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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 144-158
 Header Item Derelict Sites
 Header Item Departmental Data
 Header Item Military Aircraft
 Header Item Trade Union Recognition
 Header Item Pupil-Teacher Ratio
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item School Staff

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 3
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 144-158

Derelict Sites

 144. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 7 October 2020, the 88 projects that have been approved for urban regeneration and development fund funding; the amount allocated to each; the financial assistance provided to and drawn down by respective local authority under the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021; the local authorities that have to date established a vacant homes office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30603/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Under Call 1 of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), 88 projects were approved for URDF support in November 2018, one of which was subsequently withdrawn by the applicant.

  The Table below lists the 87 projects advanced under Call 1 together with up-to-date provisional URDF funding allocations.

Applicant Project Provisional Allocation €000’s
Carlow County Council Carlow Town 580,000.00
Cavan County Council Cavan Town Centre 262,500.00
Clare County Council The Venue Shannon 250,000.00
Clare County Council Parnell Street and the Lanes and Bow-Ways 3,665,339.00
Clare County Council Barrack Square and Old Barrack Street and O’Connell Square and High Street 189,000.00
Cork City Council Beamish and Crawford / Grand Parade Quarter 916,000.00
Cork City Council Cork City Docklands 450,000.00
Cork County Council Carrigaline Western Relief Road 6,150,000.00
Cork County Council Midleton Main Street Public Improvements 1,921,985.00
Cork County Council Midleton Permeability Package of Proposals 187,500.00
Cork County Council Cobh UEA - Public Realm - Diaspora Centre 277,500.00
Cork County Council Carrigaline Public Realm 112,500.00
Cork County Council Carrigtwohill 562,500.00
Cork County Council Mallow Town Regeneration 1,480,500.00
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Stillorgan (Public Realm works) 1,609,800.00
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Dundrum Community, Cultural and Civic Action Plan 75,000.00
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Spatial and Economic Action Plan for Dun Laoghaire 75,000.00
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Cherrywood Public Parks, Greenways & Attenuation 13,358,102.00
Donegal County Council Letterkenny 2040 (Public Realm and Site Acquisition) 1,942,536.00
Dublin City Council Santry River Restoration Project 750,000.00
Dublin City Council Artists' Workspaces 200,000
Dublin City Council Inchicore - St Michael's Estate & Environs Regeneration 150,000.00
Dublin City Council Rutland Street NEIC 8,969,460.00
Dublin City Council Park West/Cherry Orchard Industrial Lands Analysis 150,000.00
Dublin City Council Naas Road LAP lands 200,000.00
Fingal County Council Balbriggan 2,125,000.00
Fingal County Council Sustainable Swords 375,000.00
Galway City Council Ardaun Upgrade of Martin Roundabout 2,703,000.00
Galway City Council Sandy Road Liosbán 187,500.00
Galway City Council Cycling and Walking 2,900,000.00
Kerry County Council Phase I Tralee Town Centre - Rock Street, Russell Street and Bridge Street 2,505,552.00
Kerry County Council Smarter Travel Killarney (Link & Public Realm) 1,000,000.00
Kerry County Council Áras Phádraig Masterplan 112,500.00
Kildare County Council Naas Library (including Public Realm works) 4,445,243.00
