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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 111-131
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item University Global Rankings
 Header Item Springboard Programme
 Header Item Schools Establishment
 Header Item Teachers' Remuneration
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Schools Building Contractors
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Third Level Charges
 Header Item Capitation Grants
 Header Item Special Education Review
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Apprenticeship Data

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. 111-131

Apprenticeship Programmes

 111. 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 if he will report on his Department’s fulfilment of the targets set out in the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland 2016-2020; his views on whether all targets set out in the plan will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22629/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan The Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland 2016-2020 sets out a series of detailed actions and annual targets on how the expansion commitments in the area set out in the Action Plan for Education will be met.  Over the lifetime of the plan we will see 50,000 learners register on apprenticeship and traineeship programmes. This represents a more than doubling of activity by 2020.  The achievement of this target will require commitment from a number of key stakeholders and is dependent on strong employer demand and economic capacity.

This Government is committed to expanding the apprenticeship model into new sectors of the economy. Arising from our first call for apprenticeship proposals in 2015 eleven new apprenticeships have been developed in a wide range of sectors, including financial services, engineering, ICT and accounting.  Further new apprenticeships will get underway later in 2018.

In addition, arising from last year’s second call for proposals, I recently announced 26 new programmes for further development into national apprenticeships across a wide variety of sectors including construction, engineering, horticulture and agriculture. These new programmes, once developed, will add to and complement the range of apprenticeships currently on offer in developing the skill needs of our economy.

As well as developments in new apprenticeships, as the employment and economic situation continues to improve, we have seen strong growth in registrations across the craft trades nationally during 2017 with 4,508 at year end, which represents a 20% increase on 2016.

This Government is also prioritising the expansion of traineeship offerings. At the end of 2017, an additional eight new traineeships had been developed in areas such as hospitality, engineering and animation. These new programmes will complement the existing programmes on offer. The programmes have been designed by ETBs working in collaboration with employers to meet identified skill needs. In addition, we have broadened the eligibility criteria on participation to include school leavers, older learners and people in employment.

I am confident that we will deliver on our targets and that learners, employers and our economy will benefit as a result.

University Global Rankings

 112. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his views on the decline in Irish universities’ ratings in international rankings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29339/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton At the outset it is important to note that that there is a diversity of ranking systems under which universities are assessed on the basis of a number of different models.  The most recent world rankings published by QS are one of a suite of ranking models which are published annually which also include the Times Higher Education and U-Multirank.  In addition, QS itself has eight sets of rankings including ‘Top 50 under 50’ and ‘Graduate Employability Rankings’. 

The Deputy may wish to note that the most recent rankings again reflected a strong performance overall by Ireland’s Higher Education system.  In the 2019 QS World University Rankings Ireland sees two of its eight top institutions featuring in the top 200, or top 1%, of some 15,000 universities worldwide.  All seven universities and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) feature in the top 800 worldwide.

Caution is appropriate in interpreting the results of international league tables of universities in light of the significant methodological issues in terms of how the rankings are compiled.  In the case of the most recent QS international rankings these include that they:-

- do not measure the quality of teaching or the quality of learning;

- do not take into account how universities support access or tackle educational disadvantage - a key national objective;

- rely on global surveys of academics and employers who may have had no interaction with the institution in question; and

- measure the impact of research by the number of times a paper is cited and do not factor in the quality of the journal in which the research appears.

In conclusion, it is clear that international rankings can impact – both positively and negatively – on international perceptions of our national university system.  It is important, therefore, that we develop a deeper understanding of the key drivers of Ireland’s rankings in order to be able to explain better the factors driving performance, highlighting where the approach could be improved.  In that regard, my Department is currently evaluating the trends emerging from the separate models and will feed the results of this work through the general mechanisms for ensuring quality across the Higher Education system.

Springboard Programme

 113. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Parliamentary Question No. 641 of 16 January 2018, the further plans that will be in place for Springboard in September 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22638/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Springboard+ 2018, which was launched in May, will provide for over 8,000 places on 245 higher education courses.  Courses will be delivered in public and private educational institutions throughout Ireland in the following skills areas: ICT, Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Hospitality, Business, Administration, Law, Entrepreneurship, Animation, Medical Devices Decontamination and certain other manufacturing related services courses.  There are 12 courses being offered in the area of Construction, offering over 300 places.

