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Gnáthamharc

Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 388-412

Schools Amalgamation

Ceisteanna (388)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

388. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education the consultation process required when an application for amalgamation of schools has been made; and if there is a statutory duty in this regard. [29121/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the decision-making authority for any amalgamation is the patron/trustees of the schools concerned, it is open to any patron to submit proposals to the Department for consideration.

Any proposed change involves extensive negotiations at local level and must be well planned and managed in a manner that accommodates the interests of students, parents, teachers, local communities and contributes to an inclusive education system.

The Patron and relevant stakeholders are also advised to consider the implications that any amalgamation proposal may have on items such as school accommodation, funding, staffing and school transport so that an informed decision can be made.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (389)

Joe O'Brien

Ceist:

389. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Education if efforts will be made to ensure inclusivity and visibility of breastfeeding families in school textbooks and curricula; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29124/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Some curriculum specifications and the various syllabuses have specific curriculum content related to this topic. In subjects or modules where it is not specifically mentioned the topic of breastfeeding may occur during class conversation and through interactions with students.

For example, from a nutritional aspect the subject of breastfeeding may come up in Post Primary Home Economics when discussing healthy lifestyles and nutritional requirements across all ages. In the Leaving Certificate Applied Childcare/Community care module on the care of babies and young children, Unit 1 addresses breast and bottle feeding.

From a social aspect, Junior Cycle Home Economics includes Strand Two on exploring the roles and responsibilities of the family while Leaving Certificate Home Economics includes Topic 3.1.6: Family As A Caring Unit. In Leaving Certificate Applied Social Education,the module on Social and Health Education, Unit 2: Relationships –  the topic may be covered while discussing parenting and the needs that children have at various stages of their development.

Further relevant subjects would be within the SPHE curriculum. Junior Cycle SPHE Strand Two: Minding Myself and Others contains learning outcomes 2.3: describe what promotes a sense of belonging in school, at home and in the wider community and their own role in creating an inclusive environment and 2.4: distinguish between appropriate care giving and receiving. At Leaving Certificate level, SPHE aims to develop health literacy, both for the individual student and for groups. Health literacy is the capacity of individuals to obtain discerningly, interpret and understand health information; this includes the confidence to access health services and the competence to use such information and services in ways that enhance health. Once students’ health literacy skills are developed, they will be able to seek out relevant knowledge and information using a variety of sources including digital sources.

Additionally, the Department of Health has produced a Breastfeeding Information Pack for Junior Cycle students in Irish Secondary Schools.

The Information Pack was commissioned jointly by the Department of Health and the HSE Population Health Directorate, and developed by researchers from Health Promotion, Training & Support Services and Elm Training under the direction of a multidisciplinary, multisectoral expert advisory committee with representation from the relevant statutory and voluntary health services, SPHE coordinators and teachers from the relevant education sectors. The views and opinions of Junior Cycle students from a diversity of urban and rural schools were also pivotal in the development of the Information Pack.

The rationale for the initiative is contained in Action 42 of ‘Breastfeeding in Ireland: A Five Year Strategic Action Plan’ (Department of Health and Children, Oct. 2005), which recommended introducing breastfeeding information and promotion to schoolchildren at all levels of education within the context of the SPHE curriculum.

In general, my Department does not have a role in approving, commissioning, sponsoring or endorsing any content in any educational textbook. The current policy within my Department is not to endorse any particular product or publication, including textbooks. There are a small number of exceptions where my Department has procured textbooks or resources in order to fill a need – for example with Leaving certificate Japanese and Italian. However, as with all textbooks there is no obligation for a school to use these in their delivery of the curriculum. Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at post-primary, determined by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the decisions on which textbooks to use in primary and post-primary schools are taken at school level.

The majority of textbooks are commissioned and published by educational publishers, and schools select their books from those available from a number of publishers. The Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) meets with the NCCA in order to discuss the curriculum and to be made aware of any requirements in the curriculum. However the content of any individual textbook is determined by the publisher themselves, and therefore any queries regarding specific content in any particular textbook should be directed to the publisher.