Kildare County Council Celbridge Southern Relief Road & Second Liffey Crossing 400,000.00
Kildare County Council Newbridge Cultural and Civic Quarter 492,000.00
Kildare County Council Canal Quarter Naas 195,000.00
Kilkenny County Council Abbey Quarter (Public Realm enabling) 6,154,000.00
Laois County Council Portlaoise - A Cultural Quarter 7,028,640.00
Laois County Council Portlaoise - A Low Carbon Town 2,026,372.00
Leitrim County Council Public Realm Improvement Scheme for the town of Carrick on Shannon 6,502,500.00
Limerick City & County Council O'Connell Street 4,500,000.00
Limerick City & County Council Digital Collaboration and Virtual Reality Centre 937,500.00
Limerick City & County Council Worldclass Waterfront 350,000.00
Limerick City & County Council Social and Economic Model 110,000.00
Limerick City & County Council Living Georgian City Programme 1,200,000.00
Limerick City & County Council Opera Project (Site enabling) 1,839,000.00
Longford County Council Longford Connected (Public Realm Marketsquare) 2,990,355.00
Louth County Council Long Walk Quarter Dundalk 533,000.00
Louth County Council Westgate Vision Drogheda 476,000.00
Mayo County Council Ballina Innovation Quarter 5,361,004.00
Mayo County Council Castlebar Urban Greenway Link 1,875,000.00
Mayo County Council Castlebar Military Barracks 142,500.00
Meath County Council Ashbourne Road and Public Realm Improvement 6,376,050.00
Meath County Council Flowerhill Regeneration Project 75,000.00
Meath County Council Navan Active Land Management Project 3,683,000.00
Meath County Council Railway Street Regeneration and County Archive 187,500.00
Monaghan County Council Dublin Street Regeneration Monaghan 1,285,108.00
Offaly County Council Tullamore Urban Area (Public Realm) 3,000,000.00
Roscommon County Council Public Realm Plan - Market Square & Main Street 4,775,075.00
Roscommon County Council Roscommon Town Centre 350,000.00
Sligo County Council Eastern Garavogue Bridge & Approach Roads Scheme 6,000,000.00
Sligo County Council O'Connell Street Enhancement 1,236,000.00
Sligo County Council Sligo Cultural Plaza 750,000.00
Sligo County Council Sligo Public Realm 560,000.00
South Dublin County Council Tallaght Town Centre (Civic Plaza/Link Road) 14,850,000.00
South Dublin County Council Naas Road/Ballymount 200,000.00
Tipperary County Council Liberty Square Thurles 4,390,000.00
Tipperary County Council Clonmel 9,333,124.00
Waterford City & County Council Waterford City and Environs - North Quays (Infrastructure enabling) 6,000,000.00
Waterford City & County Council Tramore Town Centre 2,172,500.00
Westmeath County Council Loughanaskin 750,000.00
Westmeath County Council Canal Avenue & Environs Regeneration Project 1,706,250.00
Westmeath County Council Athlone Tourism Cultural Quarter 750,000.00
Westmeath County Council Blackhall, Mullingar 2,452,500.00
Westmeath County Council Athlone Town Centre Regeneration and Enhancement 750,000.00
Wexford County Council Trinity Wharf Project 2,028,000.00
Wicklow County Council Bray Public Transport Bridge 6,450,000.00
Wicklow County Council Arklow Historic Town Core 2,351,013.00
Wicklow County Council Wicklow Town 4,627,409.00
University of Limerick Digital District (Inner City Digital Hub) 750,000.00
Trinity College Dublin Campus at Grand Canal Quay (Public Realm Re-use) 1,500,000.00
Port of Cork Tivoli Docks 1,312,500.00
Irish Rail Kent Station Yard (Site enabling) 750,000.00
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht No. 11 Parnell Square 3,862,500.00
National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) Nuns Island Masterplanning 236,000.00
Galway Harbour Company Regeneration of Galway City Inner Harbour 285,000.00
  Total €199,736,417


