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Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 245-264

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (245)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

245. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of a passport application for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58069/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

With regard to the specific application about which the Deputy has enquired, the Passport Service has issued a passport to the applicant.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (246)

Paul Donnelly

Ceist:

246. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason there is no provision within the Passport Office for persons with hearing difficulties or that are profoundly deaf to communicate by telephone (details supplied). [58082/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs recognizes the right of Irish Sign Language users to use Irish Sign Language as their native language in accordance with the Irish Sign Language Act 2017.

The Passport Service, as a public office, has a number of staff members who are available to interpret with members of the public availing of its passport services. A member of the public who may require the assistance of an Irish Sign Language Interpreter during an appointment at the public office can indicate this when booking their appointment online. A dedicated member of staff will be available to interpret and assist during their appointment.

Passport Customer Service is available Monday to Friday, from 9am to 4:30pm by WebChat on my Department's website (www.dfa.ie/passports). The WebChat facility offers all customers live interaction with customer service officers who can advise on matters relating to the passport application process.

Customers can also contact my Department's Disability Inquiry Officer via the website (www.dfa.ie/about-us/contact-us/) and their case will be communicated to the Passport Service who can facilitate their request.

In order to safeguard the privacy of customers, the Passport Service must obtain explicit consent from a passport applicant before relaying information regarding their application to a third party.

In the absence of any identifying details in this case, the Passport Service is unable to comment further on the specific incident raised by the Deputy and regrets if any inconvenience has been caused. The Passport Service would be happy to contact the customer involved directly for further follow up.

Passport Services

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 247.

Ceisteanna (247, 248)

James Lawless

Ceist:

247. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the passport application of a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58106/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Lawless

Ceist:

248. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the passport application of a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58107/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

With regard to the specific applications about which the Deputy has enquired, the Passport Service has provided an update on the status of the passport applications to the applicants' parent.

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 247.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (249)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

249. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason an online adult passport renewal application by a person (details supplied) has been allocated an estimated issue date of 40 working days on the passport tracking service when it should be renewed within ten days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58116/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

With regard to the specific application about which the Deputy has enquired, the applicant applied for a first time passport when completing the application form online. The estimated issue date given is in line with processing times for first time applications.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (250)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

250. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council and at the United Nations the widespread concerns in relation to the military and security forces coup in Sudan and the resultant human rights issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58230/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

After almost 30 years of military dictatorship, the 2019 people’s revolution put Sudan on the path to democratic civilian government. The military coup, which began on 24/25 October, represents a major setback to this transition.

The military leadership’s violent crackdown on the country’s civilian and civil society leadership, mass detention of protestors, attacks on medical personnel and facilities, and methodical dismantling of transitional institutions are utterly unacceptable. The actions of the military, both army and former militia leaders and signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement, have put in jeopardy the hard-won transition, and the legitimate wishes of the Sudanese people for freedom, peace, justice and inclusive development. They also have worrying implications for peace and security in the region more broadly.

Sudan’s democratic transition is too important to fail, for the people of Sudan, and for the stability of the Horn of Africa region as a whole. The release and reinstatement of Prime Minister Hamdok on 21 November must be accompanied by an immediate halt to violence and repression, and the freeing of all civilian leaders and political detainees. Telecommunications must also be fully restored. Credible discussions can then commence on a way forward which honours the demands of the Sudanese people for freedom, peace and justice and puts the country back on the path to democracy.

Ireland welcomed the decision of the African Union (AU) last month to suspend Sudan from AU activities until “the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority”. We are also closely following efforts by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, Volker Perthes, in Khartoum, and the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, to engage with Sudanese and regional stakeholders.

