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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 217 to 237.
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Teaching Council of Ireland
 Header Item Departmental Properties
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item School Uniforms
 Header Item Education and Training Places
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration
 Header Item Departmental Policies
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Administration
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Expenditure
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Education and Training Provision
 Header Item Referendum Campaigns
 Header Item Referendum Campaigns
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item SOLAS Training Allowances
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 822 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 217 to 237.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 217. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the options open to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to continue their education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50223/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under my Department's student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme. Private colleges operated on a for-profit basis are not listed as approved institutions for student grant purposes. However, tax relief on tuition fees may be available for students attending courses in private colleges. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

  If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grants Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form is available to download from http://www.studentfinance.ie/downloads/1375344221/2013_SGAB_appeal_form.pdf.

Teaching Council of Ireland

 218. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the length of time before a teacher without practical experience will be de-registered from the Teaching Council.  [50260/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under the Teaching Council Act 2001 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory responsibility and authority for the registration of teachers. The conditions applied to a teacher's registration, and the time period allowed to meet those conditions, are notified to the teacher at the time of registration. A three-year period in which to meet registration conditions, including teaching experience, is normally granted. However if a teacher does not secure the required employment he/she may apply for an extension to his/her period of conditional registration. Applications for extension must be made in writing at least six months prior to the expiry date in the condition. Further information, including a facility for a teacher to check his/her conditions of registration, are available on the Teaching Council website.

Departmental Properties

 219. Deputy Arthur Spring Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he has prefabs in his possession as a result of the school building programme.  [50313/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Generally my Department does not hold prefabs that are no longer required as a result of a permanent building being provided under the School Building Programme. Under the Prefab Replacement Initiative rented prefabs are returned to the rental companies from whom they were rented and in the case of purchased prefabs these are relocated to schools requiring additional accommodation if in good condition or demolished if deemed not suitable for further use. In a small number of cases prefabs may be stored pending their relocated to a new school site.

Departmental Expenditure

 220. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the cost of production and distribution of the booklet sent to parents regarding school uniforms. [50315/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that no booklet has been sent to parents. It is my intention to publish a circular on the issue in question on my Department's website.

School Uniforms

 221. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if secondary schools with uniforms can discriminate against female students and force them to wear skirts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50336/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that I am taking an initiative to tackle the costs of uniforms by strengthening the role of parents in how schools decide their policies on uniforms. It is my intention to request school authorities to carry out a consultation process with parents. I will not be intervening in the dress codes that schools have put in place.

Education and Training Places

 222. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the total number of places reserved on education, training and back to work initiatives for under 26s under the responsibility of his Department in 2010, 2011 and 2012; if he will provide a breakdown of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50347/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon The following data is provided on the basis that the Deputy is referring to the number of places reserved for under 25s rather than under 26s.

In each of the years 2010 to 2012, the Youthreach programme, which is directed at young early school leavers aged 15 to 20, delivered over 3,600 places. In 2012 the Momentum programme had a dedicated theme to meet the specific needs of the long-term unemployed who are under 25s. Of the 6,500 total places available on Momentum 1,000 places were reserved for this category. Solas Community Training Centre provision, while not reserved for those aged under 26, is almost exclusively occupied by that cohort. In 2010, 4,199 participants were in this category; the equivalent figure for 2011 was 3,727; and, the 2012 figure was 3,576.

It should be noted that in each of the years mentioned by the Deputy my Department has provided over 430,000 education and training places for which those aged under 26 are eligible to apply. 87% of entrants to undergraduate higher education are aged under 25 as are almost 70% of those on post leaving certificate courses.

Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration

 223. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the fact that while his Department recognises the working week for special needs assistants as comprising of 28 hours per week, the National Council for Special Education uses the 32-hour standard for a full-time SNA post; that many SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in and be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the time they are required in addition to be available is not included in their contract time and that many SNAs are working approximately four hours per week for free as a result; and his plans to rectify same.  [50348/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Department does not recognise the working week for Special Needs Assistants as comprising of 28 hours per week. The position regarding the working hours of full-time SNAs is as outlined in the standard SNA contract of employment, which was agreed by this Department, the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) representing SNAs and the Management Bodies in 2005. In that context, the standard SNA contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school.

In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours.

Furthermore, the issue of appropriate working hours for all public servants was one of the key aspects of the set of proposals for a public service agreement which were put forward by the Labour Relations Commission and which now form the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement). The specific text of the Haddington Road Agreement relating to working hours for SNAs is as follows:

"SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS Hours

Under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, discussions took place that led to agreement on changed attendance arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) that give schools the option of an additional two hours working time per week from each Special Needs Assistant. Under the terms of this Agreement on increased working hours in the Public Service, the available requirements in schools for additional hours for SNAs is quite limited. Given issues such as the duration of the school day and operation hours, and the specific availability of individual SNAs the details of the utilisation of any additional requirements should be the subject of further discussions.

