Capitation Grants

Ceisteanna (450)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

450. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of providing capitation funding of €208 per pupil for the 2020-2021 academic year. [26381/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The capitation grant has increased in each of the last two budgets.

I understand the need for improved capitation funding and I am pleased that budget 2020 has been able to provide for a further 2.5% increase in standard capitation funding for primary schools that applies from the start of the 2020/21 school year.  This builds on the 5% increase in capitation announced in budget 2019.

The combined increases given in 2019 and 2020 mean that circa 40% restoration will be achieved. 

All schools have received the benefit of the capitation increases awarded to date.  It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets.

In addition to the increases above the estimated cost of increasing the standard capitation at primary level to €208 per pupil for the 2020/2021 academic year is €14.5m.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (451)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

451. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education if she will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) to provide transport to attend school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26387/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020.  This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.  The School Transport Scheme Family Portal re-opened on the 7th September.  However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 2020/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.

Bus Eireann has confirmed that payment for a ticket for the child referred to by the Deputy was received on the 15th September 2020 for the 2020/2021 school year and as such their payment is late.  

Late applications/payments for post-primary seats will be only considered when 50% capacity required by new Covid-19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route.  The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete. 

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (452)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

452. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Education if she will review the catchment area for bus routes to schools in Fermoy to include Glenville (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26420/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.  In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

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

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application process on time are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. 

Bus Éireann, who operate school transport on behalf of my Department, has advised that the children from the area referred to by the Deputy are not eligible under the terms of the scheme for school transport to the post-primary centre referred to as this is not their nearest post-primary centre.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (453)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

453. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education the steps being taken to ensure additional school buses are put on in many rural areas in County Kerry and nationwide for secondary school students (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26490/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.  In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019. 

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. 

School Transport Scheme services for the current school year commenced operation on the 26th August 2020. All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.

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

Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year.  Updated health advice was received from NPHET on the 18th August, which impacts on the operation of post-primary school transport services.  This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings.

My Department is engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing. In addition, Bus Éireann invited applications from operators who wish to be considered for the provision of additional post-primary services that may be required.

Applications/payments for primary seats will be considered and tickets may be allocated on existing services where capacity remains.  Applications/payments for post-primary seats completed or made after the closing date for payment of 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid-19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (454)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

454. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education the way in which the junior certificate results data for the class of 2020 were gathered for grind schools. [26496/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics either at the level of the student or the school. The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

Individual Junior Cycle results were not used to determine any individual's Calculated Grades. Rather, the Calculated Grades process took account of the overall Junior Cycle performance of the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 in each school and used this data to help in predicting the likely range of Leaving Certificate performance of that group. The fact that the vast majority of 2020 Leaving Certificate students would have sat the Junior Cycle examinations provides a good means of predicting the pattern of performance of these students at an aggregate level. The process was not applied at an individual student level and in the absence of Junior Cycle results for an individual student, that student will not be disadvantaged within the statistical process. Regardless of school type, the Junior Cycle data for 2020 Leaving Certificate students who had sat their examinations in another school were carried in to the school at which they were registered to sit the Leaving Certificate.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (455, 456)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

455. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education if individual junior certificate results were used for grind school students in view of the fact that these students sat the junior certificate at a variety of schools from 2016 to 2018 and were not a cohort in 2017. [26497/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

456. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education the reason the National Standardisation Group gave low priority to validation of the results in respect of schools recognised by the SEC for the holding of examinations that are not Department-ecognised schools. [26498/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 455 and 456 together.

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, the Educational Research Centre and international external expertise.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student's subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. This is to be expected given that there is no national standard on which to base an estimated mark. But to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisation process.

These adjustments resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

This standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal. The standardisation process applied across all subject and levels. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level. This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects.

Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year there is 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.

In terms of the grades awarded on 7th September 2020, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades were either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades were lower.

In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics either at the level of the student or the school. The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

Individual Junior Cycle results were not used to determine any individual's Calculated Grades. Rather, the Calculated Grades process took account of the overall Junior Cycle performance of the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 in each school and used this data to help in predicting the likely range of Leaving Certificate performance of that group using related information about the relationship between performance at Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate based on national data over time.

The fact that the vast majority of 2020 Leaving Certificate students would have sat the Junior Cycle examinations provides a good means of predicting the pattern of performance of these students at an aggregate level. The process was not applied at an individual student level. The Junior Cycle data for 2020 Leaving Certificate students who had sat their examinations in another school were carried in to the school at which they were registered to sit the Leaving Certificate.

While some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved, this is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published. It may be more difficult for students to understand when they see the estimated mark from the school.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 458 answered with Question No. 436.

Ceisteanna (457)

Steven Matthews

Ceist:

457. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to ongoing issues at a school (details supplied) directly related to increased space requirements due to Covid-19. [26500/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

This project is one of the school building projects on my Department's ADAPT 2 (Accelerated Delivery of Architectural Planning & Tendering) Programme and is currently going through the Architectural planning process.

