Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 247-264
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Autism Support Services
 Header Item Pupil-Teacher Ratio
 Header Item Equality Issues
 Header Item Pupil-Teacher Ratio
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Emergency Works Scheme

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 100 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 247-264

School Transport

 247. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of school bus services; her views on reports of the cancellation of services by Dublin Bus for a number of schools including a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29930/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.

In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.

My Department is aware that Dublin Bus has cancelled a number of services that operated in the main to serve certain schools in the greater Dublin area. These services were operated separately by Dublin Bus and children paid fares or availed of a range of weekly tickets when travelling. They were not part of my Department’s School Transport Scheme.

My Department understands that Dublin Bus has written individually to each affected school, explaining the rationale for the discontinuation of the services and outlining alternative transport options where applicable.

Schools Building Projects

 248. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans regarding a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29949/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

  The brief for this project is to provide accommodation for a long term projected enrolment of 1000 students, including a 2 classroom SEN Base and PE Hall.

  The Design Team are currently working on Stage 1 of Architectural Planning (Site Suitability, Site Report, and Initial Sketch Scheme). When the Design Team have completed this preparatory Stage, they will present the options to my Department and the school, for review and approval.

State Examinations

 249. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the date on which the appeals process for leaving certificate 2020 students will be complete and all results available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30011/20]

 251. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if the 2020 leaving certificate appeals process was closed before all errors in the grading mechanisms were identified; if so, if students will have another opportunity to appeal decisions in the way in which they were graded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30013/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 251 together.

  The Calculated Grades Student Portal reopened on 14 September to allow students to view their estimated percentage marks and calculated marks and to submit an appeal for any of their Calculated Grades.

  The appeals process is a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process. It is not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school. Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process. The design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process.

At the time of closing the appeal application process on Wednesday 16   September, some 12,300 students had appealed almost 33,700 grades.

  The appeals process is continuing as normal following the announcements on 30 September and 03 October regarding errors found in the Calculated Grades model. This applies whether or not a student received an improved grade following the rectification of the errors. This is because the appeals process is a technical appeal, focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process.

  The results of Stage 1 and 2 appeals will be made available in the coming days.

  The third stage of the appeals process, on option to have the process reviewed by independent appeal scrutineers, will commence after the release of Stage 1 and Stage 2 appeals results. It is not possible to provide an expedited appeal for any student or group of students. All appeals will be processed and results released simultaneously to ensure fairness and equity to all.

   The CAO will be automatically notified by the Department of the outcomes of the appeals process.

  If, as a result of an upgrade, a student becomes eligible for a college place at a higher CAO preference than the one they were already offered, they will be eligible for that course.

  It is not possible to guarantee at this stage that, following a successful appeal, a student will be able to take up such a place offered in the academic year 2020/21. This depends on factors such as the number of appeals received, the nature of the appeal, and the higher education course being applied for. However, where possible, higher education institutions will attempt to facilitate students who are upgraded and receive a new offer.

State Examinations

 250. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she is satisfied that all instances in which students were incorrectly marked for the 2020 leaving certificate have been identified; the number of those affected; if the CAO rounds of offers were made while errors in the grading were being identified; if so, the number of students who missed out on a place in third-level education as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30012/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Leaving Certificate system has a well-established practice of not reducing the marks or grades of students who have not appealed their results, but who through an appeal by another student or other systemic check are identified as somebody who received higher marks or grades than were merited.

In keeping with that principle, and mindful of the fact that the mistake was not the students’ mistake, students who received higher grades as a result of the errors in the Calculated Grades system will not be downgraded. The Leaving Certificate results of these students will remain unchanged as they do every year in these circumstances.

The CAO system operates on behalf of the higher education institutions solely on the basis of the Leaving Certificate results that candidates have been awarded.

Therefore, the CAO cannot differentiate within the group of candidates with the 2020 Leaving Certificate, just as the CAO cannot treat a 2019 Leaving Certificate candidate differently from a 2020 one. The CAO process for 2020 has been undertaken on that basis and there is no scope for the CAO to re-assess the selection of students for higher education programmes on the basis of any information that does not relate to the formal results of the Leaving Certificate in 2020 or any other year.

There has been an increase in the numbers of available places in colleges this year so that improved CAO offers can be made to all candidates who benefitted from upgraded Leaving Certificate results. There were also extensive additional higher education places in 2020 – the most places ever offered – and the Department of Further and Higher Education and the higher education institutions are fully committed to providing further places to accommodate all students who are entitled to improved CAO offers.

