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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 176-185
 Header Item Alternative Energy Projects
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Applications
 Header Item State Examinations Issues
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item School Staffing
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item School Enrolments

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 176-185

Alternative Energy Projects

 176. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide clarification on the findings of the biomass deployment programme; if the programme has proven effective; if funding will be made available for other suitable sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21384/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn All new technologies and approaches are tested to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements. Successful and repeatable results are then incorporated into all new school designs and refurbishments.

In 2006 the Department of Education & Skills commenced a unique project in relation to biomass energy use in schools to evaluate the suitable application and performance and compatibility of biomass systems. The evaluation process included school heating requirements in terms of heating demand characteristics, controls, reliability, fuel storage and maintenance and operation and customer satisfaction. The evaluation of the 14 sites that formed the Biomass Deployment Pilot Programme from 2007 to 2009 met the overall objective in that it trialled a number of boiler types for integration into a representative sample of educational buildings which included both new and existing structures.

The project was assessed by independent consultants. The pilot highlighted the positive and negative aspects in the challenges of successfully integrating biomass into the school stock. This was not achieved without some issues and the overall level of satisfaction was rated at approx. 56%. The study found that biomass boilers can provide an efficient and renewable form of heating in schools but cannot be deemed an exact fit. It is also considered that it will prove difficult to match the small schools in the country with biomass heating on an operational and costs basis. The study found that as reflected in the satisfaction rating, biomass systems can require a significant amount of management input on site to ensure that they operate at optimum level and provide reliable heating to the school.

One outcome from the project highlighted the potential market for Energy Supply Companies (ESCO) to provide a heat contract to schools based on biomass heating, where the ESCO finances, operates and maintains the system and sells heat to the school. The Department also makes allowances for same in all new school designs via our Technical Guidance Documents, thus ensuring that there are no barriers to an ESCO being developed on a new school site.

Schools Building Projects Applications

 177. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the current position in relation to an application to County Donegal Vocational Education Committee towards the acquisition of a site, of adequate dimension, to cater for the proposed campus development to include Gael Scoil Buncrana and possibly Coláiste Chineál Eoghain. [21385/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that discussions are ongoing between officials in Co. Donegal VEC and my Department in relation to identifying a suitable site to cater for the proposed campus development to which he refers. Due to the commercial sensitivities attaching to site acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

State Examinations Issues

 178. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to teachers' concerns about the new junior certificate examination proposals (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21395/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Short courses were originally suggested in the document "Towards a Framework for Junior Cycle" prepared by the NCCA. There was extensive consultation over many months with teachers and other stakeholders in relation to this document. The NCCA advice in relation to short courses was largely taken up by the Minister in the "Framework for Junior Cycle" published in October 2012.

Some short courses will be designed centrally by the NCCA and others by schools themselves or other bodies. It is a matter for schools to determine whether they wish to offer short courses as part of their junior cycle programme, being mindful of the needs of their students and their particular local circumstances. Short courses will enable schools to have the opportunity to broaden the learning experiences of their students if that is what the school decides. The opportunity to include short courses has been widely welcomed.

School Patronage

 179. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn in the context of the outcome of the survey on the patronage of primary schools, if it is his intention to change the patronage of a certain school (details supplied) in County Cork or to establish a new school under the Educate Together patronage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21419/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Following on from the recent publication of the results of the surveys of primary school patronage, I have written to the Catholic Patrons in the 23 areas where parental demand for change has been confirmed in the most recent surveys. This includes the area referred to by the Deputy. I have requested they now consider options for reconfiguring schools under their patronage in order to allow the transfer of schools to new patrons. The Catholic Patrons have been asked to submit an interim response within three months and a final response with detailed proposals on divesting schools within six months. Options for change will be considered in respect of these proposals. No decision has been made in respect of the patronage of any individual schools at this time.