  Springboard+ courses are at Level 6 (Certificate) to Level 9 (Masters) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).  Courses selected for funding are in areas of identified enterprise skills needs and were selected, following a competitive call for proposals, by an independent evaluation panel using published criteria that included value for money, flexible delivery, engagement with industry and skills relevance. All courses provide job-readiness training and most offer the opportunity for work placement, project-based learning or industry site visits where appropriate.

  The Deputy may wish to note that the eligibility criteria for Springboard+ 2018 has been extended to include the following:

  - Free higher education courses for unemployed people

  - Free higher education courses for previously self-employed people

  - Free higher education courses for those returning to work

  - Free Level 6, higher education courses for those in employment

  - For employed participants on courses NFQ level 7 - 9, 90% of the course fee will be funded by the Government, with participants required to contribute just 10% of the fee.

  Further information on Springboard+ 2018 including entry requirements and eligibility criteria are available on the dedicated information and applications website: www.springboardcourses.ie.

Schools Establishment

 114. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of plans announced in April 2018 to establish 42 new schools over the next four years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29341/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy will be aware, the Government recently announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including a new 600 pupil post-primary school to be established in 2019 to serve the Drogheda and Laytown school planning areas as a regional solution. This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required.  This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons.  Parental preferences for each patron, 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. 

An Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to all parents which will allow them to make an informed choice about their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education. Parental preferences were previously collected based on direct engagement with patron bodies. The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) website is currently live for the post-primary schools to be established in 2019.

All new schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required to prioritise enrolments from the designated school planning area(s) which the school was established to serve.  Therefore, only parents of eligible children residing in the relevant school planning area(s) can express a preference with regard to the patronage of the new school. This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the designated school planning area, rather it reflects the need to accommodate in the first instance the demographic for which the school was established.

The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG).  Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG submits a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision.  The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.

An initial phased start-up is envisaged for the new schools, which typically involves the use of interim accommodation. However, this is the first time the requirement for new schools is set out over a 4-year horizon and this will provide a better lead-in period for the planning and delivery of permanent accommodation solutions. 

Following on from the announcement, the locations for all of the schools will be determined as part of the site acquisition process.

Teachers' Remuneration

 115. 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 achieve full pay equality for all teaching grades; the timeframe for achieving same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29417/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. I negotiated together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure a 15-22% pay increase for new teachers. The agreements to date have restored an estimated 75% of the difference in pay for more recently recruited teachers and deliver convergence of the pay scales at later points in the scale.

As a result of these changes, the current starting salary of a new teacher is €35,958 and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692.

Section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that “the Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.”

The report laid before the Oireachtas on foot of this provision by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform assesses the cost of a further change which would provide a two scale point adjustment to new entrants recruited since 2011. The total cost of such an adjustment across the public sector is of the order of €200 million, of which Education accounts for €83 million. The report also acknowledges that, during the financial crisis, there were policy changes which affected remuneration in different occupations across the public sector (including education). Addressing any issues arising from changes which are not specifically detailed in the report would give rise to additional costs over and above the foregoing figures.

The matter of new entrant pay is a cross sectoral issue, not just an issue for the education sector alone. The Government supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform’s report will inform discussions among the parties to the agreement on remaining salary scale issues in accordance with the commitment in the Agreement to consider the issue of new entrants’ pay. That process commenced with a first meeting on 12 October 2017.  The three teacher unions attended that meeting. Further talks were held on the 27th of April with all public service unions in relation to new entrant pay. Engagement between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the trade unions has been ongoing and meetings are currently taking place as the parties continue to work through the various aspects of this issue.

State Examinations

 116. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the action being taken to avoid non-teachers being hired to correct State examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29338/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The State Examinations Commission is statutorily responsible for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

  I have been advised by the Commission, which is the independent body in place to operate and deliver the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations, that it has an absolute responsibility to examination candidates to ensure that their work is marked to the highest standards of quality and integrity.

  The SEC appoints approximately 3,600 examiners each year to mark the Leaving and Junior Certificate written examinations. The first and most essential requirement for examiners is subject competence. The SEC has a strict policy when it comes to the recruitment of examiners which requires that personnel appointed to mark the state examinations are appropriately qualified. This is non-negotiable.

  When appointing examiners, the Commission advises that:

  - Examiners appointed by it are selected on the basis of their academic qualifications, their teaching experience and their examining experience.