  Since 2018, my Department has provided funding of €50,000 per annum to each local authority to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office. The funding is provided from July to June each year and 21 local authorities have drawn down the funding for the period July 2020 to June 2021.

  The provision of central funding allows for focus to be given to the role of the Vacant Homes Office and reinforces the capacity of my Department’s Vacant Homes Unit to liaise with and seek information/statistics from a dedicated contact point within each local authority.

  Each of the 31 local authorities has established a Vacant Homes Office and appointed a Vacant Homes Officer. The establishment of a Vacant Homes Office plays a key role in the co-ordination of tasks that support, implement and further develop, update, monitor and review the progress of local authorities’ Vacant Homes Action Plans and actions to address vacant private housing.

Departmental Data

 145. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the amount expended each year to date under the repair and lease scheme and the buy and repair scheme introduced by his Department; the number of vacant stock brought back into use each year under each scheme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30605/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Data relating to expenditure and delivery, by year, under the Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) and the Buy and Renew scheme expenditure is set out in the tables below.

  Table 1: RLS Capital Expenditure and Delivery 2017 to end Q2 2020

Year Total Delivery Expenditure
2017 9 €196,385
2018 80 €1,613,107
2019 76 €1,837,121
To end Q2 2020 20 €660,373


  Table 2: Buy and Renew Expenditure and Delivery 2017 to end Q2 2020
Year Total Delivery Expenditure
2016/17 176 €30.6m
2018 223 €46.8m
2019 160 €30.5m
To end Q2 2020 22 €4.8m

Military Aircraft

 146. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of times an aircraft (details supplied) landed at Baldonnel; the dates and times of same; the dates the aircraft stayed overnight at Baldonnel; and the reason for the visits. [30372/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am advised by the military authorities that, based on their records from 1 August 2008 to the present day, there is no record of the aircraft referred to by the Deputy having landed in Casement Aerodrome.

Trade Union Recognition

 147. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if an application has been received from a union for permission to affiliate to a body (details supplied); if so, when a decision will be made on the application; the reason for the delay in making a decision on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30537/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under the Defence Acts, 1954-2015, the Permanent Defence Force representative associations are prohibited from being associated with or affiliated with any trade unions or any other body without the consent of the Minister.

To compensate for these limitations there are a range of statutory redress mechanisms available to serving members, including redress of wrongs, a Defence Forces Ombudsman and a Conciliation and Arbitration scheme.

In 2017, the European Committee of Social Rights, in a non-binding ruling, found that Ireland was in violation of the European Social Charter in respect of the right to organise, that is to affiliate to certain organisations and the right to negotiate collective agreements. The Committee found that Ireland was not in violation of the European Social Charter in respect of the prohibition of the right of military personnel to strike.

The Government is aware of the long standing desire of PDFORRA to associate with ICTU. However, association with ICTU poses complex questions for the Defence Forces from a legal, operational and management perspective. It is critically important that Defence Forces operations are not restricted and this is a key concern.

The European Committee of Social Rights in arriving at its decision took into account a statement made in the complaint, which claimed that ICTU had stated that “PDFORRA could be affiliated to ICTU with whatever conditions the Government deemed necessary”. Defence management (civil and military) have been engaged in discussions with the Permanent Defence Force representative associations and ICTU regarding the practicalities of a Defence Forces representative association forming association/affiliation with ICTU. These discussions have encompassed matters of concern to all parties.

PDFORRA initiated legal proceedings on this matter on 26 June 2020. As this matter is now subject to litigation, it would not be appropriate to comment further.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

 148. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to address large classes in primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29742/20]

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 most recent budget announcement will continue the positive trend of improving class sizes.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 149. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Information on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Zoom on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a school should advise a pod of students to self-isolate and stay home in the situation of a confirmed Covid-19 case in a class of students; if not, if such advice should be issued to the entire class; and the factors on which such advice is dependent. [28429/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE have published guidance for managing potential cases of COVID-19 in educational settings, which includes the testing strategy within an educational facility ‘Schools Pathway for COVID-19, the Public Health approach’:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/a0bff-reopening-our-primary-and-special-schools/

  This guidance provides that the HSE Department of Public Health will liaise directly with schools regarding any actions to be taken following a Public Health Risk Assessment. In practice, this involves the HSE Department of Public Health liaising directly with the designated contact, usually the school principal of the public health instructions. The risk assessment includes HSE advice and guidance on communication to pupils and staff in the event of a confirmed case in the school.