Officials from my Department's Planning and Building are currently liaising with the school authorities to address any accommodation issues that have arising as a result of the Covid 19.

Question No. 458 answered with Question No. 436.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (459)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

459. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Education if a school (details supplied) is still awaiting the reinstatement of the €5,000 additional ancillary grant that was expected in June 2020; when the school can expect to receive the grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26506/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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. 

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.   

Funding to implement the terms of the arbitration agreement was available to schools during the period of the agreement which concluded on the 31st December 2019.  Accordingly, the additional Ancillary Grant funding referred to by the Deputy is not payable following its expiration.

The Financial Service Support Unit is an important source of advice and is available to primary schools to assist on financial matters.  Should the school referred to by the Deputy continue to experience financial difficulties my Department may request the FSSU to conduct a Financial Internal Control Review in order to provide advice and support to the school.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (460)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

460. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education when the guidelines for schools on the use of reduced hours for individual pupils will be completed; her plans to put in place an effective reporting and monitoring mechanism within the guidelines to ensure appropriate and limited use of reduced hours in schools and the necessary oversight at departmental level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26509/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that draft guidelines have been developed to provide clarity to schools around reduced timetables and to set out the procedures to be followed by schools where such an option is being considered and used. The guidelines provide for TUSLA Education Support Service to be notified if a reduced timetable is implemented.

The aim is to ensure that the use of reduced timetables is limited solely to those circumstances where it is absolutely necessary. The draft guidelines are underpinned by the principles that a reduced timetable should not be used as a sanction; that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to facilitate a return to school on a full-time basis.

The guidelines have been subject to consultation with education stakeholders and are being finalised with a view to issuing them to schools; the priority focus in recent months has been on schools reopening and providing supports for children within schools.

Once the guidelines have issued, it is intended that data gathered will inform future policy and that the situation will be kept under review.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (461)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

461. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education if an appeals system will be introduced for 2020 leaving certificate students which allows the calculated grades given to be challenged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26531/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student's subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisations process. The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades were either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades were lower.

We appreciate that some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved. This is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published.

Students, at an individual level, had access to an appeals process the closing date for which has now passed. The appeals system is, by design, restricted to looking for technical errors in the data provided on behalf of students and in the processing of that data. The nature of this appeal process has been part of the system of Calculated Grades from the outset. The appeal process will involve a technical appeal focused on looking for errors in the transmission of the data through the process. An example of this would be whether any mistake has been made in entering the information to any of the systems used in the process.

It was fundamental to the adoption of a system of Calculated Grades that the professional judgement of the school (teachers and principals) would be outside the scope of the appeals process.

The integrity, validity and reliability of the process of national standardisation was overseen by the National Standardisation Group whose role was to oversee the application of the statistical model to the school data. Any appeals process that would allow an individual student level appeal to reopen the application of the statistical process to the school sourced data would fundamentally undermine fairness and equity in the system of calculated grades which relies on the uniform application of the statistical model.

Students dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeals process can invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

Students who consider that their appeal has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

Students dissatisfied with their results will have the opportunity to sit written Leaving Certificate examinations in November (subject to public health advice). Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (462)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

462. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education the reason for the delay in the scheme to provide redress to survivors of abuse in primary schools such as a school (details supplied); when an updated action plan on the progress in implementing a landmark ruling by the Council of Europe on redress for survivors of sexual abuse in primary schools prior to 1992 will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26548/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The review of the ex-gratia scheme is ongoing.  My Department is committed to reviewing the ex gratia scheme, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and has received initial advices from the Attorney General.

The issues involved are highly sensitive and complex and require very careful deliberation before proposals can be finalised and brought to Government.  It is important to have a more complete awareness of the extent of the problem, the number of people who could potentially be involved the legal implications of any course of action, and an accurate estimate of likely costs before introducing any modifications to the scheme.  

Ireland sought and were granted an extension by the Council of Europe until 8th December to file the next Action Plan.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (463)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

463. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education if an association (details supplied) was consulted before the revised guidelines for the agricultural science curriculum were published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26554/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department published guidelines on the adjusted assessment arrangements for state examinations in summer 2021. The Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021 are available at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Curriculum-and-Syllabus/assessment-arrangements-junior-cycle-and-leaving-certificate-examinations-2021.pdf.

As schools have significant autonomy in determining how to sequence and pace learning for students in their schools, no centrally prescribed adjustment of the curriculum and courses of study have been made for students taking the certificate examinations in 2021. Consequently, the most appropriate way to reflect and take account of the challenges for students that have occurred in 2019/20, and may occur in 2020/21, was to incorporate adjustments to the certificate examinations in 2021.

These adjustments have been arrived at through discussions between my Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders. The key stakeholders that were consulted in relation to the document included unions representing teachers, and school management bodies.