  - All examiners are appropriately qualified for the work.

  - Most of them are experienced serving and retired teachers.

  - A large number of experienced examiners are reappointed each year

  - When making new appointments, priority is given to teachers

  - All appointments are overseen by the Chief Examiner

  The procedures and criteria used for the appointment of examiners in 2018 are the same as in previous years. This year, as in every year, the SEC has prioritised qualified teachers to correct the exams but every year there are a small portion of examiners who are qualified in the subject area they are correcting but who are not qualified teachers. In 2017, a very small proportion (20 or 1.9% of all Junior Cycle examiners and 2 or 0.1% of all Leaving Certificate Examiners) held a qualification in the relevant subject but did not have a teaching qualification. The 2018 figures are still being finalised but the SEC do not have any reason to believe that the figures are substantially much different on previous years. However, it is important to emphasise that all examiners go through rigorous training and instruction and their work is monitored by an experienced and senior member of the examining team who samples their work on an ongoing basis throughout the marking process. The Commission takes corrective action in any case where an examiner’s work falls below the required standard. These measures are designed to ensure the fair, accurate and consistent marking of every candidate’s work, as is the case every year.

  On the broader issue of teacher supply, which also impacts of the availability of teachers to mark the State examinations, I announced a series of actions to address these issues, including:

  - Lifting the restrictions for those teachers currently on career break, in order to deal with short term substitution problems;

  - Emphasising to schools that under the career break scheme, a career break can only be granted where the school will be in a position to fill the vacancy;

  - Universities have increased the capacity on undergraduate initial teacher education programmes by an estimated 280 places for September 2018;

  - At postgraduate level, the Universities have increased the capacity on PME programmes by more than 100 places in the priority areas of STEM, Irish and foreign languages.

  I have also established a Teacher Supply Steering Group chaired by the Secretary General of my Department which includes the HEA, Teaching Council, nominees of the higher education sector and the school management bodies. The Steering Group will lead on the identification of the issues, the development of a programme of actions on teacher supply and oversee its implementation.

School Accommodation

 117. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of an application for additional school accommodation by a school (details supplied); and his views on whether the existing buildings are unsuitable for modern primary school education. [29236/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a project to provide four new classrooms has been approved for the school to which he refers under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme.  The project has been devolved for delivery to the school authority for advancement.

  Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 92

Schools Building Projects Status

 119. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Parliamentary Question No. 96 of 31 May 2018, the number of times contact has been made with a school (details supplied) to date in 2018; the details of the correspondence or discussions with the school to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the provision of a new building for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28854/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, projects for the schools referred to are included in my Department's 6 year Capital Programme. 

In light of site issues arising my Department is in contact with the Patron for the schools in question. It is understood that the Patron met with the Local Authority to discuss the site issues arising on 30th April last. In this regard, clarification was sought from the Patron, and a response is awaited by my Department in respect of its most recent written communication in the matter issued towards the end of May.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 120. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the progress with securing a site for the three school campus in Buncrana, County Donegal; if a site has been purchased; the timeline for works to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28852/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware the project in respect of the education campus in Buncrana is included on my Department's capital programme. 

My Department is working closely with Donegal County Council in relation to the proposed site acquisition. Unfortunately, the site acquisition process to date has been protracted due to technical challenges with identified site options and difficulties in reaching agreement with landowners.

A number of options are available to progress the site acquisition process, and a significant amount of work has been undertaken by both Council and Department officials in order to thoroughly appraise these in order to ensure Value for Money for the State. In the context of the identified options for progression, negotiations commenced with a landowner in respect of the preferred site option with a view to reaching agreement on mutually acceptable terms. These negotiations are currently underway and appear to be making progress.

Once the site acquisition is complete the project can progress to architectural planning stage.

School Patronage

 121. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the need to accelerate the separation of church and State in the area of education and in particular to ensure that no particular religious ethos compromises the objectivity of education in schools was recognised following the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29390/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The patron body of a school determines the ethos or characteristic spirit of the school, in accordance with Section 15 of the Education Act 1998, which provides that a board of management shall uphold, and be accountable to the patron for so upholding, the characteristic spirit of the school as determined by the cultural, educational, moral, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions which inform and are characteristic of the objectives and conduct of the school.