  My Department has also recently published detailed FAQs for school principals in relation to the COVID-19 Testing Pathway for school communities. These FAQs will greatly assist principals to understand and manage situations as they arise in their schools and they include HSE contact details, including for out of hours for any queries that the FAQs do not address.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 150. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the provisions in place and funds committed in reserve to potential and unforeseen issues arising upon the reopening of schools to ensure that they may be promptly addressed and that schools may remain open. [22239/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As the Deputy is aware, on the 27th July 2020 the Government announced the publication of Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for The Full Return to School, along with details of a financial package of over €375 million to support its implementation, following approval by Government.

  The roadmap outlined a comprehensive range of measures that are being provided to support the full reopening of schools.

  The roadmap was developed following intensive engagement with stakeholders from the education sector, including teachers’ unions, representatives of principals and deputy principals, school management bodies, representatives of parents and post-primary students and support staff.

  The roadmap and the funding package recognise the challenges faced by schools in ensuring the safe return of over one million students and approximately 100,000 staff in 4,000 schools in the context of COVID-19. It sets out clear plans and practical guidance on the measures schools need to take to operate safely and minimise the risk of the introduction, or spread, of infection in schools.

  The financial package approved by Government to support schools recognises that COVID-19 poses significant challenges with regard to staffing, particularly in regard to replacement of staff, substitution, supervision and the need for wellbeing supports.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 151. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the provisions put in place to ensure ongoing consultation with school boards of management, parents’ associations and teaching unions upon the reopening of schools. [22240/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department published The Roadmap for the full return to School on 27 July 2020. This details the ongoing communication arrangements and continued stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the measures set out in the roadmap to support the continued operation of schools.  In this regard the Roadmap states that my Department will continue to engage closely with education partners and other key stakeholders on the implementation of measures set out in the roadmap to support the continued operation of schools.

Detailed stakeholder engagement has been a critical factor in identifying the complex challenges that arise for schools and school leaders across a number of areas, including logistical challenges in meeting cleaning and physical distancing requirements, curriculum and assessment matters, and the wellbeing and welfare of the school community on reopening.

My Department is actively continuing to engage closely and intensively with education partners and other key stakeholders on the refinement and development of guidance related to the operation of schools.

National Educational Psychological Service

 152. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the contingency plan in place to respond to the expected rise in schoolchildren presenting with mental health issues following their return to the classroom; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22334/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The wellbeing and mental health of our school communities was a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to ensure a successful return to school, as we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. It is crucial that we support the wellbeing of our students and school management and staff in order to support successful re-engagement with teaching and learning. We know that most students, and indeed their families and school staff were looking forward to going back, reconnecting with school, reconnecting with staff and friends and settling back into school work. This has been a time of change, with new rules and routines to be learned, in order to keep everyone safe. Some students may have felt anxious about the return to school. In times of change some worry or anxiety is a normal response. Most by now will have settled and re-engaged with little difficulty after an initial settling in period.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department is leading on supporting the wellbeing of schools communities. The response to supporting the wellbeing of all within school communities on the return to school required a structured, compassionate, psychosocial response with a largely preventative and proactive focus. This required a whole-school team approach to planning in order to ensure that staff, students and parents feel safe and secure. This response aligned with the HSE guidance on such responses, and was based on the five key principles of promoting a sense of safety, calm, connectedness, self- and community-efficacy and hope.

It is acknowledged that some students and their families may need additional support for wellbeing and to settle back into school that is in addition to the universal wellbeing supports being provided for all students. Schools have been supported with this response by the provision of a range of further guidance and support from my Department’s Psychological Support Service, NEPS, by the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) and with support from HSE Services, including access to e-mental health services. NEPS psychologists now have an increased focus on both consultation and casework in schools with particular attention to the needs of individual students. Psychologists are providing a blended approach to the provision of casework to schools, working both remotely, and where appropriate in-school, depending of the nature of need. As part of a package of measures to support the reopening of our schools the provision of an additional seventeen psychologist posts to NEPS was announced bringing overall sanctioned numbers to 221 whole time equivalent psychologist posts.

School Transport

 153. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her views on the adequacy of the school transport system to cater for schoolchildren and the ability to social distance adequately on school buses; her further views on the adequacy of the preparations made to deal with the demand; her further views on the inability of some families to get access for children to local school buses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25851/20]

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.