As part of The Roadmap for the Full Return to School the Department has also issued Guidance for Practical Subjects in Post-Primary Schools and Centres for Education. This document provides guidance in relation to subjects that involve using equipment in order to support the safe implementation of the practical aspects of those subjects and includes information in relation to Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science. This advice aligns with the public health advice provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) for the safe reopening of schools and educational facilities. This document, and further details of the response plan for the safe reopening of post primary schools, are available here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7acad-reopening-our-post-primary-schools/.

On 16 September, the SEC also published an information note clarifying the level of flexibility available to students in completing their coursework for Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science for the 2021 examinations. This document is available at the following link:

https://www.examinations.ie/misc-doc/EN-EX-72284060.pdf .

The SEC consulted with my Department and the NCCA on the development of this document. This information note was drawn up following consideration of the concerns of the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers Association which had been sent to the SEC, NCCA and Department. This additional flexibility for the 2021 cohort allows all candidates to meaningfully complete their examination coursework in line with the expectations of the Brief and the Guidelines in these exceptional circumstances due to Covid-19. In addition, the Professional Development Services for Teachers (PDST) Agricultural Science team has prepared additional supports for teachers in light of the exceptional challenges arising this year.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (464)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

464. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education if she will further intervene in the school transport system to avoid persons being left on the side of the road and to investigate the use of more private bus services operators to address the backlog. [26587/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.  In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019. 

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. 

School Transport Scheme services for the current school year commenced operation on the 26th August 2020. All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.

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

Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year.  Updated health advice was received from NPHET on the 18th August, which impacts on the operation of post-primary school transport services.  This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings.

My Department is engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing. In addition, Bus Éireann recently invited applications from operators who wish to be considered for the provision of additional post-primary services that may be required.

Applications/payments for primary seats continue to be considered and tickets may be allocated on existing services where capacity exists.  Applications/payments for post-primary seats completed or made after the closing date for payment of 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid-19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (465)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

465. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education the position regarding the new 2021 post-primary school patron selections; if the online patronage preference system will open for these schools in September 2020, as stated in Parliamentary Question No. 180 of 20 May 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26609/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In light of the Covid-19 situation, the patronage process for the 2021 post-primary schools including that for Ballincollig was deferred.  The Summer months and September in particular were critical in terms of school communities' preparation and implementation of arrangements to reopen schools. In the circumstances, it was considered prudent to further defer the post-primary process to allow schools and patrons the necessary space to focus fully on this phase without avoidable distraction. The position will be reviewed again very shortly. My Department has updated school patrons accordingly.

Updates in relation to patronage processes will be announced on the OPPS website (http://patronage.education.gov.ie/) and my Department's website (www.education.ie).

School Admissions

Ceisteanna (466)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

466. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education if she will provide assistance regarding a school place for a student (details supplied); if an official in her Department will make contact with the student's parent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26615/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The position is that the selection and enrolment of pupils is the responsibility of the management authorities in each individual school. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to  disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parent's choice are respected.

Under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 where a board of management make a decision to refuse enrolment, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my  Department or in the case of an Educational and Training Board  (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance.  A section 29 appeal to the Secretary General of my Department must generally be made within 42 days from the date of notification, by the schools board of management, that a place is not being offered.  My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

Further information on the Section 29 Appeals process is available on my Departments website at the following link:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/

In addition, Tusla Educational Support Services  (TESS) is the legal body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. TESS can be contacted at Tusla Educational Support Service, Child and Family Agency, Heritage Business Park, Bessboro Road, Blackrock, Cork or by phone 021-2428622 or by email at tessinfo@tusla.ie 

An official in my Department has contacted this parent to advise on the position.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (467)

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

467. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education the status of the school building project application for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26619/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

Stage 1 of Architectural Planning has been completed and the project has now progressed to Stage 2a – Developed Design, where the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully costed and can be prepared to lodge for statutory approvals.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (468)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

468. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education if an SNA employed by her Department can increase their pension contributions through additional voluntary contributions through her Department to their occupational pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26697/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Notional Service Scheme is a scheme that allows serving Special Needs Assistants who are members of the Superannuation (Education) Scheme, and who will have less than 40 years pensionable service at age 60 or 65, to purchase additional pensionable service.  

Special Needs Assistants who are "new entrants" as defined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 can purchase notional service by reference to age 65 only, as the earliest age at which such staff can voluntarily retire is 65.

The additional service purchased is treated as actual service in the calculation of pension and lump sum entitlements. 

Applications for a notional service quotation must be received in the Pension Unit of my Department and officials of this Unit have forwarded the Application Form to the individual concerned.

Upon receipt of the completed application form, a quotation will be calculated by the Pension Unit and issued to the individual concerned.  Quotations are based on the salary and service of the individual on their next birthday.

Emergency Works Scheme

Ceisteanna (469)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

469. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education if an appeal by a school (details supplied) will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26708/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that the matter to which he refers is currently under consideration by the relevant official in my Department. A decision in that respect will be made as quickly as possible and notified to the school directly.