Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020

Written Answers Nos. 59-78

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 57.

Planning Investigations

Ceisteanna (60)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

60. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage further to Parliamentary Question No. 1234 of 13 May 2020, if he will publish the report by a person (details supplied) regarding planning matters in County Donegal. [34054/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I will be examining this report and will bring this matter to Government for consideration in due course.

In this regard, the decisions of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (CEI/18/0019) of 13 February 2019 and the Information Commissioner (OIC-59426-Q8D7T8) of 27 February 2020 in relation to requests to publish this report will also be taken into account. Both decisions are publicly available on those bodies' websites.

Property Tax

Ceisteanna (61)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

61. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the allocations of local property tax to each local authority in 2020; the estimated yield; the allocation post variation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34058/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local Property Tax (LPT) is administered and collected by the Revenue Commissioners and is remitted into the Local Government Fund. The Revenue Commissioners publish detailed information on LPT collected annually, broken down by local authority, on its website at the following web link:

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/local-property-tax/index.aspx

The current local retention regime for LPT began in 2015 and since then 80% of the estimated LPT liability in each local authority area for a given year is retained in that area to fund public services, notwithstanding any local variation decisions. The remaining 20% of LPT is re-distributed to provide equalisation funding to those local authorities that have lower property tax bases, due to the variance in property values and density across the country. Detailed information on the LPT retention system, including equalisation funding and allocations is published by my Department on an annual basis and is available at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/category/housing/sub-topic/local-property-tax/sub-type/funding-allocation/topic/chargestaxes/type/publications?query

Waterways Issues

Ceisteanna (62)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

62. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 148 and 166 of 01 October 2020, the number of sluice gates open and closed by the ESB and Waterways Ireland; and the number of boards removed for the month of October 2020, in tabular form. [34070/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Waterways Ireland have provided my Department with the attached table showing the number of sluice gates open and closed by the ESB and Waterways Ireland and the number of boards removed (there were no boards in place) for the month of October 2020.

BANAGHER AREA -  OCT  2020

OCTOBER

SLUICES OPEN

SLUICES CLOSED

NUMBER OF BOARDS REMOVED

1

28

2

0

2

29

1

0

3

30

0

0

4

30

0

0

5

30

0

0

6

30

0

0

7

30

0

0

8

30

0

0

9

30

0

0

10

30

0

0

11

30

0

0

12

30

0

0

13

30

0

0

14

30

0

0

15

30

0

0

16

30

0

0

17

30

0

0

18

30

0

0

19

30

0

0

20

30

0

0

21

30

0

0

22

30

0

0

23

30

0

0

24

30

0

0

25

30

0

0

26

30

0

0

27

30

0

0

28

30

0

0

29

30

0

0

30

30

0

0

31

30

0

0

 30 SLUICES IN TOTAL

ATHLONE SOUTH - OCT 2020

SLUICES OPEN

SLUICES CLOSED

1

11

1

11

1

11

1

11

1

11

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

0

12

12 SLUICES IN TOTAL

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (63)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

63. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will give the issues outlined by a national association (details supplied) urgent consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34142/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has no function in granting exemptions from compliance with public health regulations made in the context of COVID -19. I have noted the issues outlined by the association in question including the reference to a statement by An Garda Siochana in the matter. The statement of the National Parks and Wildlife Section (NPWS) of my Department which is referred to in the question indicates that licences issued by the NPWS do not in any way confer exemptions in respect of compliance with public health guidelines. This does not conflict in any way with the position as set out by An Garda Siochana.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (64)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

64. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the restrictions and advice to persons that must travel to England and that return to Ireland via Belfast; the obligations in relation to travel locator forms and recommended isolation times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34065/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland is implementing the new EU ‘traffic lights’ approach to travel to countries in the EU / EEA and the UK. Our current advice for travellers to these countries is to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Anyone considering travel to Great Britain should also check the latest information from the local authorities there regarding requirements for international passengers arriving in the country.

Ireland’s restrictions and advice for individuals arriving into the State are also based on the EU 'traffic lights' system. Travellers from 'green' regions can enter the State without being requested to restrict their movements. Travellers from orange, red or grey regions within this classification system, with the exception of certain exempted categories of personnel, are requested to restrict their movements for 14 days. It is expected that it will shortly be possible to disapply this request if passengers from orange regions have a negative PCR test up to 72 hours before arrival. The red or grey status currently applies to Great Britain. Therefore, individuals arriving from Great Britain, including England, are at present subject to the attendant restrictions of the 'traffic lights' system.

Restrictions imposed on passengers entering a country in the 'traffic lights' system are based on the location of the passenger during the 14 days prior to arrival, not on the airport or seaport of arrival or the point of disembarkation. Currently, passengers arriving into Ireland who have travelled from England should restrict their movements for 14 days. This includes those who may travel from England to an airport or seaport in Northern Ireland in order to transit onward to a final destination in Ireland.