Schools are required to teach all aspects of the curriculum. Elements of the curriculum cannot be omitted on the grounds of school ethos; however all aspects of the curriculum can be taught within the ethos and value system of the school. The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 seeks to introduce a new requirement for a school to set out the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school in their admission policy.

The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector was established to look at how schools can cater for diversity and ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for all their pupils. The Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum made a series of recommendations dealing with the creation of more inclusive schools.

The Forum also recommended that the Rules for National Schools, published in 1965, be reviewed and updated, beginning with the deletion of Rule 68. Rule 68, which stated that religious instruction was the most important part of the curriculum and that a religious spirit should "inform and vivify the whole work of the school", was rescinded in January 2016. Its removal is designed to ensure that the basis on which schools operate is in keeping with the diverse and welcoming nature of our modern school system.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have announced new plans aimed at accelerating the provision of multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of parents, families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment to reach 400 such schools by 2030. 

Additionally, Community National Schools were introduced in 2008 in response to the increasing demand for parental choice in the patronage of primary schools.  The schools are multi-denominational and aim to accommodate parents who wish to have their children learn about different faiths and beliefs. The schools do not prioritise any particular religion or belief.

Special Educational Needs

 122. 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 if he has had discussions with the Minister for Health about delays in assessments of need for children resulting in delayed supports being put in place at primary school level for some pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29360/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I can inform the Deputy that in 2017, I introduced a new model for the allocation of Special Education Teachers to schools. The new model replaced an older model, under which most of these resources were allocated in respect of individual children who had been diagnosed with a disability.

In its 2014 policy advice, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) had recommended that it was no longer appropriate to require individual assessments or diagnoses in order that children could receive additional teaching support. The NCSE advised that the new model would ensure, in future, that children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

In May of this year, the NCSE published its report of its comprehensive review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme. In its advice the NCSE recommends a new model for the allocation of SNA and other supports. This new model would remove the need for an assessment of needs in order that a child could access SNA support. A cross departmental working group has been established to develop a plan for the full implementation of the NCSEs recommendations.

It remains the case that an assessment of need is required to support applications to my department for assistive technology and special school transport. It is also the case that assessment of needs continues to be an important means of identifying the most appropriate school placement options for children whose particular needs may require a specialised setting such as a special school or special class.

Changes to the Assessment of Needs process, which were recently announced, remain a matter for the Department of Health and will be the subject of consultation between that Department and officials from the my own Department.

Schools Building Contractors

 123. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of subcontracting companies that have incurred losses as a result of the liquidation of a company (details supplied); and if plans are in place to utilise these companies in the retendering of the schools bundle 5 PPP contract. [29113/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton 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 liquidation referred to by the Deputy.  

  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.

It is recognised that the liquidation in question came as a particular blow to its employees and sub-contractors.  However, 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.   

  However, the Deputy will be aware that last week I welcomed an announcement from DIF and the project lenders, on behalf of the PPP operator, Inspiredspaces. This announcement was in respect of arrangements that are being put in place for the appointment of a replacement contractor, Woodvale, to facilitate the completion of the three most advanced schools by the end of August and to undertake survey and preliminary work at the other three buildings in the programme. This preparatory work is intended to facilitate the remaining construction work being completed by the end of December. In this respect, and 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

 124. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the school redevelopment project at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29407/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department's 6 Year Construction Programme.

  My Department is currently in the process of finalising the long term projected enrolment for the school with a view to developing the project brief.  My Department expects to be in contact with the school's Patron on the matter shortly.

Third Level Charges

 125. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to reduce or abolish the student contribution for third level students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29386/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The student contribution was introduced in higher education institutions with effect from the 2011/12 academic year and replaced the Student Services Charge. The Student Contribution currently stands at €3,000.  There has been no increase in the student contribution since the 2015/16 academic year.

Measures are in place to assist students and their parents with meeting the cost of the student contribution.

In 2016/17 approximately 43% of all fulltime undergraduate students had all or part of the student contribution paid for by the State on their behalf through the student grant scheme.

In addition, in recognition of the financial pressures that the student contribution may place on families, my Department and the HEA have requested higher education institutions to put in place arrangements under which a student may opt to pay the student contribution in two instalments in a given academic year.

The cost of abolishing the student contribution would be approximately €220m for the 2018/19 academic year. This figure takes into account the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget. 

