Questions Nos. 228 and 229 answered with Question No. 224.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (230, 231)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

230. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 128 of 26 November 2013, his views on confirmation by the Comptroller and Auditor General that a surplus profit made by Bus Éireann is being utilised being used in the day to day operation of the school transport scheme which contradicts the written response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53205/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

231. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider conducting an audit of certain aspects of the school transport scheme with particular focus on figures referred to as uncommitted reserve accounted for in a report (details supplied); if the way in which the funds were spent by Bus Éireann can be confirmed through such a report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53206/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

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

The 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements form the basis of the payment to Bus Éireann for the operation of the School Transport Scheme. In this regard, the Department reimburses Bus Éireann for a range of costs incurred in the operation and administration of the scheme. Re-imbursement to Bus Éireann is on a cost recovery basis only and the Department of Education and Skills do not pay any profit to Bus Éireann relating to the School Transport Scheme.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) carried out an examination of the provision of school transport and completed its report in August 2017 – the C&AG Special Report 98. The C&AG report referenced a surplus in the Transport Management Charge element of the costs. This amount was held by way of an uncommitted reserve by Bus Éireann to be used solely for the purposes of the School Transport Scheme. The uncommitted reserve was repaid fully to the Department in December 2018.

The school transport scheme is a demand-led service based on the number of eligible children who apply to avail of transport. My Department works with Bus Éireann to analyse costs to the scheme on an on-going basis while each year the company produces an audited statement of account. This ensures that the financial information provided by Bus Éireann is in accordance with the relevant summary of accounting arrangements.

Bus Éireann provide the Department with an annual projected cost of school transport services together with a provisional spread of payments. These figures are incorporated into the Department’s annual profile of expenditure and are monitored on a monthly basis both in terms of the Department’s monthly profile of expenditure and Bus Éireann information based on actual costs versus projected costs. Expenditure headings and profiles are discussed at monthly meetings held between the Department and Bus Éireann. Where changes in projected expenditure occur a new year-end forecast is submitted by Bus Éireann and reflected in a revised spread of payments.

Actual expenditure is finalised in the Bus Éireann annual statement of account which is independently audited by the Bus Éireann auditors in accordance with the 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements. Balances, where they occur, are accounted for in the following year’s projected cost.

Student Universal Support Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (232)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

232. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements that will be in place in view of the fact that P60s and P45s and so on are no longer available; the arrangements that will be in place for persons to provide evidence of their income as part of the means tests in respect of SUSI grants; if there will be GDPR implications in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53215/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

SUSI have a data-sharing arrangement in place with the Revenue Commissioners which returns income information and employment cessation end dates, where applicable. Where this information is unavailable through the feed, for example, where there is a large discrepancy between the amount declared and the amount returned by the Revenue feed or where the income/employment has ceased, SUSI requests a copy of the information from the relevant parties online Revenue portal, in the form of a download which verifies the income/employment cessation information.

SUSI’s data sharing arrangements are governed by provisions in the Student Support Act 2011 and where applicable, secondary legislation provided for in the Act. These data sharing arrangements assist in verifying an applicant’s eligibility for grant funding and will not be impacted by the recent Revenue modernisations.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (233)

John Curran

Ceist:

233. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to introduce a new in-school speech and language therapy service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53256/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that a demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services was introduced for the 2018/19 school year.

The demonstration project has been developed by a Working Group which includes representatives from the Departments of Education, Children and Youth Affairs, Health, and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The project is being managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education with clinical support also being provided by two HSE Therapy Managers which have been assigned to the project.

The purpose of the 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 will complement existing HSE funded provision of essential therapy services. 

The project is taking place in Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow.

This region has been selected to ensure that the pre-school and in-school therapy model can be tested in both urban and rural locations and with a suitable mix of various types of schools and pre-schools.  

75 schools, including a representative sample of primary, post primary, and special schools are taking part in the project.

75 Pre-school settings associated with primary schools participating in the project are being included in order to provide for therapy interventions to be made at the earliest possible time and to create linkages between pre-school and primary school provision. 

In total, 150 settings are participating in the demonstration project.

