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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 76-96
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Mental Health Strategies
 Header Item DEIS Eligibility
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements
 Header Item National Development Plan
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item Residential Institutions Statutory Fund
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Administration
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 76-96

Schools Building Projects Status

 76. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of proposed new development works at a school (details supplied). [42043/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Deputy will be aware that a major building project, for the school to which he refers, is included in my Department's Capital Programme.

It is acknowledged that this project will involve complex and careful master-planning of the site. A full technical site visit has taken, place by my Department's technical staff, and the project brief for the school is currently being formulated. In that regard, my Department will continue to liaise with the school's patron, Cork Education and Training Board.

Schools Building Projects

 77. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the extent to which the school building programme is proceeding in line with expectations nationally and throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42100/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects, including those in County Kildare, being delivered under the school building programme may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

I also wish to advise the Deputy of the announcement earlier this year of plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019-2022), including 4 new schools to provide additional school capacity in County Kildare. This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by the Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country. The four year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

The Government remains committed to delivering on existing projects on the school building programme as soon as possible. I am satisfied that the €8.4 billion investment available under the National Development Plan (2018-2027) will enable us to modernise and transform our school infrastructure in the years ahead.

Schools Building Projects Status

 78. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if a technical site visit by his Department to the school building project at a location (details supplied) has progressed the development of the school building works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42021/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy is aware, a building project to provide permanent accommodation for the school in question is included in my Department’s 6 Year Construction Programme.

  In this regard, the schedule of accommodation for the new school has been finalised and has recently issued to the school authorities for their observation.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 79. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if his attention has been drawn to the campaign in Dublin 15 by parents of children with autism to develop a second level special school for autism; if their submission has been examined in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42117/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am aware of the demand for additional special class and special school placements in the North Dublin area.

I have asked the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to provide my Department with a report on current and future identified need in the area so that evidence based decisions may be made on the development of the necessary placements in the area for the short, medium and longer term.

The NCSE is continuing to work with schools, parents, NEPS, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in the North Dublin area for children with special educational needs, to ensure that each child has a school placement appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year and beyond.

Funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training.

The Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.

The greater proportion of children with Autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based on a recommendation contained within a professional assessment and in consultation with the NCSE.

Special schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from the age of 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school.

Accordingly, the NCSE advises parents, to seek to enrol their child, by applying in writing, to the school/s of their choice as early as possible. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.

The NCSE is responsible, through its network of Special Needs Organisers, for the development and delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with Special Educational Needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements.

124 special schools provide specialist education for those students with the most complex special educational needs, including students diagnosed with ASD.

Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes.

There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin. Of these, 17 are ASD early intervention classes, 139 are primary ASD classes and 41 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

I signed a Commencement Order on the 4th of October bringing a number of sections of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act, 2018 into operation.

The commencement order will provide the Minister for Education and Skills with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs. This power will come into effect on Monday 3rd December 2018. I have asked the NCSE to engage with the education partners and finalise the procedures in advance of this date.

This new power will build on the work which has been done in recent years to facilitate schools to open special classes.

Schools Mental Health Strategies

 80. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the position regarding increasing mental health awareness and providing information on coping skills among children, parents and teachers in primary schools here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41800/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Within my Department’s Action Plan for Education in 2016/19 mental health and wellbeing promotion is afforded a high priority and is one of the key goals. My Department is strongly supportive of the promotion of positive mental health awareness in both primary and post-primary schools. The Department adopts a holistic and integrated approach to supporting schools in promoting positive mental health and to supporting those with a broad range of problems including behavioural, emotional and social.

