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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 354-371
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item School Staffing Appeals Mechanism
 Header Item Home Tuition Scheme Funding
 Header Item Ministerial Staff
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment
 Header Item Summer Works Scheme Applications
 Header Item Summer Works Scheme Applications
 Header Item Third Level Fees

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 118 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 354-371

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 354. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extra resources, in terms of hours and facilities, he will allocate to deal with the upsurge in autism nationally, and in County Carlow in particular.  [13608/14]

 357. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extra resources, in terms of hours and facilities, he will allocate to deal with the upsurge in autism nationally, and in County Carlow in particular.  [13639/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 354 and 357 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the allocation of resource hours to schools, including supports for children with autism.

The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

The NCSE has invited schools to make applications for resource teaching support for children with assessments of low incidence special educational needs, as defined by my Departments Circular 02/05, for the coming 2014/15 school year, by 26th March, 2014. All schools who wish to make applications to the NCSE for resource teaching support should now submit such applications to the NCSE for their consideration. Subsequently the NCSE will advise all schools including those in Co. Carlow of their revised resource allocations in advance of the new school year.

The Deputy will be interested to note that NCSE has advised that, to their knowledge, there are no prevalence rates for autism which are specific to the Carlow area. However, Irish research at Dublin City University has reported a preliminary finding of a national prevalence rate for ASD of 1% and this is in line with international estimates.

Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements

 355. 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 his views on the fact a person (details supplied) who was unable to sit the MSAP exam on 8 March 2014 due to a certified medical reason has been advised he will have to wait until next year to resit the MSAP; the options that are open to the student in order to enrol for studies in the 2014-15 academic year; and if this student should be exempt from sitting the MSAP as he previously attained a degree from the same university in which he plans to enrol. [13621/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The MSAP (Mature Students Admission Pathway) is designed to assess a range of competencies considered important for success in tertiary study. I understand that mature students applying for specific courses in UCC, UCD and NUIG are required to have a MSAP result.

Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the management of their academic affairs, including admissions criteria, are matters for the individual institutions concerned. My Department has no function in relation to such matters. I would suggest that the person concerned contacts the admissions office of the relevant institution for information regarding his application as a mature student.

I understand that the website Qualifax.ie is a very useful resource for those considering entering higher education and full details of MSAP and other requirements of higher education institutions are available on the website.

  Question No. 356 answered with Question No. 296.

  Question No. 357 answered with Question No. 354.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 358. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 159 to 164, inclusive, of 11 March 2014, the date on which his Department's Model A document became outdated as indicated in his response; the date on which the document to replace Model A was issued to schools by his Department; and if a copy of that document will be provided. [13648/14]

 359. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 159 to 164, inclusive, of 11 March 2014, in which he stated his Department's position is that as each child with autism is unique they should all have access to a range of different approaches to meet their individual needs, if he will demonstrate the way he can know his policy is actually being fully adhered to by all schools in view of the fact he has indicated that details on the numbers of early intervention classes for children with autism who use ABA are not available because this information, while available in individual schools, has not been collated by his Department.  [13650/14]

 360. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 159 to 164, inclusive, of 11 March 2014, his views on whether the resources allocated of one full-time Special Education Support Service, SESS, member, who holds the board certified behaviour analyst, BCBA, qualification, is sufficient to supervise the use of ABA by teachers in more than 500 autism spectrum disorders, ASD, units throughout the country; and if his Department has consulted with the Division of Behaviour Analysis in Ireland regarding the recommended level of supervision required to implement ABA within more than 500 ASD units. [13651/14]

 361. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 159 to 164, inclusive, of 11 March 2014, in view of the fact that specific pieces of research have been brought to his personal attention which were originally supplied to his Department by an expert selected by his Department, his views that the two pieces of research clearly demonstrate that for some children with autism, fully accepting it only relates to some children and not all children with autism, the sole use of an ABA approach to educate children with autism was clearly shown to be more effective than the alternative approaches used in the studies.  [13652/14]

 362. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 159 to 164, inclusive, of 11 March 2014, the reason that since being established in December 2003 the National Council for Special Education has failed to provide his Department with specific policy advice on educating children with autism and therefore he was required recently, as Minister, to specifically request the NCSE to do so; the reason he did not do something about the situation at an earlier stage especially in view of the recommendation made by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in October 2012, which urged his Department to publish its policy document promptly and which has still not been published.  [13653/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 358 to 362, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country has been a key educational priority in recent years and supports my Department's policy to provide for children with special educational needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school and others with more complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. The Model A document referred to by the Deputy became outdated in that it refers to specific models of provision. I do not have a specific date from which the prescribed model became outdated.