Although initially designed as a one year pilot, a Government decision of 12th February, 2019, in relation to the Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, also agreed to the establishment of a pilot of a new School Inclusion Model for children with special educational and additional care needs involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region over the course of the 2019/20 school year.

The demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services is therefore continuing, as part of the School Inclusion Model, over the course of the 2019/20 school year.

Decisions in relation to the extension of the service to other areas or Counties, or to extend the service nationally, will be taken following the evaluation of the existing informed pilot phase.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (234)

John Curran

Ceist:

234. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of specific interventions and alternative education programmes created to address vulnerable children at risk of becoming gang recruits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53257/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware the DEIS programme is the main policy instrument of my Department to tackle educational disadvantage.  In the 2019/20 school year there are 891 schools in the DEIS Programme serving in excess of 185,000 pupils. This represents approximately 20% of the overall school population. Key supports are provided under DEIS to support school attendance, participation and retention, including the Home School Community Liaison Scheme.

My Department also provides funding to a small number of centres which provide education for young people not attending mainstream schools. These include the following:

- Youth Encounter Projects (YEPs) are recognised Special Schools which provide education for children who have either become involved in minor delinquency, or are at risk, and have become alienated from the mainstream school system.  There are five such non-residential schools, each catering for up to 25 pupils aged between 10 to 16 years.  YEPs have additional resources to provide a comprehensive life-skills programme in addition to the normal curriculum.

- The Line Projects were established to bring together the community, parents, state agencies and relevant Government Departments in order to respond to the needs of young people who have dropped out of mainstream education.  My Department funds two such projects - Carline in Lucan and City Motor Sports, Dublin 8. They cater for young people aged 14 to 18 years.

- The Cork Life Centre which caters for young people between the ages of 12 and 16 who are out of the mainstream school system.

- The Inspire Programme, run by City of Dublin Education and Training Board. This project assists children aged between 12 and15 who are experiencing difficulties attending mainstream post-primary school and are at risk of leaving school early to remain engaged in education.

 In addition to the above, under the Dublin North East Inner City Initiative, a number of developments are underway to improve educational outcomes for students in the Dublin North East Inner City and to address the recommendations of the Mulvey Report.  My Department is represented on the Programme Implementation Board and is working with other relevant Government Departments and Agencies to advance the relevant initiatives.

Educational Disadvantage

Ceisteanna (235)

John Curran

Ceist:

235. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional resources and steps he is taking to close a gap (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53258/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The DEIS Programme is my Department's main policy instrument to tackle educational disadvantage. To realise our vision for education to more fully become a proven pathway to better opportunities for those in communities at risk of disadvantage and social exclusion, we have set a target in DEIS Plan to continue to improve leaving certificate retention rates in DEIS schools from their current rate of 85% to the national norm, currently 91.6%, by 2025 (Retention rates of pupils in second-level schools Entry cohort 2011, published by my Department).

Improvement in DEIS schools’ retention rates in recent years has been significantly higher than the overall improvement nationally. My Department’s publication,  Retention Rates of Pupils in Second Level Schools 2011 Entry Cohort,  (those who entered post-primary in September 2011 and completed Leaving Certificate in 2016 or 2017) shows the Leaving Certificate retention rate for DEIS schools is 85%.  As the Deputy has pointed out the retention rates for non-DEIS schools is 93.5%, an 8.5% gap.  The Leaving Certificate retention rate for the 2006 entry cohort for DEIS schools was 80.1% compared to 92.7% for non-DEIS schools. In the five years from 2006 to 2011 the leaving certificate retention gap between DEIS and Non-DEIS has dropped from 12.6% to 8.5%.

My Department will invest approximately €125 million in the current school year on the DEIS programme and this includes the provision of enhanced school book grants to DEIS Schools, enhanced staffing in DEIS Band 1 Primary Schools, enhanced allocation for dedicated career guidance counsellor in DEIS Post-Primary schools, enhanced National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) allocation time and the payment of a DEIS Grant to all DEIS schools. In addition all DEIS Urban Primary and DEIS Post Primary schools are included in the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Scheme. The scheme is delivered by 415 full-time HSCL Coordinators who are teachers in these schools and assigned to HSCL duties either in individual schools or clusters of schools, catering for approximately 156,000 pupils. Additional funding is provided from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the School Meals Programme and from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the School Completion Programme. 