Ireland supported a strong Security Council Press Statement on 28 October condemning the coup, and was unequivocal in denouncing the action by Sudan’s military leaders at two Security Council meetings on Sudan, most recently on 11 November. We continue to keep further Council action under consideration as the situation unfolds, including through the three Sudan-focused mandates over which the Council presides: UNITAMS (UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan), UNISFA (Interim Security Force for Abyei) and the Sudan sanctions regime. Ireland has also supported a strong EU response. High Representative Josep Borrell issued a statement on 26 October on behalf of the 27 EU Member States warning of serious consequences if the move to dismantle the transitional government was not reversed. The situation was also discussed by Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 November.On 19 November in the wake of the killing and injury of over 100 peaceful protesters in Khartoum, Minister Coveney issued a statement condemning the reckless and unlawful actions of the coup leaders and undertaking to consider what further measures might be taken to protect and reset the path to democratic transition, and to maintain peace and security. Ireland is ready to consider further restrictive or financial measures, including under the EU’s Global Human Rights sanctions regime, while keeping in mind the increasing humanitarian needs on the ground. Ireland joined calls for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Sudan on 5 November where we commended the courage of the Sudanese people and urged the military authorities to fully respect the rights of peaceful assembly. As the crisis evolves, my officials, including through our Embassy in Nairobi accredited to Sudan, will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with our partners for a cohesive collective response, and for a restoration of the democratic transition.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (251)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

251. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had recent contact with his counterparts in the Northern Ireland Executive and in the British Government in relation to the unacceptable proposal by the British Government to introduce a statute of limitations which would end all criminal investigations and prosecutions in relation to the perpetration of serious crimes during the era known as the Troubles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57967/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

We have strongly communicated our position on this issue to the British Government and will continue to do so, and to caution in the clearest terms against any unilateral action.

It has been the consistent position of the Government that the Stormont House Agreement provides a balanced and comprehensive framework to address the painful legacy of the Troubles based on the principles of truth, justice, rule of law and reconciliation. Progress on its implementation is crucial, for families and victims and for society as a whole. It was agreed in 2014 by both Governments and the political parties after intensive negotiations, and it should be implemented.

Where the British Government propose significant changes to the Stormont House framework, these must be discussed and agreed by both Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive. Only through a collective approach can we hope to deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly and in a way that responds to the needs of victims, survivors and society.

Following a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 24 June, we agreed to begin an intensive process of engagement with the British Government and the Northern Ireland parties to find an agreed way forward. Discussions began in July and since then, officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs have met a broad range of stakeholders. Importantly, this process has engaged fully with victims’ representatives. The intention is to find an agreed way forward that will allow implementing legislation to be introduced in both the UK and Ireland.

The proposals published by the British Government on 14 July for a ‘Statute of Limitations’, ending criminal investigations and prosecutions relating to Troubles-related incidents, as well as inquests and civil litigation, have caused significant upset, shock and concern. They represent a very radical departure from the Stormont House Agreement and we do not accept them as the basis of a way forward. It is important to say that there has been a clear message from victims groups throughout this process that this cannot be the way forward. It has also been strongly and publicly opposed by all the parties.

I have engaged regularly with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, who is leading for the British Government on these proposals, including a meeting in person on 3 September in relation to the ongoing legacy engagement process. I also met with the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, on 16 September during which legacy, amongst other issues, was discussed. My officials have also stayed in regular contact with their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Office.

It is the position of the Government that there should be effective investigations into all Troubles-related deaths, regardless of the perpetrator. The rule of law and the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights must apply equally to everyone and must be upheld, and this principle is at the core of the Stormont House framework.

The Government will continue to engage and work with the British Government and the parties represented on the Northern Ireland Executive on this very important issue in the period immediately ahead, including in upcoming meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

Cybersecurity Policy

Ceisteanna (252)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

252. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces are adequately resourced to deal with cybersecurity issues in view of the dangers posed by cybercriminals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58222/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My colleague Minister Ryan, as Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, has overall responsibility for cyber security at a national level. The National Cyber Security Centre in his Department is the national response authority for cyber security incidents. But, of course, response to cyber threats is a whole-of-Government challenge with inputs in the security domain from An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

The primary responsibility of the Defence Forces relates to the defence and security of their own networks and systems. However, as in any emergency situation, once Defence systems are supported, the Department of Defence and Defence Forces provide support to the National Cyber Security Centre. For example, during the recent cyberattack on the HSE, the Defence Forces supported the response to it including provision of operational support to the HSE and, in particular, logistical and organisational support.

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces are committed to participating, under the leadership of the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, in the delivery of measures to improve the Cyber Security of the State. This is being done in line with the Programme for Government commitment to implement the National Cyber Security Strategy, recognizing the potential and important role of the Defence Forces.

To this end, officials from the Department of Defence and members of the Defence Forces are actively involved in implementing the National Cyber Security Strategy such as through secondment of an officer to the Cyber Security Centre of Excellence in Estonia and departmental membership of the Inter-Departmental Committee overseeing implementation of the National Cyber Security Strategy.