Of the 485 candidates who received improved CAO offers last week, some of them will move from one course to another and this will create the potential for further offers to other candidates in succeeding rounds of the CAO. This will mean an overall increase in the numbers of students in third-level education.

  Question No. 251 answered with Question No. 249.

State Examinations

 252. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the dates on which the first calculated grades were made in relation to the 2020 leaving certificate results; the date on which the rounds of CAO offers were made; the date on which errors were discovered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30014/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  The information requested by the Deputy set out in the following table.

Date Event
7 September Calculated Grades results provided to students
11 September CAO Round 1 offers released
14 September Applications for appeals for Calculated Grades open
14 September Access for students, via the Calculated Grades Student Portal, to their estimated subject percentage marks from schools and to calculated marks from the Calculated Grades process.
16 September Appeals application process closes at 5pm
22 September Department advised by Polymetrika of inconsistency in how the data in the Calculated Grades model was performing.
23 September - Minister advised of coding error in relation to Calculated Grades standardisation process.- CAO Round 2 offers released
28 September Applications to sit postponed Leaving Certificate examinations open
28 September Access for students via the Calculated Grades Student Portal to their class rank order in each subject from the Calculated Grades process.
30 September The Minister announced that two errors had been found in the Leaving Certificate 2020 Calculated Grades process, relating to the way in which the coding for the process utilised Junior Cycle data.
1 October CAO Round 3 offers released
3 October The Minister, following a further review of the coding by an independent third party, announced that a third coding error had been identified, that all three errors had been corrected, following which 6,100 students received higher grades.
7 October Applications to sit postponed Leaving Certificate examinations closed
8 October CAO Round 4 offers released

Autism Support Services

 253. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to publish an autism strategy for Limerick city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30025/20]

 254. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the list of schools in Limerick city with ASD units with students in them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30026/20]

 255. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the list of schools in Newport, County Tipperary with ASD units with students in them in Limerick city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30027/20]

 256. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to support children with autism that are suffering due to the lack of ASD units in primary schools in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30028/20]

 257. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to support children with autism that are suffering due to the lack of ASD units in secondary schools in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30029/20]

 258. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to provide ASD units to secondary schools and feeder schools in Limerick city. [30030/20]

 259. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to provide ASD units to secondary schools and feeder schools in Newport, County Tipperary. [30031/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 to 259, inclusive, together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. My Department invests €1.9 Billion or almost 20% of its total educational budget annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs. This represents an increase of over 50% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 Billion per annum was provided.

The policy of my Department is that all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

This policy has been informed by published research, including the Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001), the Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (2006) and National Council for Special Education (NCSE) policy advice on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016).

This policy ensures that the majority of children with special educational needs attend mainstream classes with their peers.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants, Special Education Teachers and the appropriate school curriculum.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting where lower pupil/teacher ratios apply and there are other supports available.

There is therefore not one preferred educational environment for children with special educational needs, rather there is a model which takes into account the identified educational needs of individual pupils.

As such, my Department’s policy focuses on ensuring that all students, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to meeting their needs and abilities.

The National Council for special Education is responsible to planning and coordinating local education provision and school placements for children with special needs for the whole country. It has however advised that there are currently 60 classes supporting students with autism operating in mainstream schools in Limerick. These classes provide for up to 360 specialist places in mainstream schools based in a total of 37 Primary Schools and 23 Post Primary schools. 13 of these classes are new for the 2020/2021 school year. In addition, 188 students with autism are supported within 5 Special Schools in Limerick.

Taking a range of demographic factors into consideration, it is anticipated that additional places may be required in Limerick to cater for likely future demand in the city and county. The NCSE, through its network of local SENOs, will continue to engage with the local schools to establish additional classes as required.

NCSE has also advised that there are currently 4 special classes operating in primary and post-primary mainstream schools in Newport, Co. Tipperary, supporting students with autism. It is anticipated that a further special class will open here in September 2021, subject to available accommodation.

A list of all special classes, including classes opened for September 2020, is available on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

 260. Deputy Joe Flaherty Information on Joe  Flaherty Zoom on Joe  Flaherty asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to reduce class sizes each year until the average is comparable to that of EU and OECD countries (details supplied). [30034/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I am acutely aware of the issues faced by many schools in respect of teacher allocations and class sizes. Under the Programme for Government there is a commitment to seek to make further progress in reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools.

Previous budgets of 2016 and 2018 improved the staffing schedule by one point on both occasions to its historically lowest level ever of 1 teacher to 26 pupils. Primary schools are currently provided with class teachers on the basis of one teacher for every 26 pupils which is at its historically lowest level.