These new attendance arrangements, allied to the provisions outlined in the above paragraph should be the subject of a review by the LRC in advance of the 2013/2014 school year, involving the Department of Education and Skills and IMPACT/SIPTU, in order to assess if the additional hours are being utilised in the most effective and appropriate manner and in order to achieve agreement on any changes deemed necessary in terms of the arrangement agreed for teachers. This will constitute the liability on Special Needs Assistants in respect of working hours for the purposes of this extension to the Public Service Agreement."

Departmental Policies

 224. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if, as part of the school building programme, landscaping and planting of trees is being considered as an important part of this process; if he will encourage schools to have a tree-planting ceremony as part of the opening of new schools; and if he will engage with the Tree Council of Ireland to develop a programme of events and tree planting in newly built schools during National Tree Week 2014.  [50365/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn My Department's General Design Guidelines for both Primary and Post-primary schools provides for the preparation and landscaping of the area around the school and between the school and the site entrance. Such landscaping should be simple, cost effective and easy to maintain. An allowance for planting of trees and shrubs is included in the external works allowance.

The arrangements relating to the opening ceremony of a new school is entirely a matter for the relevant school authority and my Department is not usually involved. The National Tree Week initiative is led by the Tree Council of Ireland. Any consideration of my Department's role in this initiative has to take account of the very difficult budgetary context in which we must currently operate. In this regard, my Department's main focus is on maintaining, as far as possible, frontline services for schools.

Schools Building Projects Administration

 225. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the precise feeder area for a school (details supplied); if he will include maps and/or list of estates included in the feeder area; if the feeder area has changed from Ballinteer-Stepaside as recommended by FPS in 2012 to Stepaside-Carrickmines; if so, when this change occurred and the criteria used for making this change; the criteria used in the selection of the Ballyogan site, specifically relating to proximity to proven demand for Irish language medium education in Ballyogan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50371/13]

 226. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a school (details supplied) is being permanently moved out of Stepaside to a site in Ballyogan, Carrickmines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50372/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

Following detailed study of the demographic increases and the capacity of existing schools, my Department identified the need for the establishment of a new school to provide additional capacity for a 2 stream junior infant intake in the Ballinteer/ Stepaside area. Applications were invited from potential patrons for the new school. Following analysis of the expressed parental preferences that formed part of those applications, the New Schools Establishment Group recommended that two new schools should be established to serve the area, each to cater for a single stream of junior infant intake. One of the new schools is an English language medium school under the patronage of Educate Together and the second new school is an Irish language medium school under the patronage of An Foras Patrunachta.

As the Deputy may be aware, there is an existing Irish language medium school already located in the general area referred to. The question of location for the new Irish language medium school was therefore considered in the context of providing access to both Irish language medium schools to as great a number of pupils as possible. I should point out that Irish language medium schools (similar to many multi-denominational English medium schools) frequently make the point to my Department that the feeder or catchment areas for their schools tend to be considerably larger than those of the more traditional parish schools. It was logical therefore to locate the two Irish language medium schools at a remove from each other and thus provide the option of an Irish language medium school within a reasonable distance to a greater number of families and pupils in the area. This approach is supported by the patron of the two Irish language medium schools in question and is very much in line with the thrust of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.

Special Educational Needs Expenditure

 227. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the average cost of employing a special needs assistant. [50377/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The average cost of an SNA in the Secondary and community/comprehensive sector is €29,000 and €30,000 in the primary sector excluding the Employers PRSI contribution.

School Accommodation

 228. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the action being taken to replace the prefab classrooms at a school (details supplied) in County Galway with permanent accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50378/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware, that the school was invited to participate in the Prefab Replacement Scheme II and I understand that the school authorities accepted this offer. This acceptance, involving the construction of a number of classrooms, represents the first Phase of development works at the school. In that regard, it is envisaged that schedules of accommodation will issue to the school authorities shortly, along with detailed instructions as to the next steps for progressing this project.

Education and Training Provision

 229. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the budget associated with the allocation of 2,000 places on Momentum for young persons under 25 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [50439/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon Under a new round of Momentum in 2014, 2,000 training places will be targeted specifically at unemployed people aged under 25 at a cost of approximately 6 million euro.

Referendum Campaigns

 230. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the total number of schools in the country that were closed to facilitate polling for the Seanad referendum on 4 October 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [50468/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Returning Officers are statutorily responsible for the conduct of elections in the various constituencies and may, under electoral law, use school premises for this purpose. Where a school is used as a polling station for elections on a day on which the school was scheduled to be open, the school authorities concerned are allowed to count the day of polling as a day of exceptional closing and are not required to make up that day for the purposes of meeting the minimum number of days tuition required in the school year. It is not necessary for such schools to seek the formal approval of my Department for such a closure. Data in respect of the number of schools designated as polling stations for the recent elections is not readily available within my Department.