All passengers travelling to Ireland from overseas, apart from certain limited exceptions, must fill in the COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form before they arrive into the State. This requirement does not apply to those whose journey begins in Northern Ireland, but does apply to those whose journey begins in Great Britain, including England. Passengers who may be travelling to Ireland from England via Belfast must complete the form and can indicate their final destination in Ireland within the fields provided. The COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form is now an online form.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (65)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

65. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education if a school (details supplied) can continue to use a facility for purposes such as physical education during level 5 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33960/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that Level 5 restrictions do not apply to the Education sector and on this basis any prior commitment or agreement between the two parties referred to should remain in place.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (66)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

66. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education the PPE to be worn by teachers in schools and the location in which the guidance on this can be found. [33949/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools. Each school is required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection

Following a centralised procurement process, my Department has established a multi-supplier arrangement from which schools can choose a supplier and select the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Consumables and equipment products that best suits their needs and the requirements under the Roadmap https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b264b-roadmap-for-the-full-return-to-school/ .

This ensures schools have access to, on a value for money basis, a secure supply chain of various PPE and consumables under the Roadmap and their COVID-19 School Response Plan including hand sanitisers, sanitiser fluids, face coverings/visors, gloves, wipes etc.

A COVID-19 Capitation Grant for PPE, Consumables and Equipment of €25 per pupil, with an enhanced rate of €100 per pupil attending a special school or attending a special class attached to a mainstream school will apply to fund school costs to the end of 2020. This capitation grant takes account of a number of once off type costs, which schools face in implementing COVID-19 Response Plans (i.e. installation of sanitiser units, signage/posters etc.) which will be incurred upfront.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (67)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

67. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education if teachers and special needs assistants providing intimate care are automatically deemed a close contact; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33950/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has no role in providing guidance of a clinical or medical nature. However the HPSC have recently published the following definition of a close contact in an educational setting which was communicated to all schools this week.

In accordance with current HPSC close contacts guidelines a clinical Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) will be undertaken for all educational settings where a confirmed case has attended whilst infectious. This PHRA will determine the close contacts as:

- Any person who has had face to face contact within less than 1 metre with a confirmed case of COVID-19 for >15 minutes in a school day.

- Any person who has been between 1 and 2 metres from a confirmed case of Covid-19 for >15 minutes in a school day with consideration of other mitigation measures e.g. face-coverings, pods, ventilation, IPC measures or uncertain compliance with mitigation measures in place (assessed through clinical PHRA)

Contacts are assessed from contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 during their infectious period - 48 hours before the onset of symptoms if symptomatic, or 24 hours before the test for Covid-19 was taken in those who are asymptomatic.

The response to confirmed cases or outbreaks of Covid-19 in the community or in a school is the responsibility of, and will be led and managed by, Public Health HSE. All decisions as to appropriate actions following a confirmed case or outbreak will be made by their teams in the context of a full Public Health Risk Assessment procedure.

It is the view of Public Health that the evidence available to date shows that schools are proving to be safe spaces for children and for the staff. My Department will continue to work closely with all of the education partners and the public health system so that schools can continue to be supported during this very challenging time.

Teacher Training

Ceisteanna (68)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

68. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education her views on a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33951/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

In accordance with my Department's Primary Circular 44/2019 which is available on the Department’s website under www.education.ie, schools are required to employ appropriately qualified and registered teachers and ensure that unemployed teachers should be offered employment in preference to those who have retired. Circular 44/2019 details a cascade of measures for the recruitment of teachers, prioritising registered teachers over retired registered teachers and unregistered people. These measures were taken in an effort to increase employment opportunities for unemployed teachers.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (69)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

69. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if she will respond to concerns raised by a person (details supplied) in respect of leaving certificate calculated grades; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33971/20]

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. In the absence of these examinations, every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students as possible.

The process of national standardisation, which forms a key part of the Calculated Grades process, was applied to the information provided by schools in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. In order 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 standardisations process.

These adjustments resulted in the school estimates of subject percentage marks 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.

A standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal. In the system of calculated grades, the standardisation process applied uniformly across all subject and levels and school types. 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 marks 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 it is approximately 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.

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.

The appeals process for Calculated Grades was open to students who were disappointed with the Calculated Grades they received in one or more subjects. Students unhappy with the outcome of the above process could invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These scrutineers are independent of my Department. The independent Appeals Scrutineers will check to ensure the correct procedures were followed throughout the appeals process. The scrutineers will have access to the records and documentation considered in the appeals process.