I am delighted to build further on this progress by announcing a further 1 point reduction in Budget 2021.

The staffing schedule for the 2021/22 academic year now stands at 1 teacher for every 25 pupils. This measure will help ensure better teacher retention in primary schools while also ensuring that less pupils are required to retain or recruit a teacher.

Teacher numbers at primary level have increased by almost 3,500 when comparing the 2015/16 school year with the 2019/20 school year and this has led to a steady improvement in the pupil teacher ratio and average class size statistics during this period.

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

The DEIS programme allows for a reduced class size in Urban Band 1 primary schools with the application of a preferential staffing schedule to these schools of 20:1 at junior classes and 24:1 at senior classes to support those students at the highest risk of educational disadvantage.

As the Deputy may be aware, DEIS Plan acknowledges the allocation of teaching resources to DEIS primary schools with the highest concentrations of children at risk of educational disadvantage has served to improve learning outcomes. It also commits to the evaluation of the level of teaching resources for schools participating in DEIS to be undertaken to inform future policy in this area.

In order to facilitate this a Class Size Working Group was established comprising representatives from the Education Partners, the Educational Research Centre and the relevant Business Units in my Department.

A report on the work of this group is currently being finalised, and will take into consideration the feedback and observations of the working group members. It is intended its findings will inform future policy direction in this area.

Equality Issues

 261. Deputy Joe Flaherty Information on Joe  Flaherty Zoom on Joe  Flaherty asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to end pay inequality (details supplied). [30035/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. The starting salary for a new entrant teacher in 2012 was €30,702. As a result of the programme of pay restoration, the starting salary of a teacher 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 approximately €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).

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 total year one cost of equalising the pay of new entrant teachers to the pre-2011 arrangements is estimated to be in the region of €59 million per annum in year one (€45 million for full resolution of pay scales and €14 million for re-instatement of the H.Dip allowance). The costs would rise in subsequent years as more new entrants join the system.

On 24 September 2018, an agreement was reached between the Government and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay.

This agreement is benefitting 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental jumps for new entrants.

I am fully aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement. These outstanding matters will be given full consideration. This will happen in the context of the next round of pay talks. The positions of each of the parties on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.

The current series of restorative measures for new entrants have been achieved through continued engagement and collective bargaining between the Government and the public service unions and shows the benefits that such engagement can bring.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

 262. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the steps she will take to ensure that the pupils of a school (details supplied) do not end up in overcrowded classes of over 30 children to a single teacher due to her officials refusing to allow the retention of a 12th teacher from 24 October 2020 onwards; if she will she intervene to have the decision reversed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30038/20]

 266. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will request her officials to provide for the temporary retention of a fourth first class teacher at a school (details supplied) for the duration of the 2020/2021 school year. [30107/20]

 271. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to reverse the decision to remove a teacher from a school (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the school is asking for the temporary retention of the teacher until June 2021; her views on whether the removal of the teacher will make it more difficult to maintain social distancing in view of the fact that it will result in four classes of 24 students becoming three classes of 32 students; her further views on whether the disruption caused by the removal of the teacher will have a negative impact on the progress of the students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30178/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I propose to take Questions Nos. 262, 266 and 271 together.

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

  However, the staffing arrangements for primary schools also includes the provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional permanent mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment for the following September, in this case September 2020.   

  The school referred to by the Deputy was allocated a teaching post on developing grounds, but has not achieved the required enrolment on 30th September. This school is 57 pupils below what they had indicated as their projected enrolment for September and the enrolment returned by the school for September 2020 is lower than the previous September's enrolment.

  The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

  The school has submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board which will be considered at its meeting later this month. The school will be informed of the Board's decision in due course.

  The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

School Staff

 263. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will examine the case of a provisional teacher allocation to a school (details supplied). [30040/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September.

  The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

  The school referred to by the Deputy was allocated a teaching post on appeal, but has not achieved the required enrolment on 30th September.

  The school has submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board which will be considered at its meeting later this month. The school will be informed of the Board's decision in due course.

  The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Emergency Works Scheme

 264. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a review of an application by a school (details supplied) under the emergency works grant. [30041/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I am pleased to inform the Deputy that approval in principle has issued to the school in question regarding funding under the Emergency Works Scheme for roof works. This approval is subject to the clarification of certain details by the school.


Last Updated: 20/01/2021 16:44:43 First Page Previous Page Page of 100 Next Page Last Page