School Staffing

 180. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will review a submission from a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21420/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on the Department's website. 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 30 September. The staffing arrangements for the coming school year 2013/14 are set out in Circular 0013/2013 which is available on the website. The staffing arrangements also include an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The appeal criteria are also set out in Circular 0013/2013.The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. Having considered the school's application in the context of the published grounds, the Board refused the appeal at its meeting in 27th/28th March 2013. The school was notified accordingly.

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

School Patronage

 181. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if students of all religions who wish to attend their local secondary school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 in the multi-ethnic community, will be required to wear a Catholic crest on their school jumper, as is proposed by the patrons and as appears on their website.  [21444/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn In accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school.

Individual school authorities are responsible for the drawing up of a school policy in relation to the wearing of school uniforms. However, my Department recommends that the formulation of such a school policy should allow for prior consultation with teachers, parents and pupils where appropriate and enable any concerns to be raised and considered.

Decisions regarding school uniforms are a matter for each individual school.

The patronage of the school in question was decided in July 2012 following a report prepared by the New Schools Establishment Group, an independent advisory group. All Patrons were asked to provide evidence of parental demand when making an application for a new school. In addition, the criteria used in deciding on patronage included how the proposed schools under the respective patrons would provide for extending or strengthening diversity of provision in each area, having regard to the views of parents.

In accepting the advice of the New Schools Establishment Group on the patronage of the school in Tyrellstown, I was particularly conscious of taking into account the clear parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage. I am confident that the new schools, alongside the existing schools in the area, will mean that parents and students have real choice when it comes to deciding which school most reflects their own ethos.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 182. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when a determination will be made in a grant application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21453/13]

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 (SUSI) that the student referred to by the Deputy was issued with a decision on the 2/5/2013 advising him that he was ineligible in relation to his grant application for 2012/13 academic year.

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 Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form is available on request from SUSI.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 183. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will consider the provision of 4.5 hours one to one resource weekly support for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21456/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that the policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, in order to ensure that as many children as possible can be educated with their peers within their own community.

My Department therefore provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.

Children with special educational needs may be enrolled in a mainstream school and attend all mainstream classes and receive additional teaching support through the learning support and/or resource teacher. Or they may enrol in a mainstream school and attend a special class, or they may enrol in a special school.

Where schools have enrolled pupils with special educational needs they may be supported by additional resource/learning support teaching either under the General Allocation Model in primary schools or the school may make an application to the National Council for Special Education for resource teaching hours for pupils with low incidence special educational needs as set out in my Departments Circular 02/05.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

In addition, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs.

Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

The enrolment of a child in a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools. However, where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Pension Provisions

 184. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when his Department will be able to respond to queries regarding accessing the pre 1979 files for a retired teacher (details supplied) so that they may proceed with a pension application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21460/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The person to whom the Deputy refers has no entitlement to an occupational teachers pension from my department in respect of his teaching service. This was advised to him in correspondence from my Department on various occasions over a number of years. During his teaching service, membership of the secondary teachers pension scheme was open to him on a voluntary basis, however, the person to whom the Deputy refers did not join the pension scheme. It is no longer possible for him to do so.

School Enrolments

 185. 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 mechanisms that are in place to ensure that children who have been adopted or fostered are not disadvantaged from enrolling in local schools where there is a high demand due to their inability to enrol at an early age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21516/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. In this regard a Board of Management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances are a matter for the schools themselves. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the rights of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The Board can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

As the Deputy will be aware, I announced at the recent Teacher Union Conferences that I will shortly bring to Government draft heads of a bill – the Education (Admission to School) Bill 2013. I will seek to publish the Bill in draft form to allow a full public discussion, including inputs from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection and the education partners. I also intend to publish draft regulations that I plan to make when the Bill is enacted.

In bringing forward these proposals, it is not my intention to unnecessarily intrude into how schools do their business. My policy objective is to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications is structured, fair and transparent. As the Bill and the Regulations will be published in draft form, they will also be subject to a lot of detailed scrutiny before becoming law. I will be reflecting carefully on the views expressed in the consultation process to ensure they strike the right balance between school autonomy and fairness in our education system.


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