Defence Forces Strength

Ceisteanna (180)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Army, Navy Service and Air Corps continue to be prepared for emergency missions such as air, sea rescue or in assistance with the civil authorities in the case of a national disaster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29544/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The resources available to the Defence Forces to carry out their operational commitments are kept under constant review and future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.

In terms of personnel, the Defence Forces retain a wide range of specialist skills and equipment. The full spectrum of personnel and equipment are available for deployment in response to any emergencies that may arise.

With reference to rescue services, the Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of search and rescue services within the Irish search and rescue region. Both the Air Corps and the Naval Service provide support to the Coast Guard on an 'as available' basis in accordance with an agreed Service Level Agreement.

At National level, representation at the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning by both the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, ensures the fullest coordination and cooperation in the event of an emergency and that the command structure within the Defence Forces is compatible with the requirements in this area.

In accordance with the Framework for Major Emergency Management, primary responsibility for responding to emergencies such as a natural disaster rests with three designated principal response agencies, namely, An Garda Síochána, the relevant Local Authority and the Health Service Executive. The Defence Forces provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or an emergency situation in its Aid to the Civil Authority and Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) roles. Major Emergency Plans have been developed by local and regional authorities and these Plans identify the procedures for requesting assistance from the Defence Forces.

I am committed to ensuring that the personnel of the Defence Forces continue to be equipped and trained to best international standards and I can confirm that the Defence Forces keep their operational plans and response capabilities for dealing with a wide range of threats and emergencies under constant review. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are equipped and resourced to respond, as appropriate, to any such events were they to occur in this State.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (181, 182, 183, 184, 185)

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

181. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education her views on the introduction of a legal obligation on the NCSE to carry out on-site inspections in order to properly assess the suitability of schools to provide ASD special classes in view of the fact her Department does not hold or maintain an accommodation inventory of schools. [29264/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

182. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education if the introduction of a legal obligation on NCSE to carry out on-site inspections in order to properly assess the suitability of schools to provide ASD special classes will be supported in view of the fact that her Department does not hold or maintain an accommodation inventory of schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29265/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

183. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education the number of on-site visits out of 29 primary schools in Dublin, 4, 6 and 6W were carried out before NCSE made its recommendations on ASD special class provision in its April 2020 report pursuant to section 37A(2) of the Education Act in; respect of south County Dublin (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29266/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

184. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education her plans to rectify the deficit of ASD special classes at primary level in Dublin 4, 6 and 6W in view of the fact there are only 14 places available across the three areas for a school going population of 9,000 children (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29267/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

185. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education her plans to do to rectify the deficit of ASD special classes at secondary level in Dublin 4, 6 and 6W in which the same problem persists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29268/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 to 185, inclusive, together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country, including South Dublin, where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. NCSE is continuing its engagement with schools, patron bodies, parents and others across South Dublin to bring the required additional special class and special school placements on stream. While progress has been achieved, the NCSE has identified the need for additional special class and special school places in South Dublin for the current school-year.

Normally, special class and special 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 NCSE has faced challenges in getting schools and their patrons to provide new special class or special school places.

As Minister, I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018), to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed. The legislation contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.

The legislation was used for the first time in 2019, in respect of the Dublin 15 area. Significant progress has been made in that area on foot of action taken under Section 37. A new Special School was established and six schools have agreed to open special classes thereby meeting the need for additional places in the area. The experience of Dublin 15 shows that real and practical challenges can be addressed by working together to provide additional special class and special school places.

A Report from the NCSE, prepared in accordance with Section 37A (2) of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018), confirming the need for additional special education places in South Dublin was submitted to the then Minister in April last. This Report is available on my Department’s website.

Statutory notices under the Act were subsequently issued on 26 June, 2020 to 39 schools identified by the NCSE. The issue of the notices is but the first step in a very transparent multi-step process, the purpose of which is to establish if the school has capacity to provide new places. At each stage of the process, schools are given the opportunity to make representations and there is also an option for arbitration at a later point. Statutory notices issued under the Act together with the representations received from the schools and their patrons are published on my Department’s website. The representations received to date have all been published and are a matter of public record. Schools may be visited as part of this process to establish the circumstances of individual schools.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage on the legislative process which is currently underway.

