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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 188-196
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme
 Header Item Student Support Schemes
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff Data
 Header Item Psychological Services
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology
 Header Item Third Level Funding

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 188-196

  Question No. 188 answered with Question No. 95.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 189. 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 remove apprenticeship fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29387/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan An Annual Student Contribution is levied on all students attending Institutes of Technology (IoTs).  Previously this Annual Student Contribution was paid by FÁS/SOLAS with apprentices themselves paying the part of the contribution relating to examination fees. As part of Budget 2014, SOLAS ceased making payments to IoTs and apprentices pay the full pro rata Annual Student Contribution.

The amount charged to apprentices is calculated on a pro rata basis of the time which they spend in IoTs during the academic year. This cost would typically be one third of the Annual Student Contribution paid by students attending for the full academic year, currently €3,000 and would amount to approximately €1,000 per student per period spent in the Institutes of Technology. 

There are no plans to abolish the Annual Student Contribution for apprentices.

Student Grant Scheme

 190. 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 the non-adjacent rate of the grant below the current 45 km; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29388/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student.  It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college.  The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means.  Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates.  The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.

Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.

The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.

The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Student Support Schemes

 191. 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 part-time and further education students will receive the same supports as full-time students in the same circumstances; if a hardship fund will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29389/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19 contains more than 30 actions that are intended to make higher education more representative of wider society. One of five goals in the plan is to assess the impact of current initiatives to support equity of access in Higher Education Institutions. These include the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) and the Student Assistance Fund (SAF), both of which are managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of my Department.

The Student Assistance Fund was recently extended to part-time students in higher education following the allocation of an additional €1m in Budget 2017. The current SAF allocation for the 2017/18 academic year is €9.1 million. 

The potential for reviewing other options for existing access funding initiatives to part-time studies in higher education and further education could only be considered in the context of the overall priorities and financial resources for access to higher and further education, and in the wider higher education funding context.

Special Educational Needs Staff Data

 192. 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 the estimated cost of employing an additional 450 resource teachers. [29445/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton DES Circulars 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools set out details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

  The revised allocation process replaces the previous generalised allocation processes 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.

  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.

  The Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfill their potential.

  In 2018, my Department will invest over €1.75 billion in this area - 1/5 of my Department's budget and up 42% since 2011, at which point €1.24 billion was invested. This increased investment has allowed the Government to increase the number of:

  - SNAs by 42%, from 10,575 in 2011 to 15,000 by the end of 2018.

  - Special classes by 138% to over 1,300 at present, compared to 548 special classes in 2011.

  - Special education teachers by 38% from 9,630 in 2011 to over 13,300 at present in 2018.

  The estimated cost full year cost of employing an additional 450 special education teachers would be approximately €27 Million per annum.

Psychological Services

 193. 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 the allocation provided for educational psychologists; and the estimated cost of employing a further ten, 20, 30, 40 and 50 educational psychologists, respectively. [29446/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy may be aware my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) 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).

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 with 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 her 10 posts from the start of the new academic year.

I can inform the Deputy that 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 answer to the Deputies specific question I can inform her that the average direct pay and non-pay cost per annum of engaging an individual Educational Psychologist is €73,000 per annum. The estimated annual additional cost, therefore, of employing the following numbers would be: 10 posts - €0.73m, 20 posts - €1.46m, 30 posts - €2.19m, 40 posts - €2.92m and 50 posts - €3.65m.

School Accommodation

 194. 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 the estimated cost of completing the prefab replacement scheme in one, two and five years, respectively. [29448/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I wish to advise the Deputy that it is my Department’s intention to replace purchased temporary accommodation with permanent accommodation, where the need is established, in the context of the long-term accommodation needs of each individual school, over the lifetime of my Department’s 6 Year Capital Programme.

Such accommodation will be replaced as part of major building projects completed under the Department's construction programmes and under my Department's additional accommodation scheme. An enhanced additional funding provision of €180 million is being made available from 2019 to progress this initiative.

It is not possible to calculate a cost estimate taking into account the extent of applications, that the outlay for repalcing temporary accommodation with permanent accommodation will vary from school to school depending on the extent and type of prefab unit, planning copnditions and other site specific costs.

Information and Communications Technology

 195. 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 the allocation being invested in information technology infrastructure. [29449/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In response to the Deputy’s question, in 2018, the funding allocated to Information Technology Infrastructure is outlined as follows.   

Schools ICT Infrastructure Funding:

  ICT grant to all Recognised Primary and Post Primary Schools for 2018 - €30 Million.

  Schools Broadband programme for Primary and Post Primary schools 2018 - €15,715,139.

  It is also worth noting that all new school buildings and school extension projects (where additional classroom accommodation is being delivered) receive an ICT Infrastructure grant per classroom.  The value of the grant at primary level for existing schools, including special schools, is €5,000 per classroom.  The value of the grant for new primary schools is €6,500 per classroom.  At post-primary level grant values vary in accordance with room usages. This particular grant is issued by the Department’s Planning and Building Unit as part of individual building projects.

Department of Education and Skills Internal IT Unit:

  This funding is used to build and maintain ICT Systems and services for the Department’s approximately 1,400 staff and its eGovernment systems.

  The allocation in 2018 was:

  Capital - €1,800,000

  Current - €3,625,000.

Third Level Funding

 196. 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 the allocation being invested in minor works and grants at third-level. [29450/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Out of an allocation of €10m for minor works and equipment renewal requirements that has recently been made available to Institutes of Technology, €5.890m of this allocation was paid out in 2017. The remainder will be taken from a total capital allocation of €30m that has been provided for investment in the higher education sector in 2018.


Last Updated: 06/03/2020 10:19:00 First Page Previous Page Page of 107 Next Page Last Page