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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 91-110
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Establishment
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item Education and Training Provision
 Header Item Schools Building Contractors
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Psychological Assessments
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Junior Cycle Reform
 Header Item Special Education Review
 Header Item Student Unions
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Legislative Measures

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 107 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 91-110

Schools Building Projects Status

 91. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of progress on the building process and site transfer for a new school build (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29363/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am pleased to confirm for the Deputy that planning for a new building for the school to which he refers is progressing. The school's design team has been authorised to conduct the pre-qualification process in order to draw up shortlists of contractors for the project.  

In the meantime, work is ongoing on concluding the conveyancing for the site and I can assure the Deputy that all parties continue to work to ensure the acquisition completes at the earliest possible date.  It is not anticipated that the completion of conveyancing will impact on the timelines for delivery of the building project. 

Schools Establishment

 92. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Parliamentary Question No. 376 of 12 June 2018, if primary school children in Dublin 8 and 12 will be able to access a school (details supplied); and if not, the location in which they can access secondary education. [29235/18]

 93. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to establish an Educate Together school in Dublin 12 to cater for the growing demand for non-denominational school places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29416/18]

 118. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will meet with parents and campaigners from a school (details supplied) to discuss concerns about places and capacity in non-denominational schools in the area. [29414/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 93 and 118 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, in November 2016, I announced the patronage of a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2018 to serve the Dublin South City Centre area. This new school, which will be a co-educational, multi-denominational school under the patronage of Educate Together, will serve the Dublin _8 school planning area, along with the Dublin 2_Dublin 4 and Dublin 6_Clonskeagh school planning areas as a regional solution.

More recently, in April 2018, I announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including new post-primary schools for areas adjacent to Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 as follows:

- new 1,000 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2020 as a regional solution to serve the Dublin 6_Clonskeagh and Dublin_6W school planning areas.

- new 600 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2021 to serve the Dublin 2_Dublin 4 school planning area.

These new schools will reduce any pressure on schools in the adjacent school planning areas, including the Dublin 8 and 12 areas. It is important to note that the patronage of these new schools has not yet been decided.

A patronage process, which will be open to all patron bodies, will be run by my Department to decide who will operate these schools. Parental preferences for each patron and for the language of instruction, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

All new schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required to prioritise pupil applications from within the designated school planning area(s) which the school was established to serve. This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the designated school planning area where they have sufficient places, rather it reflects the need to accommodate in the first instance the demographic for which the school was established. My Department’s priority is ensuring all pupils have access to a school place which unfortunately may not always result in a school place that is their first choice.

School Admissions

 94. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if his attention has been drawn to concerns raised by Irish speaking families who partake in foster care regarding the impact of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 and the way in which it could discriminate against them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29218/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I have made clear during the passage of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 that I wish to support Irish medium schools and to ensure that the Bill does not unintendedly limit the opportunities of students who have attained a level of proficiency in the Irish language from pursuing their education through the medium of Irish.

Accordingly, I brought forward an amendment in the Dáil which was aimed at allowing Irish medium schools to give priority in admission to students who have a reasonable age appropriate level of oral fluency in the Irish language, where such fluency would be at risk of regressing if the student were not admitted to an Irish medium school. 

However, having regard to certain concerns raised by members of the Dáil in relation to my amendment, I agreed to withdraw it and resubmit revised amendments to the Seanad.

In that regard, I can confirm that I have since brought forward amendments in the Seanad that will permit an Irish medium school to prioritise the admission of a student where the school is satisfied that the student has a level of fluency in the Irish language and where that fluency would be likely to regress were the child not admitted to an Irish language school.

In doing so, I have amended the definition of ‘level of fluency in the Irish language’ to provide that it means ‘a level of fluency indicative of what would be expected of a student who uses the Irish language as a normal means of communication in a non-educational environment, taking into account the age and any special educational needs of the student concerned’.

The revised approach ensures that all children with such fluency must be treated equally and where a priority is given by a school to children who have fluency, such a priority must be applied fairly and in an inclusive manner, regardless of background or family circumstances, including whether or not the child is in foster care.

Education and Training Provision

 95. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps that have been taken to ensure that there are enough skilled workers to cater for the infrastructure projects required for the projected increase in population, particularly in the construction of houses and schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22630/18]

 107. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he will take to increase the number of apprenticeships in view of the recovering economy and increasing demand for qualified trades. [26522/18]

 188. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to ensure the demand for construction workers is met by 2020 to cater for increased construction output in house and infrastructure development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22755/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I propose to take Questions Nos. 95, 107 and 188 together.

Securing skills supply from the education and training to the construction sector is a major focus of my Department as part of broader Government actions to increase housing supply and roll out the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework.