The role of the school is to provide an appropriate education for all its pupils.  A stable, secure learning environment is an essential requirement to achieve this goal.  Schools have autonomy in choosing the resources and programmes that best support the work within their own classrooms

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (390)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

390. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education if a policy is in place to ensure that in areas in which new schools are needed that the facilities of existing schools do not become neglected which could lead to an undesirable migration to the newer schools with the more modern facilities as in the case of Howth, Dublin 13, planning area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29157/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

New schools are established by my Department on the basis of identified demographic demand in an area, and only after consideration of the capacity of existing schools to absorb the expected school place demand.  Furthermore, such new schools are required to build their enrolments incrementally, with an intake of Junior Infants or First Years each year, in order to mitigate any impact on the enrolments at other schools in the area.  As the new school’s enrolment capacity, therefore, increases in tandem with emerging demographic demand, it is not expected that there would be a shift in pupil attendance from existing to newer schools.

Under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme.  This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand. The main focus of resources over the last decade and for the coming period is on provision of additional capacity to cater for increasing demographics.  The second half of the NDP (from 2023 onwards) will see an increasing focus on the upgrade and refurbishment of the existing school stock.

Under the Ireland Project 2040, we will invest €8.4 billion (compared to €4.9 billion in the previous decade) in primary and post primary school buildings.

The immediate priority of my Department is providing new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (391)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

391. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education the status of contacts with a school (details supplied) in respect of the need for a new building programme at the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29189/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy contacted my Department’s Planning and Building Unit last year seeking a new school building. The school authority were advised that as their school was not on the Department’s Capital programme, it was not possible to proceed with a new school building project at this time. They were advised that as part of the Schools Deep Energy Retrofit Programme, all schools built prior to 2008 will be eligible under the national programme of works within the National Development Plan commencing from 2023 to have an energy retrofit carried out with a view to increasing comfort levels and reducing CO2 emissions and energy bills.

The school authority were also advised that the Department’s Additional Accommodation Scheme is available should the school require additional accommodation and the Emergency Works Scheme could be used to address any immediate Health and Safety issues.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (392)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

392. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education her plans for an unused site at (details supplied) which was previously used for temporary accommodation; if her attention has been drawn to the local interest in the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29190/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My officals are currently reviewing this matter and will follow up directly with the Deputy's office.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (393)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

393. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education the status of an application to the emergency works scheme by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29239/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school in question have submitted an application under my Departments Emergency Works Scheme. The school have been asked to provide additional information in support of their applicaiton, this information has not been received to date.

On receipt of the additional information the application will be assessed and a decision will issue to the school via Esinet.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (394, 395)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

394. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education if secondary school principals have the authority to remove a subject from the school syllabus for leaving certificate if there are fewer than ten students willing to participate in that subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29240/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

395. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education the options available to fifth year students whose school refuses to offer them their subjects of choice for the leaving certificate thus affecting their career path and future when there is a dedicated teacher in the school already teaching the subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29241/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 395 together.

Teacher allocations to all second level schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. In accordance with these rules, each school management authority is required to organise its subject options within the limit of its approved teacher allocation. It is a matter for the school to employ teachers up to the limit of its approved allocation and at its discretion to deploy those teachers to the subject areas that the school chooses to provide.

A school authority may, from time to time, encounter unanticipated difficulty which it has not been in a position to immediately resolve, through its school planning and management processes in meeting essential curricular commitments to pupils within the normal staffing allocation. In such circumstances, my Department will consider requests by a school authority for a staffing concession as short-term support i.e. curricular concessions.

If a School Authority is not satisfied with the decision of the Department in regard to its application for a curricular concession, it may appeal to the Post Primary Independent Appeals Board. The Post Primary Appeals Board, which operates independently of the Department, considers appeals by school authorities against decisions of the Department in regard to teaching staff allocations to all Second Level Schools. The Board will only consider appeals made by the relevant school management authority and its decisions are final. 

School Staff

Ceisteanna (396)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

396. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to a matter regarding a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29243/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

For the 2021/22 school year, an improvement of one point in the appointment threshold in primary schools has been introduced and schools will be provided with class teachers on the basis of of 1 teacher for every 25 pupils which is a historical low ratio.  In addition, a three point reduction in the retention scale has also been introduced for September 2021.  These measures will help to ensure that less pupils are required to recruit or retain a teacher.

The staffing process contains an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Primary Staffing Appeals Board. The school referred to by the Deputy submitted a staffing appeal which was refused by the Appeals Board as the grounds of the appeal did not warrant a departure from the staffing schedule.  The school has been notified of this decision.  The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable operation of schools including illustrative Primary Classroom Layouts to facilitate physical distancing requirements for primary schools. Each school should use their COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with the public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps school must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. The Department's guidance to schools is that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.).