Details on the numbers of early intervention classes for children with autism who use ABA are not available as this information, while available in individual schools, has not been collated by my Department. However this does not suggest that schools are not compliant with my Department's child centred approach to the education of children with autism. The Board of Management has a formal role under the Education Act to ensure that all Departmental policies are adhered to in their individual schools. Schools are supported in this regard by NEPS and the Inspectorate who have a formal role in evaluating, advising and supporting schools.

Support is also provided to teachers, through the Special Education Support Service (SESS), who provide continuing professional development in a range of autism specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

As outlined in my previous response, SESS has a number of teams involved in the provision of CPD and support to teachers of students with challenging behaviour; the Challenging Behaviour Team, the Autism Team and the Contemporary Applied Behaviour Analysis Team. I am satisfied that the SESS are making appropriate provision to support teachers and schools in this area. I should also point out that SESS is a support service for teachers and is not involved in the supervision of the implementation of ABA.

My Department is conscious of the need to adapt existing policies and to develop new policies as new research or learning becomes available. Further to encouragement from the Ombudsman for Children and mindful that greater clarity on my Department's policy on the education of children with autism would be useful for schools and parents, my Department commenced collating a statement of existing policy last year. Subsequently given that the National Council for Special Education has a formal role under Section 20.1(j) of EPSEN to advise the Minister in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities I requested the NCSE to prepare Policy Advice on the Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The NCSE has advised that the policy advice will be delivered in the spring of 2015 and will draw upon findings gathered from an extensive consultation process which has already commenced. In this context I have forwarded the two pieces of research previously referred to by the Deputy to the NCSE. I expect that the NCSE final report will reflect the broadest possible range of views and provide recommendations which will assist the development of policy for future years.

Departmental Funding

 363. Deputy Noel Harrington Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the funds that are available to a school (details supplied) in County Cork to remove trees which fell as a result of the recent storms and restore the school grounds to a safe environment for the children attending the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13655/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy may be aware all school buildings that are not covered by state indemnity are required to adequately insure their school premises including insurance for storm damage. Accordingly, any damages caused during the recent bad weather would be a matter for schools' insurers.

If works are required to school buildings that is not covered by insurance it is open to the school authority to submit an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme.

School Staffing Appeals Mechanism

 364. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will urgently examine an appeal by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry regarding the reinstatement of its third teacher; if he will take into consideration the grave health and safety and child protection concerns that have arisen from the loss of the third teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13667/14]

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 2014/15 are set out in Circular 0007/2014 which is available on the website.The staffing arrangements include an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Section 4 of Circular 0007/2014 provides details for schools wishing to make an appeal.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board meets three times per year. The first meeting was held in February, 2014. The school referred to by the Deputy did not submit an appeal to the February meeting of the Appeals Board. The next meeting will be held in June, 2014. The closing dates for submission of staffing appeals to the June meeting will be posted on the Department website in due course.

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

Home Tuition Scheme Funding

 365. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 70 of 12 March 2014, if it is incumbent on his Department to ensure moneys provided by his Department to a parent or legal guardian to provide home tuition is spent on this service; the checks his Department have in place to ensure that children whose parents or legal guardians receive said moneys actually receive home tuition; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13668/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Parents in receipt of the Home Tuition Grant aid engage tutors directly and the grant is paid to the parent either on a monthly basis in arrears or where possible in advance to assist parents cover the cost of engaging a tutor.

Parents/legal guardians approved for the Home Tuition engage tutors for the duration of the approved home tuition scheme on a self-employment basis and are paid directly by the Department into their own bank account and not the account of the tutor. It is the responsibility of the parent/legal guardian to transfer the fees received to the tutor once the tuition has been provided.

In order for the parent to receive payment of the grant aid in arrears, a claim form must be completed by both the parent and the tutor to confirm that the tuition was provided in accordance with the terms and conditions of the approval letter issued to the parent.

Where the parent chooses to avail of and qualifies for an advance payment, both the parent and the tutor sign a declaration confirming that they are both aware of the terms and conditions of the scheme. When the tuition has been completed, a reconciliation process, in which both the parent and the tutor confirm that the tuition was provided and the grant aid was used solely for the cost of the tuition provided, is completed.