Construction related apprenticeship registrations increased from 1,713 in 2015 to 2,314 in 2016 which represents an increase of 35%.  This trend continued in 2017 with a further increase of 28% on the 2016 figure bringing the total number of construction related registrations to 2,963. 

Apprenticeship is a demand driven educational and training programme, which aims to develop the skills of an apprentice in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market. Consequently, the number of construction related apprentices being registered is determined by employers within the construction sector. My Department and SOLAS are committed to supporting the registration of apprentices in the construction sector. Registrations on craft apprenticeships are forecast to increase further up to 2020.

As the Deputy is aware, we are currently expanding the range of apprenticeships on offer to meet the identified skill needs of industry. Arising from our first call for apprenticeship proposals in 2015 an apprenticeship in Engineering Services Management, with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) as industry lead, is currently being developed into a national apprenticeship programme.  In addition, 26 further new programmes arising from last year’s second call for proposals were approved for further development into national apprenticeships, including a scaffolding apprenticeship, again with the CIF as industry lead and a senior quantity surveyor apprenticeship with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland as industry lead. These new programmes, once developed, will add to and complement the range of apprenticeships currently on offer in developing the skill needs identified by the sector.

In addition to apprenticeship provision, almost 7,000 beneficiaries participated in SOLAS-funded construction related further education and training (FET) programmes provided by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) under the ‘Built Environment’ skills cluster during 2017.  Examples of these programmes include programmes in concreting, ground work, scaffolding and sustainable construction.  

Separately, following a series of discussions with the CIF, SOLAS identified the following semi-skilled occupations as priority areas for the ETBs:

- Form worker

- Steel-fixer

- Curtain waller 

Programmes have been put in place to produce approximately 100 form workers, 100 steel-fixers and 50 curtain wallers per year.  SOLAS will continue to engage with the ETBs to expand provision to meet needs in these areas.

Schools Building Contractors

 96. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if guarantees will be sought from the remaining partners of an organisation (details supplied) that it will pay subcontractors for work already carried out on the schools bundle 5 PPP project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29370/18]

 100. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has met unpaid subcontractors involved in constructing the schools bundle 5 PPP project; his plans to ensure they are paid for the work they have carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29369/18]

 131. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the NDFA or his Department has an estimation of the number of subcontractors owed money for works carried out on the schools bundle 5 PPP project following the collapse of companies (details supplied); if there is an overall estimation of all outstanding moneys owed to these subcontractors; if the NDFA will engage with these subcontractors for work carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29106/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 96, 100 and 131 together.

The Schools Bundle 5 Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme comprises five school buildings and one further education college across four sites in Bray, Wexford, Carlow and Kells. This programme has been affected by the liquidations referred to by the Deputy. It is recognised that these liquidations came as a particular blow to their employees and sub-contractors.

Like other major construction projects, school building projects involve a complex arrangement of contractual relationships between the client, the main contractor and various sub-contractors and suppliers. In general, all sub-contractors and suppliers engaged on education sector building projects are employed directly by the main contractor, or indirectly by the main contractor through other sub-contractors. The Department of Education and Skills does not have visibility of the detail of the relationship between the companies referred to by the Deputy and its sub-contractors. Additionally, as the Department is not party to these contractual arrangements and does not have any role or authority in relation to payment or other contractual issues arising, we do not propose to meet with the sub-contractors involved.

The Deputy will be aware that arrangements are being put in place for the appointment of a replacement contractor, Woodvale to, inter alia, facilitate the completion of three of the schools in the programme by the end of August. While it will be a matter for Woodvale to determine its supply chain and the sub-contractors who will form part of that chain, it is likely that Woodvale will make enquiries of the existing supply chain in its assessment.

Schools Building Projects Status

 97. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the degree to which a satisfactory conclusion in terms of the continuation of the school building project at a campus (details supplied) which has been interrupted by the liquidation of the building company will be made; if alternative arrangements will be be put in place with a view to completion of the project in line with the timescale set out in the original projection or as close as possible thereto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29372/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Once the company for the project to which the Deputy refers went into liduidation, steps were immediately taken by the client, which is the local Education and Training Board (ETB), and its Design Team to get the project back on track.

  These include:

  - The development of a critical time path to carry out all of the necessary design and re-tendering procedures in the shortest timeframe possible

  - The overlapping of procedures where possible to limit delivery time

  - The commencement of the pre-qualification process for a new contractor to finish out the buildings

  - The implementation of arrangements to finish out the existing precast concrete work and the steel work on the roofs to enable the handover of a neat package to a new contractor

  Given the substantial amount of work to be done, unfortunately it will not be possible to complete the buildings in line with the former due delivery date.  It is expected that the necessary preparatory work will be completed to enable the project to be tendered later this year with a new contractor on site in March 2019 and a completion date of June 2020.  The accommodation needs of the schools will be met in the intervening period.