In addition, students had the option to register to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams which are due to commence on 16 November.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (70)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

70. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the average number of close contacts a positive case of Covid-19 has in a school setting (details supplied). [33996/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE have published guidance for managing potential cases of COVID-19 in educational settings, which includes the testing strategy within an educational facility ‘Schools Pathway for COVID-19, the Public Health approach’ https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/a0bff-reopening-our-primary-and-special-schools/

When a positive Covid-19 cases arises that is connected to a school community, either a staff member or a student the HSE Department of Public Health will liaise directly with schools if the case of COVID-19 was in the school during the infectious period. When public health doctors make contact with the school they will proceed to ask several questions and undertake a Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA).

As of 29 October a total of 611 education facilities (primary, post primary and special education facilities) have undergone mass testing following Public Health Risk Assessment.

The positivity rate of close contacts testing in educational facilities including primary, post-primary and special educational needs facilities is 2.6% with 15,774 close contacts tested. In comparison the positivity of testing for close contacts in the community, is approximately 10%.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (71)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the criteria and procedures used in schools to define a close contact of a Covid-19 positive person (details supplied); the persons the public health risk assessment team consult in deciding who might be a close contact; the person or body that has the final say on what a close contact is in each case; the rationale for departing from the ECDC definitions for schools settings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33997/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has no role in providing guidance of a clinical or medical nature. However the HPSC have recently published the following definition of a close contact in an educational setting which was communicated to all schools this week.

In accordance with current HPSC close contacts guidelines a clinical Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) will be undertaken for all educational settings where a confirmed case has attended whilst infectious. This PHRA will determine the close contacts as:

- Any person who has had face to face contact within less than 1 metre with a confirmed case of COVID-19 for >15 minutes in a school day.

- Any person who has been between 1 and 2 metres from a confirmed case of Covid-19 for >15 minutes in a school day with consideration of other mitigation measures e.g. face-coverings, pods, ventilation, IPC measures or uncertain compliance with mitigation measures in place (assessed through clinical PHRA)

Contacts are assessed from contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 during their infectious period - 48 hours before the onset of symptoms if symptomatic, or 24 hours before the test for Covid-19 was taken in those who are asymptomatic.

The response to confirmed cases or outbreaks of Covid-19 in the community or in a school is the responsibility of, and will be led and managed by, Public Health HSE. All decisions as to appropriate actions following a confirmed case or outbreak will be made by their teams in the context of a full Public Health Risk Assessment procedure.

It is the view of Public Health that the evidence available to date shows that schools are proving to be safe spaces for children and for the staff.

My Department will continue to work closely with all of the education partners and the public health system so that schools can continue to be supported during this very challenging time.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (72)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

72. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33999/20]

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 Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest Post Primary School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation. The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.

Bus Eireann has confirmed, that the child to whom the Deputy refers, is eligible for School Transport. Payment for School Transport for the 2020/2021 school year was received on 8th September 2020 and as such is a late payment.

Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. In addition, payments or submission of medical card details for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route.

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

School Transport

Ceisteanna (73)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

73. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education the number of concessionary pupils that were previously availing of school transport that are now unable to avail of school transport due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34011/20]

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.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

Children who apply for school transport but who are not eligible are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.

In the 2019/2020 school year, over 30,100 pupils availed of school transport on a concessionary basis. Concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s post primary school education cycle. Where the number of applications for transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann determines the allocation of the tickets using an agreed selection process.

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. The Department has also been engaging with Bus Éireann on the logistics involved with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, in line with those required on public transport, aligned to the public health advice received shortly before schools reopened which advised that the post-primary scheme should run at 50% capacity. The implementation of 50% capacity has been put in place where possible over the last number of weeks and over the coming weeks, Bus Éireann will be implementing 50% capacity on a rolling basis as soon as it is possible to do so on all remaining routes. As the additional capacity is rolled out, where spare capacity is created, further tickets will be allocated to those children eligible for the scheme who have paid late and for other applicants seeking concessionary tickets.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (74)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

74. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding leaving certificate 2021 examinations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34019/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is acutely aware of the disruption caused to students as a result of school closures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and which led the decision not to run the state examinations this summer.

In the context of the return to schools of students for the 2020/21 academic year my Department published a range of documentation and support material as part of the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, which is available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

On 21 August, I announced a series of changes that would be made to the assessment arrangements for both Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations for 2021. This announcement was accompanied by a published document detailing these changes, Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021, and forms part of the Roadmap for the Full Return to School.

These arrangements are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the 2019/20 school year and to factor in for some further possible loss of learning time in the 2020/21 school year as a contingency measure. As the loss of learning through school closures will have affected students’ engagement with their course of study in different ways, the adjustments put in place will play to students’ strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the examinations, while incorporating additional choice. The adjustments were arrived at through discussions between my Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders.