This Inter-Departmental Committee has recently been charged with the additional work of overseeing the plan to significantly expand the National Cyber Security Centre so that it can further develop its competence and capacity to help defend and protect IT systems and key services into the future.

For operational security reasons, no public comment will be made regarding Defence Forces Cyber Capability but I would note that the establishment of an independent Commission on the Defence Forces underpins the Government's commitment to ensuring that the Defence Forces are fit for purpose, both in terms of meeting immediate requirements and also in terms of seeking to develop a longer term vision beyond 2030. Amongst the issues that the Commission is examining are Defence Force capabilities, structures and staffing in a number of areas. The Commission is due to submit their report by the end of the year and I look forward to receiving the report in due course. The recommendations will then be fully considered and will inform future decisions regarding the DefenceForces.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (253)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

253. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education the funding streams that are available for a programme (details supplied) to be able to buy a bus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58042/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department does not provide funding to programmes such as the one referred to by the Deputy to purchase means of transport.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (254)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

254. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education when a decision will be made on a school transport request (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58092/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2020/2021 school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, were transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time for the 2021/22 school year are accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and are offered seats where capacity exists after all eligible children have been catered for.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that the family to which the Deputy refers can be facilitated as they have requested on a school transport service.

The Bus Éireann local office will be in direct contact with the family in respect of travel arrangements.

Public Sector Staff

Ceisteanna (255)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

255. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if she will clarify the position in relation to the type of sick leave which applies in a scenario (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58100/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Public Service Sick Leave Scheme, which applies to teachers, is regulated by the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations 2014, SI 124 of 2014, as amended by the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, SI 384 of 2015. The Sick Leave Scheme for teachers is contained in my Department’s Circular Letter 54/2019.

Under the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme, a pregnant teacher who is certified as medically unfit for work due to a pregnancy related illness i.e. Pregnancy Related Sick Leave (PRSL), will receive not less than half rate of pay for the duration of this absence. This provision is regardless of whether the teacher has reached the maximum Sick Leave limits for half rate of pay, due to Sick Leave taken in the rolling 4 year period.

Where Sick Leave is availed of, within the rolling 4 year period, following a period of PRSL:-

(a) the period of PRSL will not be counted to establish the teacher’s entitlement to paid Sick Leave , subject to the overall Sick Leave limits.

(b) the period of PRSL will be counted to establish the actual rate of pay (full/half) for the Sick Leave period, based on the teacher’s Sick Leave record over the previous rolling 1 year period, subject to the overall Sick Leave limits.

Under the Maternity Leave Scheme for teachers, full Maternity Leave entitlements apply in the event of a stillbirth, or miscarriage, any time after the 24th week of pregnancy or where the child has a birth weight of at least 500 grammes.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (256)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

256. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 117 of 3 November 2021, if there are plans in place for the provision of in-school teaching for children in ASD classes in mainstream schools in the event of school closures which may occur as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; if such plans have been agreed to by all of the education partners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58121/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that schools can operate safely has been a key priority for Government. The Department of Education has an ongoing close working relationship with the Department of Health and the HSE throughout the pandemic in order to support and advise schools about the appropriate infection prevention control measures to ensure that schools can operate safely.

As the rest of our society and economy is now fully reopened it remains a key objective of Government that pupils/students and school staff can continue to attend school safely. In that context there are no plans for further school closures.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (257)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

257. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education the status of the planned timetable for the building of the new secondary school in Citywest, Dublin. [58132/21]

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 final grant of planning for the project was received in March 2021. My Department’s Project Manager together with their Design Team are engaged in the preparation of tender documentation for the project. Once this stage is complete, the project will then proceed to tender stage.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (258)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

258. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education if her Department plans to reduce capacity on school buses from 100% back to 50% in view of the rising number of Covid-19 cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58142/21]

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 2020/21 school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, were transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

Planning for school transport scheme services for the 2021/22 school year proceeded on the basis that the public health measures in place as schools closed at the end of the last school year would remain as the term began in this new school year. This included the operation of post-primary services at 50% capacity, in addition to hygiene measures and the wearing of masks on-board. The Department has kept this position under review as the vaccination programme for children on post-primary services was rolled out and as the lifting of restrictions on public transport services proceeded.