In the 2019/2020 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.

School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year commenced operation on the 26th August 2020. All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.

The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. The Department has also been engaging with Bus Éireann on the logistics involved with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, in line with those required on public transport, aligned to the public health advice received from NPHET shortly before schools reopened which advised that the post-primary scheme should run at 50% capacity. The implementation of 50% capacity has been put in place where possible over the last number of weeks, while Bus Éireann has been carrying out a detailed analysis of the resources required to fully implement the advice on all routes.

Bus Éireann and the Department have supported all bus contractors to put in place measures to support infection prevention and control on the buses. The Department has also issued detailed information and guidance to parents and children on the operation of school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. Measures include all post-primary students wearing masks, all bus drivers and bus escorts receiving PPE where necessary, as well as funding to support additional cleaning and hygiene measures, including the provision of sanitiser on all buses. Seating plans with pre-assigned seating are in place on all routes, with children sitting next to their siblings or classmates where possible. This reduces the interaction of children on the buses with those outside of their family, class or school.

I am pleased to announce that, following a Government Decision on the 29th of September, Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure full implementation of the measures required for the operation of school transport for post-primary children that is aligned to updated health advice received from NPHET on the 18th of August, for which the estimated full year cost to operate all services at 50% capacity is between €87m and €135m with an estimated requirement for an additional 1,600 drivers and vehicles and 650 additional School Bus Escorts.

Further detailed planning is being done through the local offices on a route by route basis to plan appropriate measures to provide the additional capacity required. As the additional capacity is rolled out, where spare capacity is created, further tickets will be allocated to those children eligible for the scheme who have paid late and for other applicants seeking concessionary tickets.

School Transport

 154. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of students that have been left without school transport; the number of applications pending for both concessionary and eligible categories; the actions being taken to address the situation; when students currently excluded will access transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25687/20]

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.

  In the 2019/2020 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.

  School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year commenced operation on the 26th August 2020. All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.

  The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. The Department has also been engaging with Bus Éireann on the logistics involved with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, in line with those required on public transport, aligned to the public health advice received from NPHET shortly before schools reopened which advised that the post-primary scheme should run at 50% capacity.   The implementation of 50% capacity has been put in place where possible over the last number of weeks, while Bus Éireann has been carrying out a detailed analysis of the resources required to fully implement the advice on all routes.

  Bus Éireann and the Department have supported all bus contractors to put in place measures to support infection prevention and control on the buses. The Department has also issued detailed information and guidance to parents and children on the operation of school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. Measures include all post-primary students wearing masks, all bus drivers and bus escorts receiving PPE where necessary, as well as funding to support additional cleaning and hygiene measures, including the provision of sanitiser on all buses.   Seating plans with pre-assigned seating are in place on all routes, with children sitting next to their siblings or classmates where possible. This reduces the interaction of children on the buses with those outside of their family, class or school.

  I am pleased to announce that, following a Government Decision on the 29th of September, Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure full implementation of the measures required for the operation of school transport for post-primary children that is aligned to updated health advice received from NPHET on the 18th of August, for which the estimated full year cost to operate all services at 50% capacity is between €87m and €135m with an estimated requirement for an additional 1,600 drivers and vehicles and 650 additional School Bus Escorts.

  Further detailed planning is being done through the local offices on a route by route basis to plan appropriate measures to provide the additional capacity required. As the additional capacity is rolled out, where spare capacity is created, further tickets will be allocated to those children eligible for the scheme who have paid late and for other applicants seeking concessionary tickets.

  The number of students that have not been successful in obtaining a seat at this time are detailed below, broken down into eligible pupils who paid late, ineligible pupils who paid late and ineligible pupils who paid on time but for who there are no seats available. All eligible pupils who applied and paid on time have been accommodated on transport for the current school year. The Deputy should note that the information below was compiled on the 7th October and is subject to change due to further payments being received, applications being closed and refunds and grant applications being processed etc.

