

214. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of places in second-level schools in south County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

219. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of places in second-level schools in Newbridge, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 219 together.

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

Where data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places.

My Department is satisfied that the needs in the area referred to by the Deputy can be met through the replacement and expansion of the existing Curragh Post-Primary school with a new 1,000 pupil school building. It is intended that the expansion of the existing Curragh Post-Primary school, a multi-denominational community college under the patronage of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB), will also cater for demand arising in the adjoining Newbridge and Kildare school planning areas. There is capacity in the existing Curragh Post-Primary school building pending delivery of the new school building.

A new site will be required for the new school building and my Department has commenced the site identification process. In line with protocols for the use of state property assets, my Department has engaged with the Department of Defence enquiring if that Department is in a position to provide a site that could be suitable. My Department is also in liaison with Kildare County Council as part of this ongoing site identification process. 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.

Updates on all applications on the Department’s School Building Programme and approvals for additional school accommodation ASA), including those in the area referred to by the Deputy, are available on the Department’s website www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly.

My Department is committed to ensuring that every pupil has access to a school place and my Department will 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.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (215, 216, 217, 218)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

215. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of ASD places in second-level schools in south County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50002/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

216. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of ASD places in second-level schools in Newbridge, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50003/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

217. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of ASD places in second-level schools in Kildare town, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

218. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action being taken to address the shortage of ASD places in second-level schools in Athy, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50005/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 218, inclusive, together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Kildare to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

The NCSE has informed the Department that, in general, they are satisfied that they have planned sufficient ASD post primary special class placements to meet identified need in Kildare for next year.

The NCSE team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) in Kildare are available to assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

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.