  To support this holistic approach my Department has published a Wellbeing Policy and Framework for Practice (2018-2023) for all schools which will inform how schools can promote student wellbeing. It is the Department’s aim that by 2023 all schools and centres for education will have embedded a dynamic Wellbeing Promotion Process which promotes a whole school preventative approach to the promotion of wellbeing with interventions at both universal and targeted levels. This approach is the most beneficial evidence informed approach for schools in the promotion of mental health and the support for students with mental health difficulties. The Wellbeing Policy includes an Implementation Plan with seven high level actions to support the realisation of the policy. Actions 2, 3 and 4 below focus on the need for the training of teachers which will include work with schools to ensure those students with most needs, including mental health needs, receive the highest level of support. It is intended to:

  - Plan and provide for the national roll-out of a professional development process to facilitate all schools and centres for education to engage with and embed a Wellbeing

  - Promotion Process which builds professional capacity and collaborative cultures in schools from 2018-2023.

  - Provide for an aligned, comprehensive and easily-accessible programme of support for all schools and centres for education to address school-identified Wellbeing Promotion Needs.

  - Consider how the system is meeting current and future teachers’ learning needs relating to wellbeing promotion.

  Support for implementation of the national Well-Being in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (2013) is also encompassed within the Wellbeing Policy and Framework for Practice implementation.

  Responsibility for provision of mental health services and counselling for young people lies with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive. Schools are advised to identify supports and services that are available in their community, build relationships and agree referral pathways for students needing referral. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides psychological support and engages in collaborative work helping school staff in how to access appropriate mental health services. Psychologists support schools in connecting with Primary Care Psychology Services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services in relation to individual children and young people with mental health needs. Psychologists support and encourage the establishment of referral and communication protocols between education and health services at local level and work with others to develop community based mental health promotion strategies.

  NEPS also provides guidelines and resource materials for schools to enable them to deal with certain traumatic events which can adversely affect students and school staff. The guidelines responding to Critical Incidents: Guidelines and Resource Materials for Schools (2016) refer to preventive approaches that schools can adopt in creating a safe and supportive environment. It also outlines how schools can plan for crises. The publication provides support to schools at a potentially overwhelming time with practical step-by-step guidance for teachers and principals on how to respond when a tragedy occurs. The guidelines focus on alerting schools to planning processes, structures and actions which will better allow them to cope with a traumatic incidents such as suicide or suspected suicide, murder, accidental death including road traffic accidents and drowning, and death through illness of members of the school community. In relation to suicide, advice is also given on prevention and positive mental health stratagems and approaches. NEPS psychologists will also, at the specific invitation of school authorities, attend at the schools immediately following such incidents to offer direct advice and assistance to school staff and students.

  A Wellbeing Steering Committee is overseeing the implementation of the Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice within my Department. It examines issues in relation to the co-ordination and aligning of the range of supports provided to schools in regard to wellbeing and mental health promotion. This involves coordinating the liaison with other Departments and Government agencies.

  The Policy includes a Wellbeing Implementation Plan and significant resources have been committed from a number of sections of the Department. NEPS capacity to enhance educational psychological service to schools has been increased through the appointment of an additional 10 educational psychologists in the last academic year and a further 10 psychologists in 2018/19. The focus of part of this additional support, in the context of primary schools, is on extending the delivery of training in the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Programme (IYTCM) and the Friends programmes to teachers in DEIS schools. IYTCM aims to reduce behavioural difficulties and strengthen social and emotional competence in primary school-age children. The Friends Programme, when delivered by trained teachers, reduces anxiety and promotes coping, resilience and school-connectedness in young people thus promoting mental health.

  The Department also works with the Department of Health to promote participation by primary and post-primary schools in the Health Promoting Schools initiative, which is supported by the Health Service Executive. This European-wide programme aims to strengthen schools' capacity to be a healthy setting for learning and working by focusing on whole-school level conditions that affect health and wellbeing of children and young people.

  Finding new ways of tackling policy issues that are not the sole responsibility of any one Government Department or agency has been prioritised by Government. My Department has been involved with the Taskforce on Youth Mental Health as part of the programme for Government. One of the challenges of providing a coordinated, streamlined approach to mental health promotion is the fact that there are so many statutory and voluntary agencies/services/NGOs involved. The Task Force was established to produce a series of action-focused recommendations to improve youth mental health. The main areas of focus comprised: emotional literacy and reduction of stigma; awareness of services and supports; accessibility to services and supports across different settings; alignment of services and supports across different providers; and building capacity in local communities. The report has been published and a memorandum has been agreed the Government.