These changes to the national assessment arrangements have been made with due regard for the principles of equity, fairness and integrity, as these principles apply to assessment and examinations and refer to student to-student, subject-to-subject, and year-to-year comparisons over time.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC), which has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, intends to operate the 2021 state examinations as normally as possible, with appropriate contingency built in, in line with prevailing public health advice. It is not intended that there would be any change to the length of the written examinations. For subjects where the SEC issues project briefs during the 2020/21 school year, the intention is to issue these at least four weeks earlier than normal. For subjects with course work completion dates typically late in the school year, schools will be asked to submit this coursework two weeks earlier than normal as a contingency measure. In this context teachers are being encouraged to plan and undertake these projects as early as possible in the programme of study.

Other documents published by the Department to support the return to school include Guidance for Practical Subjects in Post-Primary Schools and Centres for Education and Returning to school: Guidance on learning and school programmes for post primary school leaders and teachers. These documents provide guidance for teachers and schools that is specific to each practical subject area, so that students can be facilitated to actively engage with their learning. All documentation published is available on www.gov.ie/backtoschool

The www.gov.ie/backtoschool site also contains information on wellbeing supports for Leaving Certificate students. This includes a series of supports on managing wellbeing, coping with uncertainty and managing stress and anxiety, developed by the National Educational Psychological Service, to support students. The webpage has links to more individualised support for students to access, should these be needed. My Department worked with the Department of Health and the HSE to ensure the most appropriate services and resources are clearly signposted for students.

Promoting the wellbeing of school communities has been a fundamental element of my Department’s overall plan to support a successful return to school as we continue to manage the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We know that most students have been happy and relieved to get back to school, reconnect and prepare to re-engage with learning. The Department is providing for approximately 120 extra posts for guidance to support student wellbeing, recognising the particular importance for this support in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic challenges.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (75)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

75. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education if she will provide school transport for up to 30 students that attend secondary schools in Kilkenny city and require transport from Thomastown, County Kilkenny in view of the fact that they have no transport due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34020/20]

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 my Department’s Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms atand are attending their nearest School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

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

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

Bus Éireann has advised that in general, pupils who reside in Thomastown, Kilkenny are not eligible for school transport to Kilkenny Post Primary Centre as it is not their closest Post Primary Centre.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (76, 77, 78, 81)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

76. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the amount outstanding to the contractor following the termination of the obligation to complete the construction of the new school building at a school (details supplied); if her Department or the design team are still in dialogue with the former contractor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34026/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

77. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education if a sum of money was paid or agreed to be paid to the contractor following the termination of the obligation to complete the construction of the new school building at a school (details supplied) as compensation for terminating the contract; if so, the amount; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34027/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

78. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the amount being held in a bond with respect to a project (details supplied); the other sums retained following the termination of the obligation to complete the construction of the new school; the basis for their retention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34028/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

81. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the timeframe for the temporary school building erected and currently occupied at a school (details supplied) was tendered for; the number of tenders received for this building; the amount that has been spent to date on this building; the person or body that was the successful contractor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34045/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 77, 78 and 81 together.

The tender package for the project at the school referred to by the Deputy included a requirement for the provision of temporary accommodation for the duration of the construction period. In that regard, all the contractors who tendered for the contract tendered for the provision of temporary accommodation. The successful tenderer was PJ McLaughlin.

The temporary accommodation that was installed on site when the main Contractor commenced construction remains on site and is the only accommodation available to the school until the new school building is completed. The provision of this accommodation was an integral part of the tender and the Contract awarded and is not available as a separate sum.

The value of the Bond put in place at the start of the Contract is €1,062,424 representing 12.5% of the contract amount. The Bond remains in place and will called upon by the school to cover its costs in completing the construction of the new school. The Bondsman has been duly notified.

The Contractors obligation to complete the works was terminated under Clause 12.1.1(3) of the Public Works Contract in March of this year. Clause 12.1.1(3) of the Contract provides that “The Employer may … terminate the Contractors obligation to complete the Works if … the Contractor fails to proceed regularly and diligently with the execution of the Works”.

There are no monies owing to the Contractor following the termination notice.

The school, with funding from my Department, has fully paid the main contractor for all works completed on-site up to the date of the termination of works.

There is no provision within the Public Works Contract for any compensation to the Contractor following a termination notice. No amounts have been paid or been agreed to be paid in this respect.

The Contractor continues to periodically send letters and emails to the school and its design team. These are responded to by the school and its design team based on legal advice and with assistance from my Department.

The Board of Management are in the process of appointing a new Contractor to complete the envelope of the building including finishing the installation of all windows, sealing the roof and making the site safe. It is envisaged that that this Contractor will commence work in November.

The school's Design Team are also currently working to complete tender documentation in order to hold a tender competition to appoint a Completion Contractor to finish out the building. It is anticipated that the Completion Contractor will be appointed when the work to seal the building has been completed.

When the new school building is completed and occupied by the school, the school and its design team will make arrangements with PJ McLaughlin to remove the temporary accommodation from the site at that time.

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