Referendum Campaigns

 231. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the total cost to his Department in payments made to teachers who were unable to work the day of the Seanad referendum on 4 October 2013 as their school was closed to facilitate polling; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [50469/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Returning Officers are statutorily responsible for the conduct of elections in the various constituencies and may, under electoral law, use school premises for this purpose. Where a school is used as a polling station for a referendum or elections on a day on which the school was scheduled to be open, the school authorities concerned are allowed to count the day of polling as a day of exceptional closing and are not required to make up that day for the purposes of meeting the minimum number of days tuition required in the school year. It is not necessary for each of the relevant schools to seek approval from the Department for such a closure. The data requested is not therefore available within the Department.

School Accommodation

 232. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding an application for a permanent extension to a school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [50474/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has an application with the Department for a major school project involving school refurbishment and the replacement of temporary accommodation. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. The Five Year Plan, which was announced in March 2012, prioritises new school building projects, as well as major extensions in areas where a demographic need has been established. In view of the funding constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding to meet additional demographic requirements, it is not possible to progress all projects within my Department's building programme concurrently. In that regard, it is also not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this school project at this time.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 233. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reasons for the delay in processing a Student Universal Support Ireland application in respect of a person (details supplied); when the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50476/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy a grant was awarded on the 13th of November and a letter has since issued to the student.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

 234. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide a breakdown per county of the number of applications for Student Universal Support Ireland grants; the number that have been paid out; the number that are still awaiting a decision; the number of appeals; the number that have been awarded but are awaiting payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50477/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I have been informed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that a breakdown of data is currently not available on a county by county basis. As at close of business on 24th November, 2013 for the 2013/14 academic year 68,073 new applications and 23,495 renewal application had been received by SUSI. Of these 31,931 new applications have been awarded or provisionally awarded and 20,017 renewal applications have been awarded. Some 2,905 applications are with SUSI for processing. 25,594 new applicants and 19,190 renewals have been paid maintenance or have been awarded a "fees only" grant. Payments to students awarded a "fees only" grant (either the student contribution or fees) are made directly to the relevant institution on receipt of an appropriate invoice from the institute. The total number of appeals received by SUSI to date is 3,976. SUSI is awaiting supporting documentation from 16,413 new applicants and 701 renewal applicants. The remaining students with outstanding documentation are being requested to return their documentation as soon as possible so that assessment of their applications can be completed.

SOLAS Training Allowances

 235. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason the FÁS training allowance has been reduced in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the legislation that underpins this reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [50514/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon In common with most participants on SOLAS courses, the training allowance payable to the person in question is equivalent to his social welfare entitlement. Course participants must bring a document signed by a DSP officer with them when they commence a course. This document shows the training allowance to which the individual is entitled. The person in question is also in receipt of a travel allowance.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the progress to date in respect of an appeal for higher education grant in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50518/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn An appeal from the student in question was considered by the independent Student Grants Appeals Board on the 24th September, 2013. I understand that Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) was requested to review this application by the Board. Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that the application is currently being reassessed and the student will be notified directly by SUSI of the outcome in the coming days.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 237. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if dyscalculia is accepted by his Department as a disability which qualifies school children for learning supports such as resource teaching or special needs assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [50577/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I wish to advise the Deputy that all schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with high incidence special educational needs, including Specific Learning Disability (SLD), of which dyscalculia is one such Specific Learning Disability. All mainstream Primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources under the General Allocation Model (GAM) to cater for children with high incidence special educational needs, including SLDs. It is a matter for individual schools to use their professional judgement to identify pupils who will receive this support and to use the resources available to the school to intervene at the appropriate level with such pupils. Schools are supported in this regard by the National Educational Psychological Services. All Post Primary schools have also been allocated additional teaching resources for pupils with high incidence special educational needs, including SLDs.

My Department provides guidelines for schools in relation to the utilisation of additional teaching resources which have been allocated to them for pupils with high incidence special educational needs. These include Circular SpEd 02/05, Inclusion of Pupils with Special Educational Needs Post Primary Guidelines and the National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS) Continuum of Support Guidelines. Further resources are also provided to schools to support pupils with SLDs. Funding is provided for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers and/or software to assist children with special educational needs, including children with SLDs, once relevant professionals recommend the equipment as being essential for the provision of education. Schools can apply to the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) directly for this support.

Special Needs Assistants are allocated to schools by the National Council for Special Education in order to assist schools to cater for the care needs of pupils with special educational needs who have been assessed as having care needs which require support in the class room. SNA support is therefore allocated to pupils who have been assessed as having such care needs, as opposed to being allocated on the basis of a particular disability diagnosis.


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