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (397)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

397. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to a matter regarding a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29244/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that my Department has been in contact with the Parish in relation to potential acquisition of Booterstown Parish Hall.

An assessment and valuation of the hall is currently being carried out and once completed, my Department will be in a position to enter into negotiations for the potential acquisition of the hall.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (398)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

398. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if a school (details supplied) has accepted its offer of temporary accommodation for September 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29247/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers was established in September 2019 and is currently located in interim accommodation at Kill Lane, Deansgrange, Co. Dublin, which can accommodate 2 x mainstream classrooms plus ancillary space. It should be noted that the school authorities were informed before occupying Kill Lane that it would be for a two year period only; they were aware that a move to alternative interim accommodation would be required for the 2021 academic year to cater for the schools growing enrolments. 

There is insufficient accommodation in the existing building to cater for the 2021 academic year.  As a result, officials in my Department have put the necessary arrangements in place to relocate the school to a premises at Eblana Avenue in Dún Laoghaire, which is under the ownership of Dublin Dún Laoghaire Education Training Board (DDLETB). This alternative interim accommodation will suitably accommodate the schools growing enrolments for the academic years 2021 and 2022 pending provision of their permanent school project. My Department issued both verbal and written communication on Wednesday 28 April 2021, informing the Patron of these arrangements and my officials understand that the school was in turn informed of this communication the same day.

My Department has made these arrangements and communicated them to the school through its Patron Body.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (399)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

399. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the case of a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29248/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A new model for allocating Special Education Teachers to mainstream schools was introduced from September 2017, based on the profiled needs of schools.

The allocations were updated for schools with effect from September 2019, with limited readjustments being applied for at that time.

The allocations have remained in place for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 school years, with some adjustments made over the course of the model for schools which achieved developing status, or successfully appealed on the grounds of exceptional circumstances arising in their schools. Allocations are also provided for new schools which open each year.

DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019, stated that the allocations being made for 2019 would initially remain in place for a minimum of two years, following which, revised profiled allocations would be considered for schools from September 2021.

The NCSE Policy advice ‘A Proposed new Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs (2014)’ on which the SET allocation model is based, recommended that ‘the additional teaching supports be left in place initially for a two-year period. As the new model becomes embedded in the system, this may be extended to three years.’

In order to minimise disruption for schools, in the current circumstances, and to provide for continuity of allocations, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Special Education and Inclusion have agreed to maintain the existing Special Education Teacher Allocations for schools for the 2021/22 school year, with re profiled allocations now due to be made from September 2022.

Additional allocations will continue to be made for new schools, schools which achieve developing status, or for exceptional circumstances arising in schools, in the interim.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2021/22 school year.

Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

There are now over 13,600 Special Education Teachers allocated to mainstream primary and post primary schools.

This represents an increase of 40% in the total number of special education teachers allocated to schools since 2011, at which time 9740 teachers were allocated.

Maintaining the existing allocations of Special Education Teachers for the 2021/22 school year means that schools will not have to engage in an extensive redeployment of posts, or re-clustering, this year.

It also means that schools will have greater levels of certainty as to the staff that they will have in place for September.

No school will see a cut, or reduction, to their special education teaching support next year.

Where schools have growing enrolments year on year, they will receive an increased allocation, pending the next re-profiling.

Even in circumstances where some schools were anticipating a greater level of increase year on year, if full re profiling had occurred next year, the increased allocations for developing status combined with the existing allocation of the school will show an increased overall teacher allocation for these schools in 2021/22.

The allocations for 2021/22 which are being maintained comprise the allocations which were made for schools from September 2019 plus any additionality achieved since plus any developing hours for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 school years.

It is also acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the allocations for developing school status.

These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

A process is available where schools can seek a review of their allocations by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.  

I understand that this school has advised that they intend to submit an application for a review of their special education teacher allocations to the NCSE, and this application will then be considered by that body.

Based on the enrolments projected by the school for September 2021, the school is also due to receive some additional allocation of Special Education Teaching hours for Spetember, based on the fact that the school will have increased enrolments.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (400)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

400. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the case of a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29249/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Teacher allocations to all schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment on the previous 30 September.  The criteria for the allocation of posts are communicated to school managements annually and are available on the Department website (circular 0005/2021).    

Each school receives an allocation in respect of Guidance Provision, calculated in accordance with circular 0005/2021 and by reference to the approved enrolment. 