In 2020, a national inventory of school capacity was developed using the Department’s Geographic Information System (GIS). In 2019, as part of their annual enrolment returns to the Department in the Primary On-line Database (POD) and the Post-Primary On-line Database (PPOD), schools were requested to provide information in respect of overall demand for school places and available capacity within their schools.

The compilation and analysis of this information at local, regional and national level through the Department’s GIS will be an important additional feature of the school planning process. This is the first year of this initiative and the approach taken will provide a cost effective and efficient method to the provision and analysis of up to date data in relation to demand and capacity across over 3,000 primary schools and over 750 post-primary schools.

Teaching Council of Ireland

Ceisteanna (186)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

186. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if a person (details supplied) can be given a Teaching Council number; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29271/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession in Ireland including the registration of teachers in the State.

The Teaching Council have currently registered over 3,000 Newly Qualified Teachers this year, it has also registered over 940 teachers across all 4 registration routes since May.

I am informed the Teaching Council advise that, for teachers qualified outside of Ireland, the assessment and registration process may typically take up to 12 weeks from receipt of all application documentation and depending on the time of year, recommending that applicants apply in advance of their planned return to or commencement of teaching in Ireland. They advise the processing time for standard Irish qualifications is 6-8 weeks.

The person referred to by the Deputy should continue to liaise directly with the Teaching Council and follow their guidance regarding their registration.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (187)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

187. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education the funding streams that are available to primary schools for cultural and arts initiatives for pupils such as music classes. [29272/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A broad experience in the arts is integral throughout a child’s experience in primary school. The arts give expression to and extend children’s understanding, their imagination and their creativity through a broad range of experiences. The Arts Education curriculum (1999) at primary consists of three subjects: Music, Drama and Visual arts. The curriculum enables children to creatively express ideas, feelings and experiences.

The primary curriculum is in the process of undergoing review and redevelopment. As part of this process consultation is underway (to the end of 2020) on a draft Primary Curriculum Framework. In the redeveloped curriculum Arts Education is presented as one of five broad curriculum areas. Arts Education would continue to support learning in visual arts, music and drama, as well as supporting other aspects of arts education such as dance, film and digital media, and enabling schools to engage with local, national and international initiatives and opportunities.

The Creative Ireland Programme, led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, is a five-year all-of-government, culture-based initiative that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and national well-being. Under this programme the Creative Youth Plan was published in December 2017 and aims to increase the opportunities for engagement by children and young people in artistic and cultural creativity, helping them to discover and develop new skills and talents that enhance their development and growth, and add to the richness of their overall learning experience. The Plan has initiatives both targeted at schools and out-of-school settings, as well as providing teachers with CPD.

Among key initiatives for schools under Creative Youth are Creative Schools and Creative Clusters.

Creative Schools is led by the Arts Council in partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs provides tangible supports for schools to place arts and creativity at the centre of school life. Schools participate in the initiative over a two year period and are provided with access to a “Creative Associate” and funding.

As of 2020, 464 schools have enrolled in the initiative. Of these there were 113 primary schools in 2018, 144 in 2019 and 119 in 2020. Each school is allocated a grant of €2,000 per year over a two year period to develop and implement bespoke creativity plans. Total funding of €3.096m is being provided in 2020 to support the initiative (between the Departments of Education and Skills and Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Arts Council). This total investment includes additional resources made available under the July Stimulus Package which has enabled the provision to each participating school of an additional €1,100 in 2020 , meaning the grant awarded for the 2020/21 school year is €3,100 per school.