In line with the lifting of restrictions on public transport, and with effect from the return of schools following the October mid-term break, implementation commenced for post-primary school transport services to resume operating at 100% capacity. This process will take a period of time to re-organise and re-schedule services and communications will be issued to families regarding any revised arrangements.

All other measures relating to hygiene, pre-assigned seating, cleaning and the wearing of masks by post-primary students will remain in place subject to further review and my Department continues to provide funding for all additional hygiene measures required on school transport services.

School Staff

Ceisteanna (259)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

259. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education if she has plans to address the problems faced by primary schools in securing temporary cover for teachers who may be unable to attend the classroom due to illness, close contacts to Covid-19 cases or for other reasons. [58148/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I have announced a number of additional measures to provide enhanced substitute cover in the context of current challenges arising from the Covid-19 emergency.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) providing undergraduate programmes of primary initial teacher education (ITE) have agreed to facilitate the release of year 3 and year 4 B.Ed. students to support schools up to the end of the current term. They have also agreed to explore flexible options in relation to the assessment requirement for programmes in the context of students being available to support schools.

The education stakeholders, including the Department, the HEIs and the Teaching Council, will continue to work together to address any practical issues and ensure the ongoing availability of student teachers to support schools pre and post-Christmas.

A further 200 posts are being allocated to the primary substitute teacher supply panels in existing/new areas where significant challenges in sourcing substitution have continued, bringing the total to 680 posts covering approximately 2,600 schools. Engagement will take place with the base schools to allocate these posts so that arrangements can be made for the recruitment of additional staff immediately.

In order to assist with the recruitment of teachers to supply panels, and in the context of the Covid-19 emergency, the Teaching Council has confirmed that newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who secure posts on supply panels in the 2021/2022 academic year may complete Droichead, the induction framework for NQTs. This is an exceptional, time bound measure. Further guidance will be provided by the National Induction Programme for Teachers regarding the role of the base school and partner schools in the process.

The supply panels work alongside the existing methods of sourcing substitute teachers, such as the national substitution portal service Sub Seeker, operated by the Irish Primary Principals' Network and developed in accordance with my Department's Teacher Supply Action Plan. Schools can also make local arrangements to have their own regular substitutes to call on if needed.

In addition to the expansion of the supply panels, qualified teachers on secondment to the Department’s teacher education support services have been asked to make themselves available to provide substitute cover in schools. Arrangements will made for available teachers from these services to register with an existing primary sub teacher supply panel or Sub Seeker.

Continuing professional development (CPD) at primary level where substitution is required has been suspended until after the February 2022 mid-term break. This measure is being taken on an exceptional basis.

Retired teachers returning to classrooms until the end of the current school term will not have their pension abated.

In exceptional circumstances where there is no substitute available it may be possible for the Treoraí (formerly co-operating teachers) who host student teachers on school placement to provide substitute cover for absences of a very short duration in their own school if another substitute cannot be sourced at short notice. This should be for the shortest time possible until a substitute can be recruited.

These recently announced measures are in addition to those already in place, including, for the current school year, changes made to the career break scheme to permit teachers on career break to carry out unlimited substitute work. Changes have also been made to the job sharing scheme to permit job sharing teachers carry out substitute work on the days they are rostered off, in their own or in other schools.

The HEIs providing professional master of education ITE programmes have ensured flexibility in programme delivery to enhance the availability of PME students to undertake substitute work. PME students have been advised to register with the Teaching Council and to register with Sub Seeker, the national substitution portal service to make their availability known to schools.

The Teaching Council has undertaken a communications campaign with the over 111,000 teachers on its register to raise awareness to the current teacher substitute challenges and to ask registered teachers who are available to do so to register with Sub Seeker, so that their availability to sub is known to schools seeking substitute teachers.

Schools with teaching principals have also been asked to cluster their allocation of principal release days to form a full-time fixed-term post to minimise the requirement for substitute teachers.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (260)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

260. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education if the three school campuses in Buncrana, County Donegal would be suitable for an accelerated build programme in view of the long delay in securing a suitable site and the very urgent need to relocate pupils from schools (details supplied) in County Donegal. [58149/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Donegal County Council are undertaking a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on behalf of the Minister for Education of a site for the proposed Buncrana School Campus. This CPO was confirmed by An Bord Pleanála without modification on 6th July 2021. As part of the requirements of the CPO process, a Notice of Confirmation of An Bord Pleanála’s decision was published by the Council in the local papers, dated 23rd August 2021. Under the CPO process, an eight-week period is provided from the date of publication of this notice within which a judicial review of the decision of the ABP may be lodged.