The allocation for Guidance Provision is provided separately and transparently on each school’s staffing schedule.  These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school in accordance with the school’s Guidance Plan.  

As part of COVID-19 operational supports for the current school year, an additional allocation in respect of Guidance Provision has been provided to all schools to support student wellbeing. This additional allocation has also been allocated to schools for the 2021/22 school year.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (401)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

401. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education if consideration will be given to seizures as a result of epilepsy prior to or during State examinations being included in the scheme of reasonable accommodations at certificate examinations; if examination candidates who suffered a seizure will be given the opportunity to re-sit any impacted examinations with the same examination cycle; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29285/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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

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

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (402)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

402. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education the status of and the time schedule planned for the completion of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [29295/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The permanent school building project for the school referred to by the Deputy has been assigned to my Department’s Design & Build delivery programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tender and construction.

The design stage is nearing completion and the Project Manager for the Design & Build programme is working towards submission of the planning application in Quarter 2 2021. An on-line meeting to share the plans with the school representatives has been held.

Until such time as planning permission has been secured, it will not be possible to provide a timeline for progression of the project to tender and construction stages.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (403)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

403. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education the funding options available for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29297/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has received an application for capital funding, under the 'Additional School Accommodation (ASA) Scheme', from the school authority in question. This application is under assessment by my officials and a decision will be issued to the school authority upon completion of this assessment process.  

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (404)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

404. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education the nature of the data breaches experienced by her Department since 2018. [29305/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on 25 May 2018 and any personal data breaches since its introduction are dealt with under the regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

Article 4 of the GDPR defines a data breach as “‘a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed”.  

Over 90% of the data breaches that occurred in my Department since 2018 are classified as unauthorised disclosure of personal data, while the balance involved the loss of personal data. Data breaches which occurred in my Department were reported to the Data Protection Commission in line with the requirements of the legislation.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (405)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

405. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education the position regarding an application by a school (details supplied); if design approval for this building project will be approved shortly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29339/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding was approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2019 to enable the school in question to build one mainstream classroom with ensuite toilets.  Approval to combine a summer works project for a roof upgrade along with enabling works to provide toilets for this September has also been granted as part of this project. 

The project has been devolved for delivery to the School Authority and a consultant has been procured.  My Department is currently awaiting a Stage 1/2A report to be submitted for assessment. 

School Staff

Ceisteanna (406, 407)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

406. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of a reduction of one at all points of the staffing schedule for primary schools from September 2022; and the net number of teaching posts involved in view of her Department’s predictions of a continuing fall in primary school enrolments. [29342/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

407. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education her plans to reduce class sizes in primary schools in budget 2022 in view of the finding in the statistical bulletin of July 2020 of her Department that there has been little change in average class size in primary schools over the past 20 years and her public comments in support of further reducing class sizes. [29343/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 406 and 407 together.

Under the Programme for Government there is a commitment to seek to make further progress in reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools.

For the 2021/22 school year, an improvement of one point in the appointment threshold in primary schools has been introduced and schools will be provided with class teachers on the basis of of 1 teacher for every 25 pupils which is a historical low ratio. Lower thresholds are in place for DEIS Urban Band 1 schools. In addition, a three point reduction in the retention scale has also been introduced for September 2021. These measures will help to ensure that less pupils are required to recruit or retain a teacher.

The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2019/20 school year. Average class sizes improved from 24.9 to 24.1 in the same period. The recent improvement in the staffing schedule will continue the positive trend of improvement in the pupil teacher ratio and class sizes.

Each one point adjustment to the primary staffing schedule requires in the region of 300 posts, at an approximate cost of €14.5 million.

Any further improvement in the staffing schedule will be considered in the context of the annual budgetary process.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (408)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

408. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education the estimated annual cost of providing on an ongoing basis release time for administrative and management purposes of one day per week for each teaching principal of a primary school; her plans to bring this about as standard in view of the increased workload and demands on principal teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29344/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of the supports provided under The Roadmap for the Full Return to School, specific funding was provided to support Principals who undertake teaching duties in primary schools.  This funding provides each teaching principal with a minimum of one release day per week.  More than 1,700 primary schools with teaching principals have benefitted from the increase in release days.

The annual cost of one release day per week for each school with a teaching principal is in the region of €17 million. 