Primary/Post Primary Eligible (Late) Ineligible (late) Ineligible (paid on time) - no seats available due to insufficient capacity
Post Primary 2474 902 625
Primary 246 229 144
Total 2720 1131 769

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 155. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the percentage of additional capital allocation of €75 million for primary and post-primary schools to carry out necessary reconfiguration works to support the reopening of schools in late August 2020 that has been allocated and spent to date; if all schools received their grants for 2020 in view of the fact many schools also cover cleaning costs using ancillary services grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26809/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As part of Project Ireland 2040 the Minor Works Grant (MWG) is paid to primary schools in either December or January of each school year. This year, due to the exceptional circumstances arising from COVID-19, €29m was paid under the Minor Works Grant to primary schools in the free scheme in July 2020.

Under the July Stimulus Programme additional funding of €75m was allocated to cover an enhanced Minor Works Grant at Primary and a once off Minor Works Grant at Post-Primary schools. €72m of which is paid directly to the school. Of this €72m, there is currently €71m of these grants issued to schools. This equates to 98.6% funding provided to 3920 schools.

€3m of this additional funding was retained, as a reserve fund by the Department, to assist individual schools that require greater levels of re-configuration works. Applications are being dealt with on a case by case basis by the Department. 55 applications have been received from schools in respect of exceptional needs and to date 39 schools have been allocated additional funding in excess of €2m. A number of application are still under consideration.”

Covid-19 Pandemic

 156. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the way in which she is ensuring that educators are following the HSE guidelines and protocols for children with respiratory problems in schools; and the description of face covering. [30377/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools. Each school is required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

  My Department has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Health and Safety Authority that reflects our shared objective of ensuring that the Return to Work Safety Protocol for addressing COVID-19 in the workplace is being implemented.

  My Department’s Inspectorate will lead on visits to schools for the purposes of working with and advising schools in implementing the Return to Work Safety Protocol for addressing COVID-19 in the workplace and public health advice. The objective of the Inspectors visits in this context are to provide ongoing and continuous support to schools to sustain reopening in a Covid-19 context.

  My Department received advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on the use of face coverings in educational settings on the 6th August 2020. It is a requirement for face coverings to be worn by teachers, staff in schools and students attending post primary school.

  However Public health advice also provides that cloth face coverings should not be worn by any of the following groups:

  - any person with difficulty breathing

  - any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance

  - any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.

  A medical certificate must be provided to the school where an exemptions is sought on the above grounds. There is no capacity for schools to deviate from either the requirement to wear face coverings or the exemptions that apply.   

  Advice for schools on the use of face coverings is available in the COVID-19 Response Plans for schools published on www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

School Admissions

 157. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of second level school places in the Malahide and Portmarnock catchment area for the years 2022 to 2024 by school in tabular form; if the increased demand from pupils from a school (details supplied) from 2022 onwards has been factored into her Department’s calculations for the demand in places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30382/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As the Deputy may be aware, in order to plan for school provision my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where a demand for additional school places will arise. Malahide_Nevinstown and Portmarnock are two such school planning areas.

Included in the data analysed is Child Benefit data and, for the purpose of post primary school place projections, current enrolments in primary schools in the relevant school planning area(s). Also considered is information provided by local authorities in respect of residential development activity in each area, in order to anticipate emerging school place requirements from any planned additional population.

The requirement for additional school places is kept under on-going review and work on an updated exercise to assess needs for the coming years, including those which may arise in Malahide_Nevinstown and Portmarnock, is at an advanced stage. I can assure the Deputy that the enrolments in the school to which she refers are included in the analysis of projected post primary requirements.

School Staff

 158. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a school (details supplied) will retain its class teacher level of nine teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30387/20]

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. This school referred to by the Deputy was granted a staffing appeal post, on a provisional basis pending confirmation of enrolments on 30th September 2020.

The final staffing position will be confirmed later this month once enrolments have been confirmed and the October meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board has dealt with staffing appeals for the 2020/21 school year.


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