Retention Rates to Leaving Certificate are one aspect of the overall evaluation of the programme. The Deputy will be aware the findings from PISA 2018 were published in early December and show that students in Ireland scored higher than the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science. 

Since DEIS was first introduced, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and my Department’s Inspectorate have conducted a series of evaluations on aspects of the programme and findings of this work are contained in a series of published reports. Evidence from this research to date demonstrates that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage and is succeeding in improving educational outcomes.  

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (236)

John Curran

Ceist:

236. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of each school that recently progressed to the next stage of architectural planning, stage 3 tender phase and that had previously been at stage 2B for a considerable period of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The following spreadsheet details the 13 projects that have progressed from an advanced stage of architectural planning - Stage 2(b), Detailed Design to the next stage of architectural planning - Stage 3, Tender Stage since the start of the 2019/20 academic year.

Thereafter, a tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Major Projects progressed to Stage 3 (Tender) since 1st September 2019

Project Type & Delivery

County

Roll No

School

Date progress to Stage 3 (Tender Stage)

Major Projects - TRAD

Donegal

19313C

Glenswilly NS

06/09/2019

Donegal

18625Q

Scoil Cholmcille, Letterkenny

27/09/2019

Donegal

19927O

St. Mary's, Stranorlar

27/09/2019

Mayo

64520M

St. Mary's, Ballina

01/10/2019

Kildare

16706G

St. Joseph's, Kilcock

26/09/2019

Kildare

61702D

St. Paul's Monasterevin

26/09/2019

Wicklow

61830M

St. David's, Greystones

11/12/2019

Major Projects - ADAPT

Cork

6209D

Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, Blarney

18/11/2019

Kildare

17872F & 17873H

St. Conleth & St. Mary's, Newbridge

18/10/2019

Tipperary

18716T

Cahir

12/12/2019

Dublin

20176C

Rush & Lusk

04/11/2019

Major Projects - Devolved

Cork

14052V

Kanturk BNS (S-B) (with RN 17087J)

07/11/2019

Dublin

20131D

Dublin 7 ETNS

End Aug/Early Sep 2019

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (237)

John Curran

Ceist:

237. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects at stage 2B detailed design; the number that have been at this stage for up to one, one to three, three to five, five to seven, seven to ten and over ten years, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53260/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In terms of current projects at Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, 22 projects have recently been approved to Stage 2(b) and are at this latter stage of architectural planning for less than 1 year, 21 such projects have been progressing through the stage from 1-3 years, 12 projects have been progressing from 3-5 years, 9 further projects have been progressing from 5-7 years and 2 projects have been progressing through the stage from 7-10 years.

This is in the context of currently over 60 major school building projects at this advanced stage of architectural planning and a continuous throughput of projects moving into Stage 2(b) and onwards to Tender Stage and Construction.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (238)

John Curran

Ceist:

238. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in providing a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53261/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

My Department is currently liasing with the patron regarding the proposed project and is awaiting further contact from the patron in this regard.

Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (239)

John Curran

Ceist:

239. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the acquisition of land from South Dublin County Council for a school (details supplied) is complete; the timeframe for the future development of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is in the process of acquiring additional land adjacent to the existing site of the school in question. This land, which is in the ownership of South Dublin Co Co is presently being legally conveyed into my Department's ownership. Every effort is being made to expedite this conveyancing process. When the acquisition concludes, it will provide potential for the future development of the school.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (240)

John Curran

Ceist:

240. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. 

The Department understands from the Design Team Leader that the Stage 2(b) report is expected to be submitted to Dublin Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board, who is the client for the project, by the end of year.  DDLETB will review and sign the completion certificate and subsequently submit to the Department for review.

Upon review my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (241)

John Curran

Ceist:

241. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in advancing a school building project (details supplied) which was first identified as needing a new building in 2004; the stage the project is at; the timelines for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53264/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. 

A brief change request relating mainly to structural and foundation works for the new building was reviewed and approved by the Department in December 2018.  