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that the provision of new permanent accommodation for the three schools concerned on the Buncrana campus is a priority for my Department. It is my Department's intention to proceed with this site acquisition as soon as permissible and in full compliance with the legal requirements and notice periods as necessitated by the CPO process.

In tandem with the site acquisition, my Department is currently working on the project brief with a view to progressing the project into the architectural planning process as soon as possible. My Department is also continuing to engage with Donegal ETB who will have an ongoing role in progressing the campus development.

School Admissions

Ceisteanna (261)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

261. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to issues in relation to the oversubscription in a school (details supplied) for the 2022-2023 term; if her Department is putting plans in place to provide additional accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58154/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is aware of increasing local enrolment pressures and demand for additional school places in a number of school planning areas, including the area in question.

Where enrolment pressures arise it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:

- Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area

- School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area

- Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school, they are not available to all pupils

- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area

The true extent of any capacity issue will only become known following discussion with the relevant school authorities.

Similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies, including Waterford and Wexford ETB as patron of the school to which the Deputy refers, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming year(s) which may necessitate action including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions. WWETB has made my Department aware of increasing enrolments at the school and my officials are continuing to engage with officials in WWETB with a view to identifying any accommodation needs.

School Equipment

Ceisteanna (262)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

262. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of one HEPA air filtration monitor. [58155/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Department’s ventilation guidance for schools is very clear and practical on the steps to be taken by all schools to manage ventilation levels.

Managing ventilation is just one of a suite of public health measures in place to keep our schools safe. Updated guidance for schools on Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools was provided at the end of May following the work of an expert group that carefully considered the role of ventilation in managing COVID-19. A copy of the guidance is published on the Gov.ie website.

The over-arching approach in the guidance is for schools to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use and partially open when classrooms are in use.

The guidance outlines that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitors can play a part in providing a useful general indication that areas/rooms may not be adequately ventilated. They can enable occupants to become familiar with the impacts of activities, outdoor weather and window openings on levels of good ventilation. The provision of portable CO2 monitors provides schools with the flexibility to focus their use to those rooms where most beneficial to inform strategies for optimising ventilation in the school.

Schools that identify inadequate ventilation in a room can utilise their minor work grant (for minor improvements) or apply for emergency works grant assistance to address ventilation enhancements on a permanent basis. It is important to bear in mind there is no one remedy that fits all circumstances, each requires an evaluation to determine the appropriate solution specific to the school.

A dedicated team has been established in the Department to support schools that may have concerns about ventilation.

Officers are also available to contact schools where required, walking through the steps the schools should take to deploy good ventilation practices etc.

Where it is not possible for a school to access the expertise of an engineer or architect, and where necessary, a technical assessment to assist the school can be facilitated through the Department.

Where the above measures have been undertaken, and poor ventilation continues to exist in a particular room/area, air cleaners may be considered as an additional measure in conjunction with other methods of ventilation that are available. There is no one solution that fits all scenarios, each application requires bespoke analysis and selection of the appropriate unit(s) matched to the specific room size and volume. As such, the cost of works needed may vary. If, following consultation with a supplier a school feels that its individual space may require specific technical specialist advice then the assistance of a Chartered Engineer or Registered Architect can be sought.

School Facilities

Ceisteanna (263)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

263. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the details of the number of classrooms across the State or if unavailable, the estimated number of same. [58156/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

On the basis of data reported under the 2020-21 School Data Collection survey from Primary and Post Primary schools we estimate circa. 50,000 classrooms in the State. It should be noted that the number of post primary schools who completed this survey is 717 schools out of a total of 730 schools for the 2020-21 academic year.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (264)

Neasa Hourigan

Ceist:

264. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Education the progress on a permanent school building for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58192/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to confirm that a building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included on my Department’s Capital Programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

My Department is in advanced discussions with a property-owner with respect to the permanent location for the school, with a view to progressing a new school building project on the site. The proposed location of the school will be made known to the school authority as soon as it is possible to do so.

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