  The work of implementing the Taskforce recommendations will be linked with the Youth Mental Health Pathfinder Project. Youth mental health and suicide prevention is one of three Pathfinder Projects under Action 5 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan (2014) and agreed by the Civil Service Management Board. This Youth Mental Health Pathfinder Project is an initiative to innovate and improve whole-of-Government working on cross-cutting policy issues and improve the delivery of shared whole-of-Government projects. The aim is to strengthen management and accountability of cross-cutting projects that involve multiple Departments, Offices and Agencies and ensure that policies that are not the priority or responsibility of a single body are effectively managed, supported and resourced.

DEIS Eligibility

 81. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the criteria applied when designating a school for DEIS status; if he will reconsider including a school (details supplied) in the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42041/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy will be aware, my Department introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme in 2017, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage.

This model uses data supplied by schools to my Department's Primary and Post Primary Online Databases and CSO Small Area of Population statistics from the National Census of Population as represented by the Pobal Haase Pratschke Deprivation Index. Variables used in the compilation of the HP Index include those related to demographic growth, dependency ratios, education levels, single parent rate, overcrowding, social class, occupation and unemployment rates. This data is applied uniformly to all schools in the country in a fair and objective way, to identify the relative level of concentrated disadvantage present in each school.

DEIS Plan 2017 states that the improved data on the socio-demographic of schools resulting from the new identification model will have an impact not only on the assessment of schools for inclusion in the programme but also on the scaling of resources to allow for more graduated levels of support. This in turn allows for the ultimate objective of allocating resources to best meet the identified need of individual schools.

In order to achieve this, the current identification model needs to be as accurate as possible and this will be facilitated by the use of Eircode to ensure correct inputting of addresses. Further analysis is also required to examine other variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage in the context of resource allocation.

Therefore, in order to ensure the quality of the address data and conduct further analysis, it has been decided to conduct further quality assurance on the model before extending these envisaged uses of the model. Therefore, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools until this work is complete.

DEIS Plan 2017 provides that if we are to have the maximum possible impact on providing opportunities for students most at risk of disadvantage, then our extra resources must be targeted as closely as possible at those students with the greatest level of need.

Work has commenced on identifying such interventions that are having the greatest impact on tackling educational disadvantage. This will involve testing new approaches in groups of schools and working closely with schools in school self-evaluation and planning improvements.

Schools Building Projects

 82. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the announcement of 13 April 2018 regarding the establishment of 42 new schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42086/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has provided a comprehensive update to the Education Committee of which he is a member on 30 September last and has committed to do so on a regular basis with regard to the status of the 42 new schools to be provided over the next 4 years (2019 to 2022).

The current focus for my Department is to prioritise the 17 schools opening in 2019 so that patrons can be appointed and accommodation solutions put in place as soon as possible. My Department has appointed a Project Manager to assist with this work and potential interim accommodation solution options have been identified for the majority of the 17 schools.

My Department's Design and Build Programme will be the main delivery mechanism for providing permanent accommodation for the 42 new schools. A procurement process is currently underway to facilitate the appointment of a Project Manager who will assist my Department in the provision of permanent accommodation for the new schools to be established from 2020 onwards.

A patronage process is ongoing in respect of the four post primary schools due to open in 2019 and I expect to make an announcement shortly in this regard. A patronage process for the primary schools due to open in 2019 will commence shortly thereafter.

Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements

 83. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if his attention was drawn to the fact that UCD had changed its enrolment policy for the 2018-19 academic year; when his attention was further drawn to the fact that this would impact on the ability of students to commence their studies in this academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42083/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Department of Education and Skills was not made aware of the change of policy by UCD, in imposing a deadline of 30 September for acceptance of new entrants. There is no onus on UCD, given its autonomous nature, to advise the DES on its admissions procedures, for which the university itself has legal responsibility.