I wish to inform the Deputy that in the small number of cases where parents are overpaid or where the parent fails to use the home tuition grant aid for the purposes it was intended, the Department has structured procedures in place to recover any resulting overpayment.

Ministerial Staff

 366. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of civil servants engaged in constituency work on his behalf; and the salaries, accommodation costs and expenses involved or associated with these duties. [13682/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn There are currently 2 civil servants working in my Constituency Office. The grades of these officers are as follows:

- 1 Higher Executive Officer

- 1 Staff Officer

  Both staff are located in the Headquarters of the Department of Education and Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. The total anticipated salary costs in 2014 is €101,417. The salaries and overtime (if any) paid to these civil servants are in accordance with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines.

Schools Building Projects Status

 367. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an update on the expected completion date of the autism spectrum disorders, ASD, accommodation at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13709/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Major Building Project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b - Detailed Design which includes applications for planning permission, Fire Safety Certification, Disability Access Certification and the preparation of tender documents.

The brief for the project includes provision for an 8 classroom school with an additional 3 classroom ASD Unit with associated withdrawal rooms, central activities space, office and ancillary accommodation.

When the Stage 2b Submission for the project has been received and assessed, my Department will then be in touch with the school authority regarding the potential progression of the project to tender and construction at that time.

Due to competing demands on my Department's capital budget, imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements, it was not possible to include the project referred to by the Deputy in the five year construction programme. Schools which have not been included in the five year construction programme, but which were announced for initial inclusion in the building programme will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to my Department. The project referred to by the Deputy remains available to be considered for progression in that context.

However, as an interim measure, in order to meet the immediate accommodation needs at the school, my Department has approved a 100 sq m ASD temporary unit for September 2014.

Teacher Recruitment

 368. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the progress that has been made on improving job prospects for newly qualified teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13714/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn This Government remains committed to protecting and enhancing the educational experience of children. Despite the difficult economic climate, my Department has been able to protect front-line education services in 2014 by identifying sufficient expenditure savings and efficiencies. This includes provision for additional teachers in primary and post primary schools as well as additional resource teachers for children with special educational needs as announced in Budget 2014.

In the coming years, we are facing massive increases in the number of school going children. Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is projected to grow by over 60,000 between now and 2017 and for enrolments at second level to reach a peak in 2026. I recently announced a significant school building programme to accommodate this increase. This is expected to provide additional job prospects for teachers in the coming years.

However, I am aware there are newly qualified teachers not yet holding teaching positions in schools. Measures have been taken to alleviate difficulties for new teachers, including the introduction of regulations which oblige schools to recruit unemployed teachers ahead of retired ones and the extension of the JobBridge National Internship Scheme to teachers.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

 369. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when funding will be made available under the summer works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13728/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that on 20th March last I announced that 386 schools have been approved funding under the Summer Works scheme to undertake school improvements. This first round of funding will allow schools to carry out small and medium scale building works across three categories of projects - Gas, Electrical & Mechanical.

A second round of the scheme is expected to be announced in coming weeks. This round will cover other types of improvement works, with applications including that from the school in question, still to be assessed within available funding on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (59/2013) is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

Summer Works Scheme Applications

 370. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when funding will be made available under the summer works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13730/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that on 20th March last I announced that 386 schools have been approved funding under the Summer Works scheme to undertake school improvements. This first round of funding will allow schools to carry out small and medium scale building works across three categories of projects - Gas, Electrical & Mechanical.

A second round of the scheme is expected to be announced in coming weeks. This round will cover other types of improvement works, with applications including that from the school in question, still to be assessed within available funding on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (59/2013) is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

Third Level Fees

 371. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding paying third level fees in respect of a person (details supplied). [13737/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Schemes the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing their first undergraduate full-time course of study. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. Students must meet both the nationality and residency criterion in order to be considered under the scheme.

Where students do not qualify for free fees they must pay the appropriate fee as determined by their third level institution. The institutions are autonomous and the level of fee payable by students who do not meet the requirements of the free fees schemes are matters for the relevant institution. However, in the case of students who do not meet the residency clause of the free fees scheme, I have requested that the higher education institutions charge the more moderate EU fees to EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who have completed at least five academic years of study (Primary or Post-Primary level) in the EU/EEA or Switzerland.

In light of my recent announcement the student referred to by the Deputy should contact the relevant higher education institution to confirm her position.


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