Schools have been advised that, in the context of COVID-19, the additional allocation of Principal Release Days outlined in Circular 45/2020, "COVID-19 Operational Supports for the Full Return to School" will remain in place for the 2021/22 school year and each school with a teaching principal will have 37 Principal Release Days. 

Making standard one release day per week for teaching principals is a budgetary matter and therefore would have to be considered in the context of the annual budgetary process. 

School Staff

Question No. 410 answered with Question No. 385.

Ceisteanna (409)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

409. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if she will address a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29469/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.  The staffing schedule operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location.

For the 2021/22 school year, an improvement of one point in the appointment threshold in primary schools has been introduced and schools will be provided with class teachers on the basis of of 1 teacher for every 25 pupils which is a historical low ratio.  In addition, a three point reduction in the retention scale has also been introduced for September 2021.  These measures will help to ensure that less pupils are required to recruit or retain a teacher.

My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable operation of schools including illustrative Primary Classroom Layouts to facilitate physical distancing requirements for primary schools. Each school should use their COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with the public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps school must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. The Department's guidance to schools is that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.).  

The staffing process contains an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Primary Staffing Appeals Board. My Department has not received a staffing appeal from the school referred to by the Deputy.  The next meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board will be held in June.  The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Question No. 410 answered with Question No. 385.

Schools Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (411)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

411. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education the amount spent to date on the refurbishment of a school (details supplied); when this project will move to the next phase of works; and the estimated total cost of this project. [29484/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has provided capital grants of circa € 2.25 million to the school referred to by the Deputy since 2008 for various refurbishment works.  

As the Deputy will be aware, a major capital project for the school is included in the Department's school building programme and my Department is currently engaging with the school patron in this regard.  The estimated cost is not available at this stage. 

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (412)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

412. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education if she will review the decision to refuse additional special education teaching supports in mainstream classes on the grounds of exceptional circumstances for a school (details supplied) in view of the increased number of students who are in need of additional supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29501/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A new model for allocating Special Education Teachers to mainstream schools was introduced from September 2017, based on the profiled needs of schools.

The allocations were updated for schools with effect from September 2019, with limited readjustments being applied for at that time.

The allocations have remained in place for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 school years, with some adjustments made over the course of the model for schools which achieved developing status, or successfully appealed on the grounds of exceptional circumstances arising in their schools. Allocations are also provided for new schools which open each year.

DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019, stated that the allocations being made for 2019 would initially remain in place for a minimum of two years, following which, revised profiled allocations would be considered for schools from September 2021.

The NCSE Policy advice ‘A Proposed new Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs (2014)’ on which the SET allocation model is based, recommended that ‘the additional teaching supports be left in place initially for a two-year period. As the new model becomes embedded in the system, this may be extended to three years.’

In order to minimise disruption for schools, in the current circumstances, and to provide for continuity of allocations, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Special Education and Inclusion have agreed to maintain the existing Special Education Teacher Allocations for schools for the 2021/22 school year, with re profiled allocations now due to be made from September 2022.

Additional allocations will continue to be made for new schools, schools which achieve developing status, or for exceptional circumstances arising in schools, in the interim.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2021/22 school year.

Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

There are now over 13,600 Special Education Teachers allocated to mainstream primary and post primary schools.

This represents an increase of 40% in the total number of special education teachers allocated to schools since 2011, at which time 9740 teachers were allocated.

Maintaining the existing allocations of Special Education Teachers for the 2021/22 school year means that schools will not have to engage in an extensive redeployment of posts, or re-clustering, this year.

It also means that schools will have greater levels of certainty as to the staff that they will have in place for September.

No school will see a cut, or reduction, to their special education teaching support next year.

Where schools have growing enrolments year on year, they will receive an increased allocation, pending the next re-profiling.

Even in circumstances where some schools were anticipating a greater level of increase year on year, if full re profiling had occurred next year, the increased allocations for developing status combined with the existing allocation of the school will show an increased overall teacher allocation for these schools in 2021/22.

The allocations for 2021/22 which are being maintained comprise the allocations which were made for schools from September 2019 plus any additionality achieved since plus any developing hours for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 school years.

It is also acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the allocations for developing school status.

These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

As this school is aware, a process is available where schools can seek a review of their allocations by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.  

As the NCSE is an independent body which has a statutory function to access and review the resources required to provide for special education, where a school has concerns about the outcome of a review conducted by the NCSE, the school should raise that matter directly with the NCSE.

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