Officials of my have Department meet with the State Examinations Commission and with the representative bodies for the Universities and Institutes of Technology, with a view to discussing the implications of the court case and to plan for next year. There is a need to ensure that a joined-up approach across the Higher Education Institutes and the SEC is established to address the issues arising. This work commenced recently and is ongoing.

National Development Plan

 84. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he has considered the use of capital investment such as funds from the National Development Plan 2018-2027 to improve school infrastructure and capacity to provide nutritious meals for children. [42118/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The National Development Plan (NDP) provides for an €8.4 billion investment in school buildings over the period 2018 to 2027 to deliver on NDP and National Planning Framework objectives through addressing the twin priorities of catering for demographics and ensuring a strengthened focus on refurbishment of existing school stock. This investment will result in an almost doubling of the capital budget for school buildings - €540m in 2018 rising to an annual average of circa. €1 billion in the second half of the NDP period.

The strengthened focus on refurbishment of existing school stock will have different strands including prefab replacement, PE hall and school laboratory build and modernisation programmes as well as the commencement and progression of a deep energy retrofit of primary and post-primary schools built prior to 2008.

The Department has in place detailed design guidelines for primary and post-primary schools. These guidelines, which are available on my Department's web-site, currently provide for a standard range of servery and eating facilities in the design of new and refurbished Primary and Post Primary schools. In Primary schools a servery of 8.0m² in area is provided. At Post Primary level a kitchenette, 25m² in area, is provided off the General Purpose/Dining Area. These facilities are not intended to be full commercial type canteens where food is prepared or cooked.

Special Educational Needs

 85. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if his attention has been drawn to the delays in assessments for children attending school who have developmental issues and may require specialised support; the efforts being taken to clear this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42104/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I can inform the Deputy that my Department introduced a new model of teacher allocation to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools following a pilot which demonstrated strong support from principals, teachers and parents. The new model differs significantly from the old Resource Allocation Model, as schools are now front-loaded with additional resources based on the profile of each individual school. This means that the Department has allocated special education teaching support directly to schools to enable them to respond to pupil needs without having to wait for an assessment to allow them to apply for additional resources. School can now respond to individual need in a flexible way and pupils do not have to have a psychological assessment or a diagnosis of a disability in order to access Special Education Teaching. It also means that those with highest level of need can access the highest level of support within the school. Medical or psychological assessments will still be used to assess a child’s needs, or the nature of difficulties they may have. However, an assessment, or diagnosis, will no longer be needed to access additional teaching support in schools.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

In relation to the Deputy’s direct question in this matter I am not aware of any particular delay in assessment processes operated by my Department. However the Deputy will be aware that the HSE operates an Assessment of Needs process under the Disability Act 2005 which provides an access route to a number of specialist supports for children. Questions in relation to the status of this process are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Health.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

School Staff

 86. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to introduce one release day per week for teaching principals in order to carry out administrative work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42075/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In Budget 2019, School leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019.

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

I recently announced an extension to the arrangements for schools with teaching principals to cluster their release days into full-time posts, with one teacher covering the release days of all the schools in the cluster. Up to 50 principal release cluster posts will be put in place for the current school year. This measure will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

School Staff

 87. Deputy Mary Butler Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to support teaching principals in their roles as both teachers and administrators; his further plans to extend and increase administration leave for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42049/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In Budget 2019, School leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019.

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

I recently announced an extension to the arrangements for schools with teaching principals to cluster their release days into full-time posts, with one teacher covering the release days of all the schools in the cluster. Up to 50 principal release cluster posts will be put in place for the current school year. This measure will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 88. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if clarification has been received from the landowner of a preferred site to accommodate a school (details supplied) in respect of his Department's most recent offer for the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41899/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Officials in my Department continue to liaise with officials in Donegal County Council in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the acquisition of a suitable location for the proposed education campus and have identified a preferred site option. I am aware of media reports that the preferred site had been acquired by a third party however I can confirm that my Department continues to engage with the relevant landowner in respect of the proposed acquisition of that site for the campus project.

Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions generally I am not in a position to provide further comment at this time. I am fully committed to the acquisition of a site for the school campus project which is included in my Department’s capital programme.

School Accommodation Provision

 89. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh when the map of the school planning areas was last revised; and when it is next due to be revised in view of changing demographics. [42116/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data in a way that takes account of the significant local and regional variations in demographic trends and enrolment projections, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas,

Using school planning area boundaries within my Department’s Geographic Information System (GIS) allows data within those boundaries, including data for enrolments in schools, child benefit and other relevant data to be added to the mapping information, grouped and analysed. The GIS records the number of primary and post-primary schools within each planning area, the combined enrolments for all of the schools within each area, including total enrolment and enrolment in each class group, together with child benefit data for the 0-4 age group relevant to the area.

In most areas, school planning areas were based on traditional school catchment areas where all primary schools were assigned to a post-primary feeder area (typically a population centre or town), containing one or more post-primary schools. The school planning areas were developed for use with the GIS in 2008 and with the introduction of Small Areas in Census 2011, these areas were amended to align with Census Small Areas. The current school planning areas take account not only of local groupings of schools, but also of natural boundaries, Census Small Areas and other local conditions.

The school planning areas are used in the demographic exercise as a basis for the assessment of areas of growth and to inform recommendations on the establishment of any new schools required in that school planning area. There are no current plans to revise school planning areas.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

 90. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the steps he will take to appoint a second appeals officer in view of the facts as outlined in the 2017 annual report of Caranua's appeals officer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42113/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh From the Annual Report submitted by the Appeals Officers, the Deputy will note that when I appointed two Appeals Officers in May 2017 to deal with the backlog of cases that had built up, there were 140 cases outstanding when they took up their position and they received an additional 87 appeals between May 2017 and April 2018, giving a total of 227 appeals for consideration. 193 cases were completed in the same period leaving 34 appeals on hand.

Having regard to the number of appeals for consideration currently, I do not consider that a second appeals officer is required at present. I am arranging for the situation to be kept under review and will revisit the matter if necessary.

Schools Building Projects Status

 91. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will provide a progress report for a school (details supplied); the progress made to date; the timeline for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42109/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The major building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been obtained.

The Design Team is currently working on a submission to my Department outlining the steps required to achieve compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations 2017 and the timescale for completing adjustments to the tender documents. On receipt and review of this submission, my Department will revert to school with regard to the further progression of the project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Administration

 92. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the issues causing a delay in a school (details supplied) proceeding to construction; the actions that can be taken to ensure this project proceeds to construction immediately and that the extension and renovation works are complete by September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42082/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh 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 the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

The Design Team has issued a Brief Change Request to the Department which is currently under review. On completion of the review of the Brief Change Request, the Design Team will proceed to complete work on the stage 2(b) submission.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) Submission, my Department will revert to Dublin Dún Laoghaire Educational and Training Board with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

School Curriculum

 93. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the way in which the needs of all children in education will be catered for if there is no requirement for schools to offer alternative subjects to students who do not wish to study religion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42052/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh My Department published Circular 0013/2018 in February 2018, which set out an approach to the arrangements that were to be made for religious instruction and worship in Education and Training Board (ETB) and Post Primary Community schools. This arose from concerns that multidenominational ETB schools were requiring attendance at classes with Catholic religious instruction.

Section 4 of Circular 0013/2018 provided that the school is required to ascertain parental wishes in respect of their child’s attendance at such religious instruction and where a parent did not want religious instruction, the school was required to provide an alternative subject. Where there was any practice of combining or including religious instruction and formation or worship in the same class periods as the NCCA Religious Education syllabus, parents were made aware of this fact so that they could make an informed decision to withdraw from that class if that was their wish.

Newly published Circular 0062/2018 clarifies in Section 3 that withdrawal with an offer of an alternative subject does not arise in relation to the NCCA Religious syllabus where there is no religious instruction or faith formation.