I am committed to providing a more sustainable funding model for higher education. As committed to in the programme for government I referred the Cassells report to the Joint Oireachtas committee on Education for consideration of the recommendations.  The committee has recently requested my Department to undertake a full economic evaluation of the recommendations which I have agreed to. Following this evaluation I look forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of policy and funding for higher education. 

I the interim, I have been working to secure additional funding for higher education. This commitment is reflected in Budget 2017 and 2018 announcements in which the higher education sector was prioritised. In total, we will be investing more than €100m in higher education in 2018 than in 2016.  We will look to continue this commitment to investment in higher education in 2019 and beyond.

This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018..

Capitation Grants

 126. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton when the programme for partnership Government commitments on increasing capitation will be honoured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29340/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Programme for a Partnership Government committed to investing an extra €500m in education by 2021 through various measures including annual increases in primary and secondary capitation rates.  

The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2018 marked the second year of major reinvestment in the education sector, as we continue to implement the Action Plan for Education, which has the central aim to make the Irish Education and Training service the best in Europe within a decade.  In 2018, the budget for the Department of Education increased by €554 million to over €10 billion. Through budget 2017 and Budget 2018, we are now investing €1 billion more in education.

I recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools having regard to the reductions that were necessary over recent years. Restoring capitation funding as resources permit is one of the actions included in the Action Plan for Education and I remain committed to achieving this. However, I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures and prioritise where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year. As the Deputy knows any decision on capitation will be made as part of the annual estimates process. In the last two budgets, I made provision for 6,000 extra teachers and 3,000 extra SNAs and over 3,000 new middle management posts.  These resources were allocated to improve the learning experience right across the sector, with a particular focus on children with special needs. 

Improvements have been made for the restoration of grant funding that is used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff.  The ancillary grant was increased by €6 in 2016, €5 in 2017 and €5 in 2018, in order to enable primary schools to implement the arbitration salary increase for grant funded school secretaries and caretakers and to also implement the restoration of salary for cleaners arising from the unwinding of FEMPI legislation.

Special Education Review

 127. 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 if the ongoing review of the NCSE is reviewing the need for permanent contracted SNA jobs in schools in the future particularly with the possibility that assessments will not be carried out by SENOs to diagnose medical conditions and needs; and his views on whether there is a need now to allocate permanent SNAs, per an agreed methodology, pupil ratio in schools. [29130/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy will be aware, in 2016 I requested the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to lead a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme to identify and recommend how, in the future, the additional care needs of students, over and above those that could be reasonably be expected to be managed by teaching staff, should be met. The review set out to ensure that the Scheme is achieving the best outcomes possible for children with special educational needs.

The NCSE published the Review on 30 May and the Government has noted the contents of the report.

One of the recommendations in the Review is that a new frontloaded allocation model for Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support be introduced. This would ensure that SNA posts are in school and available immediately to students upon their arrival. A further recommendation is made with regard to baseline allocations for Special School and Special Classes. This new frontloaded model of allocation would also reduce, and in many cases, eliminate the need for professional assessments in order to access resources.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the NCSE Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) have no role in the diagnosis of disability.

In response to the Review, I have undertaken to develop proposals for the implementation of the NCSE’s recommendations and to return to Government, following engagement with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Health, with a proposed implementation plan.

Work is underway to assess the costs associated with the implementation of any recommendations that subsequently may be approved by Government.

Work is also underway on the development of a new model for the allocation of resources to schools, as recommended by the NCSE. It is considered likely that the introduction of such a new model will need to be piloted in selected schools in order that the impact and effectiveness of a new model can be evaluated and understood before such a new model is rolled out nationally.

I expect to bring proposals for implementation of the Review’s recommendations to Government in the coming months.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 128. 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 progress which has been made in securing a permanent site for the new regional second level school for the Carpenterstown and Castleknock school planning areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29297/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, the school to which she refers is included in my Department’s 6 year construction programme.

Officials in my Department continue to liaise with officials in Fingal County Council in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the identification and acquisition of a suitable location for the school in question and have identified a preferred site option within the relevant school planning areas. Negotiations with the landowner in respect of this proposed acquisition are currently ongoing.

Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions generally, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to provide further details at this time but I can confirm that the school patron is being kept apprised of developments in respect of the site acquisition process..