The Stage 2(b) report incorporating the approved brief change has recently been received for review in my Department.

Upon review my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (242)

John Curran

Ceist:

242. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made regarding a school building project (details supplied) which is at stage 2B; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53265/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. 

A brief change report in relation to movement of costs from Stage 2(a) to Stage 2(b) was approved by my Department in October 2019. A  revised Stage 2(b) report incorporating the approved brief change request has recently been received by the Department for review.

Upon review my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (243)

John Curran

Ceist:

243. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to provide a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53266/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

My Department is currently liaising with the patron in the context of progressing the project to the next stage.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (244)

John Curran

Ceist:

244. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of an extension at a school (details supplied); the timeframe for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53267/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is part of a joint project. The project is 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. 

In June 2019, at a meeting with the schools, the consultant Design Team Quantity Surveyor advised that the company is withdrawing from the project. In early October 2019, the Design Team Consultant Architect advised that it is forced to withdraw from the project as the firm has gone into liquidation.

A tender process to replace both the design team Architect and Quantity Surveyor has recently commenced.

When the replacement consultants have been appointed the Design Team will complete work on the Stage 2(b) report which will be submitted to the Department for review.

Upon review of the Stage 2(b) submission my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project, including pre-qualification of contractors.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (245)

John Curran

Ceist:

245. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made regarding a school building project for a school (details supplied) following a revised stage 2B report being submitted in January 2019; the timeline for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. 

A revised Stage 2(b) report was reviewed in my Department and comments issued to the Design Team in June 2019.  The Design Team Consultant Architect has recently withdrawn from this project.  A tender process to replace this consultant will commence shortly. 

Upon appointment of the replacement consultant, a review of the stage 2(b) documentation will be carried out and the Design Team will then arrange to submit confirmations that they have carried out a final review of the tender documents.

Upon receipt of these confirmations my Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Ceisteanna (246)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

246. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the first and full-year costs of reinstating the payment of apprenticeship fees in phase 4 and 6. [53426/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

An Annual Student Contribution (ASC) is levied on all students attending Institutes of Technology (IoTs).  The amount of ASC charged to apprentices is calculated on a pro rata basis of the time which they spend in IoTs during the academic year. In cases where training is delivered in an Education and Training Board there is no contribution made by the apprentice. 

For craft apprenticeships, the ASC charged is typically one third of the €3,000 ASC paid by students attending for the full academic year and so amounts to approximately €1,000 per apprentice per period spent in the IoT.  In the case of the new consortia led apprenticeships the contribution varies for each programme as their off-the-job training has a more flexible structure.  

Prior to Budget 2014 the portion of the ASC relating to examination fees was paid by the apprentice with FÁS/SOLAS paying the remainder of the fee. If the arrangement in place prior to Budget 2014 arrangement were to be reinstated the cost to the State is estimated at €4.8 million in a full year.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (247)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

247. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timescale for applications received for persons coming here from outside the EU that are seeking visa approval to work here in cases in which they have already received their work permit; the average timescale for applications concluded to date in 2019; if there has been a decrease in the processing time in recent months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53217/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Decisions regarding the granting or refusal of employment visas are made in a number of the Immigration Service Delivery Visa Offices overseas, the Immigration Service Delivery Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.

The processing times for visa decisions are published on the Visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website.  As of 10 December 2019, the Dublin Visa Office was processing employment visa applications received in Dublin on or before 20 November 2019. The comparable processing date in the Dublin Visa Office on 11 December 2018 was 28 November 2018. 

Processing times for other Visa Offices overseas and for Embassies will vary but are generally between 3 and 6 weeks at this time, with many applications processed inside those timeframes, depending on travel dates.

I can also advise that the visa service is experiencing an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories, in line with increased economic activity generally.  Notwithstanding this, processing times are on a par with, and in many cases, better than the same time last year.

The business target for processing employment visas is within eight weeks.  While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary.  The processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, seasonal factors, and the resources available. 

The Deputy can be assured that every effort is made to keep processing times to a minimum, and a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland.  This has included the assignment of additional staff to deal with applications, and more generally the streamlining of visa processes where possible.  The position in this regard is being kept under review.

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria.  Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.