Creative Clusters is an initiative of Department of Education, led by and in partnership with the Education Support Centres Ireland (ESCI, formerly ATECI) and funded through the Schools Excellence Fund. The purpose of this pilot scheme is to demonstrate how the arts and creativity can support clusters of schools to work together over a two year period to address common learning challenges, identified by those schools. The initiative commenced in the 2018-19 academic year and as of September 2020, there are 220 schools across 65 clusters involved. In 2018, the number of primary schools engaged was 54, with 64 engaged in 2019 and 62 in 2020.

Clusters receive access to a “Cluster Facilitator” and grant funding of €1,500 per participating school, up to a maximum of €7,500 per cluster, each year over the two years. As part of the July Stimulus, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is providing an additional €1,000 to each participating school for the 2020/21 school year.

My Department also provides funding to Music Generation for the provision of performance music education for children and young people. Under Creative Youth, Music Generation is being expanded to all areas of the country. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation has been co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (188, 189)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

188. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education if a child (details supplied) can be found a place in a school that will suit their needs, as per the recommendations of their early intervention team clinicians; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29299/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

189. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education if she can task the SENO in the appropriate area to support a child (details supplied) and their family in locating an appropriate school place in a primary school with an ASD unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29300/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 189 together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country, including South Dublin, where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. NCSE is continuing its engagement with schools, patron bodies, parents and others across South Dublin to bring the required additional special class and special school placements on stream. While progress has been achieved, the NCSE has identified the need for additional special class and special school places in South Dublin for the current school-year.

Normally, special class and special 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 NCSE has faced challenges in getting schools and their patrons to provide new special class or special school places.

As Minister, I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018), to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed. The legislation contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.

The legislation was used for the first time in 2019, in respect of the Dublin 15 area. Significant progress has been made in that area on foot of action taken under Section 37. A new Special School was established and six schools have agreed to open special classes thereby meeting the need for additional places in the area. The experience of Dublin 15 shows that real and practical challenges can be addressed by working together to provide additional special class and special school places.

A Report from the NCSE, prepared in accordance with Section 37A (2) of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018), confirming the need for additional special education places in South Dublin was submitted to the then Minister in April last. This Report is available on my Department’s website.

Statutory notices under the Act were subsequently issued on 26 June, 2020 to 39 schools identified by the NCSE. The issue of the notices is but the first step in a very transparent multi-step process, the purpose of which is to establish if the school has capacity to provide new places. At each stage of the process, schools are given the opportunity to make representations and there is also an option for arbitration at a later point. Statutory notices issued under the Act together with the representations received from the schools and their patrons are published on my Department’s website. The representations received to date have all been published and are a matter of public record.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage on the legislative process which is currently underway.

In circumstances, where no placement is available for a child with special educational needs, the Department can provide Home Tuition grant funding towards the provision of 20 hours home tuition per week as an interim measure until the NCSE confirms that a placement is available.

Home Tuition will not be available where a school placement has been identified by the NCSE. Similarly, failure to enrol a child in school will not give rise to eligibility under this scheme.

I can confirm that in the specific case referenced by the Deputy, 20 hours Home Tuition per week has been approved for the period 31/8/20 to 25/6/21 under the SEN strand of the Home Tuition Grant Scheme.

I also understand that the NCSE is currently engaging with the parents regarding the child's needs and an appropriate placement. Local SENOs will remain available to support the family in accessing an appropriate school placement.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (190)

Joe O'Brien

Ceist:

190. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Education if data exists or an assessment has been conducted on the need for an ASD unit in a school (details supplied). [29313/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that every child has a suitable school placement is a key objective of my Department. Significant resources are allocated each year to ensure that appropriate supports are available for children with special educational needs.

Children with special educational needs are supported through placement in mainstream classes, special classes and special schools. At school, they receive a range of supports provided by teachers and SNAs. Other professional supports, including training for teachers, are provided by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to enable each school provide a holistic educational experience for each child. The HSE is responsible for the delivery of therapeutic supports.

NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide; has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents; and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special education placements. The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places nationally to meet identified need. This process is ongoing

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, a range of supports, including capital funding, is made available to the school. School transport is also available. My Department works closely with the NCSE in this regard.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy includes the provision of a 4 classroom SEN base. This project is in the process of being devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

The first step in this process is the execution of a Service Level Agreement between my Department and the ETB and this is being arranged. Thereafter, the ETB will procure a Design Team for the project to design the buildings, obtain the necessary statutory planning permissions and move the project onward to construction in due course. As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for its completion.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (191)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

191. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education the reason leaving certificate students 2020 cannot appeal their grades assigned to them in a similar manner to appeals from all other years other than being restricted to only appealing an error in the data; the reason for now allowing students appeal their actual grade; if this position will be reconsidered by her Department; the option available to a student who has been downgraded in a number of subjects with no current option to appeal this downgrading; if in circumstances in which students have been downgraded in a number of subjects, they have an option to appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29314/20]

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. This was an exceptional decision in an exceptional year.

The Calculated Grades Student Portal reopened on 14 September to allow students to view their estimated percentage marks and calculated marks to allow students to consider this data if they were considering an appeal of their Calculated Grade.

As part of the national standardisation process operated under the Calculated Grades model, the estimated percentage marks provided by schools in respect of their students were converted to calculated marks and subsequently, to calculated grades, which were 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 Calculated Grades appeals process is a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process. It is not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school. Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process. The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

At the time of closing the appeal application process on Wednesday 16 September, some 12,300 students had appealed almost 33,700 grades.

The appeals process will continue as normal following the announcements on 30 September and 03 October regarding errors found in the Calculated Grades model. This applies whether or not a student received an improved grade following the rectification of the errors. This is because the appeals process is a technical appeal, focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process.

Every effort will be made to process appeals as quickly as possible but it is not possible at this time to commit to a date for the issue of the appeal results. Students will be notified of this date as soon as possible.

It is not possible to provide an expedited appeal for any student or group of students. All appeals will be processed and results released simultaneously to ensure fairness and equity to all.

The CAO will be automatically notified by the Department of the outcomes of the appeals process.

If, as a result of an upgrade, a student becomes eligible for a college place at a higher CAO preference than the one they were already offered, they will be eligible for that course.

It is not possible to guarantee at this stage that, following a successful appeal, a student will be able to take up such a place offered in the academic year 2020/21. This depends on factors such as the number of appeals received, the nature of the appeal, and the higher education course being applied for. However, as far as is possible, higher education institutions will attempt to facilitate students who are upgraded and receive a new offer.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (192)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

192. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education when construction of the new permanent school building will begin at a school (details supplied); and when she expects the project to be completed. [29331/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The tender process for the school building project referred to by the Deputy is running as part of a wider process involving the tender of 8 major building projects. The first phase of the tender process to create a short-list of contractors is complete. The second phase of the tender process is ongoing and is due to be completed in the coming months. The project is expected to commence on site in quarter 1 of 2021.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (193)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

193. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by her Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29349/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has entered into two such contracts this year to provide enhanced capacity, supporting necessary communications with a wide range of stakeholders on matters relating to school reopening and the Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades projects. The details of the contracts requested by the Deputy are in the attached table.

Agency

Amount (ex VAT)

Remit

McQuaid Media and Communications

6,000

To provide communications services to the Department to support the Schools re-opening and Calculated Grades’ projects.

The Communications Clinic

A final invoice for services has not yet been received.

To provide communications services to the Department to support the Calculated Grades’ projects.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (194)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

194. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the guidelines available for schools to facilitate students who require individual resource support. [29373/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circulars 0013/2017 and 007/2019 for primary schools, and 0014/2017 and 008/2019 for post primary schools, set out details of the model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

The Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile. Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile. Schools have discretion in how these resources are deployed.

The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fair allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the level of need in each school.

Schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile. The allocations to schools include provision to support all pupils in the schools, including where a child receives a diagnosis after the allocation is received by a school, or where there are newly enrolling pupils to the school.