School Staff

 98. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has established a scheme in respect of the shortage of substitute teachers; if he has considered the appointment on a part-time basis of previously retired staff in areas of significant staff shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29296/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In the last two years we have hired 5,000 additional new teachers. It is the case that many teachers who would have been available to carry out substitute work are now gaining permanent and long term contracts.

I am aware of reports that some schools are experiencing difficulties in finding substitute teachers.  In the last school year I suspended the limits that teachers on career break can work as substitutes. Schools were also reminded that, in considering career break applications, the needs of pupils should take precedence and they must take account of the availability of appropriate qualified replacement teachers.

It is already the case that retired teachers can be employed by schools. My Department informs all teachers retiring that in order to remain eligible for employment in a State funded teaching post for more than five consecutive days, a teacher must maintain his/her Teaching Council registration. The Teaching Council also reminds teachers, where a teacher indicates that he or she is considering leaving the register, that if they wish to continue to work as a teacher following retirement they should maintain registration.

I recently established the Teacher Supply Steering Group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department.  The Steering Group is considering the issues that impact on teacher supply, including: initial teacher education policy, provision, funding and support; data/research requirements; policies and arrangements for schools and teachers that impact on teacher mobility/supply; and promotion of the teaching profession. The Group will oversee a programme of actions according to strict timelines and clear deliverables. In undertaking its task, the Group is cognisant of the requirement that all persons wishing to teach in recognised schools must meet the professional registration standards and criteria set by the Teaching Council, which is the professional regulatory body for the teaching profession. The Steering Group last met on 29 June and I hope to be in a position to announce further measures in this area over coming months.

Psychological Assessments

 99. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the measures he plans to implement to eliminate delays in children accessing necessary assessments by psychologists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29361/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I can inform the Deputy that my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools following a pilot which demonstrated strong support from principals, teachers and parents.  The new model differs significantly from the old Resource Allocation Model, as schools are now front-loaded with additional resources based on the profile of each individual school.  This means that the Department has allocated special education teaching support directly to schools to enable them to respond to pupil needs without having to wait for an assessment to allow them to apply for additional resources.  School can now respond to individual need in a flexible way and pupils do not have to have a psychological assessment or a diagnosis of a disability in order to access Special Education Teaching.  It also means that those with highest level of need can access the highest level of support within the school.  Medical or psychological assessments will still be used to assess a child’s needs, or the nature of difficulties they may have. However, an assessment, or diagnosis, will no longer be needed to access additional teaching support in schools.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

I can also inform the Deputy that following on from an increase allowed in the 2017 Budget that the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist stands at 184 whole-time equivalents of which some 179 w.t.e. posts are currently filled leaving 5 posts vacant due to on-going retirements and resignations, etc. within the Service.  Even at this current level this represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Additionally the Deputy may be aware that under the provisions of Budget 2018 I was pleased to announce that NEPS psychologist numbers will expand by a further 10 posts from the start of the new academic year.

A national recruitment competition is currently in operation by the Public Appointments Service in conjunction with my Department to replenish NEPS Regional Recruitment Panels to allow for both the filling of the abovementioned  5 vacancies and the expansion of NEPS number by a further 10 posts.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention. I am not aware of any particular delays in the process.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy..

  Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 96.

School Staff

 101. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he will take to assist teaching principals in primary schools who are struggling to absorb the stress and reported work overload associated with their positions; if the possibility and feasibility of allocating one administration day per week to teaching principals will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29129/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Recently published Circular - 40/2018 is available on the Department’s website, which outlines the number of days that teaching principals may take as release time in a school year in order to assist them fulfilling their principal duties. Under these arrangements my Department pays for a substitute teacher to be employed by a school to facilitate administrative functions to be undertaken by the teaching principal.

Building on measures in previous budgets to enhance school leadership, Budget 2018 made €0.4 million available to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This additional funding will see an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

Budget 2017 allowed for the commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model and meant lifting the rigidity of the longstanding moratorium on these posts at primary and post-primary levels. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive and accountable.

€2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 middle management posts (Assistant Principal I and Assistant Principal II) at both Primary and Post-Primary. (2,600 in total)

Circular 63/2017 was issued by my Department in September 2017 which sets out a leadership and management framework for posts in recognised primary schools.  Flexibility in identifying and prioritising the evolving leadership and management needs of the school, and in assigning and re-assigning post holders to specific roles and responsibilities to meet the evolving needs of a school, is an essential feature of this school leadership model.