The second important clarification is that where a school intends to provide religious instruction classes, parents must give consent before admission to the class. This means that the issue of opt out does not arise because the parent has requested a place in the religious instruction class.

This Circular has no impact on the right of parents under the Education Act and under the Constitution to opt out of any subject for reason of conscience.

Teacher Recruitment

 94. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the way in which he can address the teacher shortages on offshore islands; and if a special career break, secondment scheme and incentives for teachers with families to take-up teaching positions on the islands will be considered.  [42048/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Earlier this year, my predecessor as Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, established the Teacher Supply Steering Group which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department.

  The Group is considering the issues that impact on teacher supply, including: initial teacher education policy, provision, funding and support; data/research requirements; policies and arrangements for schools and teachers that impact on teacher mobility/supply; and promotion of the teaching profession. The Steering Group will oversee a programme of actions according to strict timelines and clear deliverables.

  In undertaking its task, the Group is cognisant of the requirement that all persons wishing to teach in recognised schools must meet the professional registration standards and criteria set by the Teaching Council, which is the professional regulatory body for the teaching profession.

  As part of the Policy on Gaeltacht education 2017-2022, my predecessor Minister Bruton, introduced a number of measures which will support the supply of teachers to Irish-medium schools in the Gaeltacht, including the islands located in the Gaeltacht. In that regard the number of places available on the Irish-medium post-primary initial teacher education Professional Masters of Education (Máistir Gairmiúil san Oideachas) programme in NUIG has been increased. Two new Irish-medium teacher education programmes were also announced. The new programmes will deliver up to 60 new places for teacher education through Irish annually. These will be delivered by the Marino Institute of Education and Mary Immaculate College. Marino Institute of Education will deliver a 4-year Irish-medium Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) for primary teachers commencing in 2019 and Mary Immaculate College has this year begun an Irish-medium Masters in Education (M.Ed.) for primary and post-primary teachers, including principals.

Schools Building Projects Status

 95. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the timeline for the construction and remaining stages of a new building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41826/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

The project is at stage 2b of the architectural planning process. When stage 2b has been approved, the next stage is tendering for a contractor. My Department expects to be able to approve the project to proceed to tender shortly. It is not possible to provide a construction timeline for the project until the tendering process has been completed.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 96. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to increase women's participation in apprenticeship programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42084/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Currently there are 305 female apprentices registered across the 41 apprenticeship schemes currently on offer, which represents an increase of over 100% on the 2017 figure of 151 and over 400% on the 2016 figure of 60.

The 2014 Review of Apprenticeship in Ireland acknowledged that the number of women employed in craft apprenticeships is low as they operate in sectors that have traditionally low levels of female employment. SOLAS offers a bursary to employers to encourage them to employ female apprentices in these areas. Despite this the number of female apprentices in the craft apprenticeships remains low.

However, we have seen an increase in the number of female apprentices participating in many of the new apprenticeships developed as part of the expansion of apprenticeship in Ireland as these are in sectors where there would be greater gender balance in the workplace. For example, women are more strongly represented in the financial sector with women representing 43% of participants across the four apprenticeships. Women also feature more strongly in the new hospitality apprenticeships. With further new programmes to get underway in sectors that would have strong female participation in the workplace it is expected that the number of female apprentices will continue to rise year on year.

While this is welcome, it is also important to address issues influencing the low level of recruitment of women in the craft sectors. In this regard, as set out in our Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland, SOLAS is currently reviewing the pathways to participation in apprenticeship for underrepresented groups including females. The review will result in the publication of actions in this area in the coming weeks.

Furthermore, a digital campaign to promote apprenticeship is now underway with a dedicated Twitter feed #Generation Apprenticeship, a new apprenticeship website www.apprenticeship.ie, an Apprenticeship Ireland Facebook page and a LinkedIn page. In all aspects of the digital campaign women feature prominently and there will be a specific focus on encouraging women and girls to consider apprenticeship as a means of launching or developing their careers.


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