Guidance for schools on how they should identify children for additional teaching support and as to how to utilise their SET allocations has been provided for schools. This guidance is available at:

https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Pupils-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf

and

https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Post-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Students-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (195)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

195. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if she will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29402/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Website www.whodoeswhat.gov.ie provides details of the organisational structure my Department, along with those of other Government Departments and offices. In addition, information on structures in my Department is included in the Management and Organisation section on my Department’s website, www.education.ie These are updated on a regular basis, as officials are assigned to new posts.

Officials in my Department can be contacted through the main switchboard numbers

Dublin: (01) 889 6400

Athlone: (090) 6483600

Tullamore: (057) 9324300

In addition, my Department’s email addresses follow the convention of firstname_surname@education.gov.ie

For the Deputy’s convenience, I will arrange for a copy of an organisation chart for my Department to be forwarded to him.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (196)

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

196. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Education if her Department will commit to fast-tracking the building of a permanent school building for a school (details supplied); the stage at which the development is at; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that applications for places in first year for the 2020/2021 school year vastly exceeded the places that were made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29422/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is committed to providing permanent accommodation to meet the needs of the school to which the Deputy refers. A number of potential site options have been identified and officials from my Department are currently appraising same. Given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

The school is currently located in interim temporary accommodation at Colpe/Mill Road, Drogheda pending delivery of its permanent accommodation. I would like to assure the Deputy that the acquisition of a new site for the school is a priority for the Department and the patron body will be informed of the location for the school as soon as it is possible to do so. In this regard, the school building project will be progressed into Architectural Planning once a suitable site has been acquired.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (197)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

197. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education if she has established and or plans to establish a compensation fund and or has amended her Department’s contingent liability in view of the potential for claims to be made against her in view of the ongoing issues regarding the calculated grades for the leaving certificate. [29424/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The 2019 Appropriation Accounts for my Department contained no contingent liability in respect of issues relating to the Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades process. As the calculated grades model was only introduced in 2020, a decision on the inclusion of a contingent liability in relation to that process would be a matter for consideration in the preparation of the 2020 Appropriation Accounts. A compensation fund has not been established regarding this matter.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (198)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

198. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education if she will consider expanding the capacity of a school (details supplied). [29426/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, since April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 45 new schools over the 4 year period 2019 to 2022. This included a new post primary school for the Donaghmede / Howth / Dublin 13 / Belmayne/Clongriffin school planning area. The school was established in September 2019 and is in interim accommodation pending delivery of its permanent accommodation. It is not possible to increase the school's enrolment intake while it is in its current interim accommodation.

The position regarding the school's permanent accommodation is that a new school building will be delivered under my Department's Design and Build programme.

Planning permission was lodged for the new school on the 31st March 2020 and the Project Manager is currently in the process of responding to a request for further information from the Local Authority. As with all school building projects, the exact timeframe for delivery of the school will be dependent on the grant of planning permission.

My Department will keep the Board of Management fully informed of developments as they occur.

School Equipment

Ceisteanna (199)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

199. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education if the provision of personal computers and WiFi in the homes of students at a particular disadvantage such as Traveller children will be supported; and if so, if such support will be provided through individual schools or another intermediary. [29427/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This year total ICT grants of €50m have been provided by my Department to schools to support provision of technology and devices. This includes €40m for an annual ICT grant to eligible schools which provides for schools to buy equipment for use by students and teachers in developing digital technology approaches to teaching and learning.

Under the €40m ICT grant funding, DEIS schools receive an additional 10% on the per capita amount issued relative to non-DEIS schools. A total of €7 million additional funding was provided in the post-primary sector and €3m in the primary sector.

A further €10m in the form of top-up funding was also made available to all primary and post-primary schools in the free education scheme.

Schools were asked to prioritise this €50m funding to address situations where students were disadvantaged in their engagement with the schools remote teaching and learning due to lack of access to digital devices. The devices will remain the property of the schools and loaned to the student to assist them in their studies.