Special Educational Needs Staff

 129. 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 the reason a school (details supplied) has lost the service of a full-time teacher due to being assessed on 2014-15 student numbers for learning support and resource allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28853/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools set out the details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

  The revised allocation process replaces the previous generalised allocation model combined with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

  The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

  No school, has lost supports as a result of the implementation of the new model. In addition, no school received an allocation, for the support of pupils with complex needs, less than the allocation they received to support such pupils during the 2016/17 school year.

  An additional 900 teaching posts have been provided to support the introduction of this new allocation model. The provision of an additional 900 teaching posts is a very significant investment in the provision of additional teaching support for pupils with special educational needs in our schools.

  The additional funding provided additional supports to over 1300 schools who identified as needing additional supports as a result of the new model, while ensuring that no school received a reduced allocation.

  In relation to the school referred to in this question, the special education teaching allocation provided for this school for 2017/18 was 115.25 hours.

  The profiling model had indicated a profiled special educational need for this school of 102.5 teaching hours.

  However, as no school received an allocation, on the introduction of the new model, which was less than the allocation they received in the previous 2016/17 school year, the school maintained an allocation of 115.25 hours and it was indicated that within this allocation there was a retained element of 12.75 hrs.

  This allocation equates to over 4.5 full time additional Special Education Teachers. This is a very significant allocation for a school of this size, which had an enrolment of 343 pupils at the time the profiles were developed.

  There has therefore been no reduction to the allocation of special education teaching support for this school and no loss of a teaching post.

  Where a school profile significantly changes following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increase year on year, additional allocations may be made.

  The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts for the 2017/18 school year were set out in DES Circular 17/2017 (Primary School Staffing Schedule) and DES 10,11,12/2017 (Post Primary School Staffing Schedule).

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

  However, the criteria also provided that where a school has a retained allocation, any additional allocation they receive on the basis of qualification for developing posts will be a net allocation, less any retained element of their existing school profile allocation.

  The school referred to in this question qualified for one developing post under the developing school criteria for the 2017/18 school year. This meant the school would have qualified for 3 hours additional SEN allocation, if the school did not have a retained element to their allocation.

  However, as the school had a retained allocation of 12.75 hours, the school maintained their existing allocation.

  There has been no reduction of allocation or loss of a teaching post for this school.

  It is also acknowledged that there will be some schools where exceptional circumstances may arise.

  The National Council for Special Education will be available to support schools where schools have developed and implemented appropriate plans for the deployment of their special education needs teaching resources, but the school considers that further support may be required. This support may involve Continuing Professional Development or further training for school staff, advice in relation to the support plans that are in place, and possibly a review process once schools can clearly demonstrate that exceptional circumstances have arisen in the school.

  The NCSE has published details of how schools can seek a review of their allocations, 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.  

  Should schools consider that they fulfil the criteria for a review on the grounds of exceptional circumstances, details of this review process are available at: http://ncse.ie/review-of-special-education-teacher-supports-where-there-are-exceptional-circumstances-or-needs-arising-in-a-school.

  I can also advise that profiles for all schools are currently being reviewed, based on updated data, with a view to making revised profiled allocations for all schools effective from September 2019.

Apprenticeship Data

 130. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the number of registered apprentices in 2018; the target for registered apprentices in each of the years to 2021, by gender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28780/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan The information requested by the Deputy in relation to target apprenticeship registrations in the period 2018 to 2020 is set out in the table. The Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship & Traineeship 2016-2020 sets out annual target apprenticeship registrations in the period to 2020. The Plan does not set registration targets by gender.

  It should be noted that SOLAS do not currently have forecast registrations beyond 2020.  I am informed by SOLAS that due to a break in the Central Statistics Office (CSO) data series and issues with the ESRI macro-economic model there has been a delay in updating of skills forecasts by the Skills and Labour Market and Research Unit (SLMRU).  As soon as these issues are resolved I understand that the SLMRU will commence the occupational skills forecasting project, with subsequent publication.

  2,280 new apprentices registered on apprenticeship programmes at end June 2018.  It should be noted that a large number of registrations take place at the start of the academic year (i.e. September 2018).

Craft- based apprenticeships 2018 2019 2020
Forecast new registrations per annum 4,697 5,087 5,587
New apprenticeships      
Planned new registrations per annum 1,500 2,297 3,413
Total target apprenticeship registration p.a. 6,197 7,384 9,000

  Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 96.


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