While the Principal is ultimately responsible to the Board of Management for the management and leadership of the school, the Deputy Principal occupies a position of vital importance within the senior leadership team in each school. The Deputy Principal co-operates with the Principal in the fulfilment of the Principal's role and acts or deputises as the Principal in the Principal's absence.

In relation to the duties assigned to Assistant Principal posts, the Principal following consultation with staff, agree the schedule of duties as best meet the needs of the school. These duties are designed to reduce the workload of the Principal.

The selection and recruitment process is well under way in most of our primary schools and the majority of these new middle management posts will be filled in the current school year, including schools where the Principal is a "Teaching Principal".

I recently announced an extension to the arrangements for schools with teaching principals to cluster their release days into full-time posts, with one teacher covering the release days of all the schools in the cluster.  Up to 50 principal release cluster posts will be put in place for the 2018/19 school year. This measure will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

The Teacher Allocation section of my Department are currently processing these applications and schools are being notified as the cluster posts are approved. 

Enabling teaching principals to have one release days per week would cost approximately €12 million per annum.  Any additional increase in the number of release days will be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process alongside the many other demands from the education sector.

School Accommodation

 102. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the provision of additional classrooms and ancillary facilities at a college (details supplied). [29439/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton A building project for the school to which the Deputy refers has recently been approved.  The intention is to devolve the delivery of the project to an external agency.  Contact will be made directly with the school authority when the appropriate arrangements have been made in this regard.

School Staff

 103. Deputy Eugene Murphy Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if an increase in the administration days for teaching principals to one release day per week will be allocated to deal with the administrative demands of the job in view of the fact that the role of the teaching principal has not been reviewed, qualified or quantified since a circular in 1973; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28857/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Recently published Circular - 40/2018 is available on the Department’s website, which outlines the number of days that teaching principals may take as release time in a school year in order to assist them fulfilling their principal duties. Under these arrangements my Department pays for a substitute teacher to be employed by a school to facilitate administrative functions to be undertaken by the teaching principal.

Building on measures in previous budgets to enhance school leadership, Budget 2018 made €0.4 million available to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This additional funding will see an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

Budget 2017 allowed for the commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model and meant lifting the rigidity of the longstanding moratorium on these posts at primary and post-primary levels. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive and accountable.

€2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 middle management posts (Assistant Principal I and Assistant Principal II) at both Primary and Post-Primary. (2,600 in total)

Circular 63/2017 was issued by my Department in September 2017 which sets out a leadership and management framework for posts in recognised primary schools.  Flexibility in identifying and prioritising the evolving leadership and management needs of the school, and in assigning and re-assigning post holders to specific roles and responsibilities to meet the evolving needs of a school, is an essential feature of this school leadership model.

The Education Act 1998 and 2012, as amended, sets out the functions of school principals. While the Principal is ultimately responsible to the Board of Management for the management and leadership of the school, the Deputy Principal also occupies a position of vital importance within the senior leadership team in each school. The Deputy Principal co-operates with the Principal in the fulfilment of the Principal's role and acts or deputises as the Principal in the Principal's absence.

In relation to the duties assigned to Assistant Principal posts, the Principal following consultation with staff, agree the schedule of duties as best meet the needs of the school. These duties are designed to reduce the workload of the Principal.

The selection and recruitment process is well under way in most of our primary schools and the majority of these new middle management posts will be filled in the current school year, including schools where the Principal is a "Teaching Principal".

I recently announced an extension to the arrangements for schools with teaching principals to cluster their release days into full-time posts, with one teacher covering the release days of all the schools in the cluster.  Up to 50 principal release cluster posts will be put in place for the 2018/19 school year. This measure will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

The Teacher Allocation section of my Department are currently processing these applications and schools are being notified as the cluster posts are approved. 

Enabling teaching principals to have one release days per week would cost approximately €12 million per annum.  Any additional increase in the number of release days will be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process alongside the many other demands from the education sector.

School Accommodation

 104. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the proposed extension and upgrade of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29224/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton A project for the school to which the Deputy refers has recently been approved which will increase the capacity of the school to 900 pupils.  The intention is to devolve the delivery of the project to an external agency.  Contact will be made directly with the school authority when the appropriate arrangements have been made in this regard.

Junior Cycle Reform

 105. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if consideration has been given to a provision by which students would be able to complete junior cycle music with an approved tutor external to the school setting in view of the fact that it is not a subject offered in all schools. [29367/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Framework for Junior Cycle presents a dual approach to assessment that supports student learning over the three years of junior cycle and also measures achievement at the end of those three years. This dual approach reduces the focus on one externally assessed examination as a means of assessing students and increases the prominence given to classroom-based assessment and formative assessment, providing a more rounded assessment of the education of each young person. This change of emphasis arises from an acknowledgement that students learn best when teachers provide feedback that helps students to understand how their learning can be improved. As part of the phasing in of the new Framework for Junior Cycle the new Junior Cycle music specification will be introduced to schools from September 2018.

The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) is a school-based award issued by schools which draws upon and reports on achievement across all elements of assessment, including ongoing, formative assessment and Classroom-Based Assessments by teachers, as well as State Examinations marked by the State Examinations Commission. The assessment of a number of practical subjects including music for the purposes of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will comprise two Classroom-Based Assessments undertaken in recognised schools, a practical examination and a written examination.

Where students take extra subjects outside of their school setting these subjects cannot satisfy the requirements for ongoing formative assessment and classroom based assessments by recognised schools and cannot, therefore, be included as part of the JCPA. Students who wish to study additional subjects, such as music, outside of their school have a number of other certification avenues open to them.

Special Education Review

 106. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a full consultation with a union (details supplied) will be conducted before implementing the recommendations contained in the NCSE special needs assistant review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29222/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy will be aware, in September 2016 I requested the NCSE to lead the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme. The Review set out to ensure that the Scheme is achieving the best outcomes possible for children with special educational needs.

The Review which was published by the NCSE on the 30th of May this year identifies and recommends how, in the future, the additional care needs of students, over and above those needs that could be reasonably be expected to be managed by teaching staff, should be met.

In undertaking the Review the NCSE consulted widely to seek the views of the many stakeholders involved. These included parents, students, SNAs, teacher representatives, SNA representatives, school management, advocacy groups, principals, HSE professionals, Department of Education and Skills officials and other relevant Government departments. I understand that the union to which you refer was afforded two opportunities to contribute during the consultation stage of the review process. All of the views expressed were considered as part of the Review and informed the subsequent recommendations.

My Department is developing proposals to implement the recommendations of the Review. This will involve further substantial engagement with key Department and agencies as well as consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

  Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 95.

Student Unions

 108. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the engagement his departmental officials have had with an organisation (details supplied) in the past 12 months; his plans to meet the organisation before the new academic year in September 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29294/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Officials from the Department of Education and Skills engage with The Union of Students Ireland (USI) on an ongoing basis through USI representation on relevant steering committees and working groups, for example the Inter Departmental Group on Student Accommodation.

  Under the National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS), the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government are working with the USI to support the #HomesforStudy campaign which promotes the provision of ‘digs’ accommodation for students as an alternative to both purpose built student accommodation and the general rental market, and have provided funding to the USI for this purpose. A meeting was held between USI and DES on 22 May 2018 to discuss the NSAS.  The 2018 #HomesforStudy campaign was launched on 25 June.

  Department officials met with USI on 1 June 2018 to discuss key matters arising from the USI paper “A national approach to the student voice”.  This meeting explored key issues of concern to USI in the context of the passage of the Technological Universities Bill, 2015 through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

  The Deputy may also wish to note that the Minister of State for Higher Education met with the USI on the following dates: 

  - 28 July 2017 to discuss matters surrounding the TU Bill, Student Accommodation and general issues and concerns;

  - 4 October 2017 following a USI march/rally in the city centre for publicly funded third level education;

  - 14 November 2017 in relation to the National Student Charter.

  I understand that the Minister for State was due to meet with the USI at the end of June, however this was postponed due to competing demands on the Minister of State's diary. 

  This meeting will be rescheduled in the near future.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 109. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of acquiring a site for a school (details supplied) and the development of a new school building on such a site which was announced in 2015. [29440/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, the project to which he refers was announced as part of my Department's Six Year Capital Programme in 2015.

  Officials in my Department have worked closely with officials from Meath County Council under the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the identification and acquisition of a suitable permanent location for the school in question. A preferred site has been identified and the relevant Education and Training Board is currently engaging with the landowner with a view to advancing the proposed acquisition.

  Once the site is secured the project to deliver permanent accommodation for the school can be advanced towards the Architectural Planning stage.

  I can assure the Deputy that all parties are working to progress matters as expeditiously as possible.

Legislative Measures

 110. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the progression to Committee Stage of the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill 2018 will be discussed at Cabinet (details supplied). [29330/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In April of this year, I announced a major review of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum and this review is underway by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. The review will cover both the content of the RSE curriculum and support materials, as well as the delivery of the curriculum to students. Discussions at Cabinet are confidential as provided for in the Constitution.


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