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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 255-278
 Header Item School Transport Eligibility
 Header Item School Closures
 Header Item Schools Data
 Header Item Schools Data
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Applications
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Applications
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item University Governance
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland Administration
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Departmental Meetings
 Header Item School Staff Appeals Mechanism
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item School Funding
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Schools Building Contractors
 Header Item School Discipline
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 974 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 108 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 255-278

School Transport Eligibility

 255. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44675/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

  The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

  In the 2017/18 school year over 117,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

  The child referred to by the Deputy is eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs.

Bus Éireann has been requested to organise an individual transport service for this child and I have requested that they liaise directly with the family in this regard. In the meantime, the family may avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of providing private transport until this service is established.

  The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

School Closures

 256. 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 his attention has been drawn to the potential closure of a school (details supplied) in County Carlow due to lack of funding; and his plans to prevent this from occurring. [44680/18]

 260. 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 position regarding a school (details supplied); and if there are plans to close the school. [44718/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 260 together.

  I wish to advise the Deputies that my Department has not received any correspondence from the Patron of the school concerned relating to plans to close the school.

  I also wish to advise the Deputies that my Department is very aware of the importance of small schools to rural communities and particularly the most dispersed and remote communities. To provide such communities with security about the future of their schools, a commitment is contained in the Programme for a Partnership Government not to close any small school without the consent of parents.

  I also wish to advise the Deputies that the decision making authority for a school closure belongs to the Patron of a school, and this is subject to the agreement of the Department.

  Any proposal to close a school must involve consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders, parents, teachers, students and local communities and follow decisions taken at local level.

Schools Data

 257. 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 the number of financial settlements reached with staff in schools nationally in the past five years; and the cost of these settlements. [44681/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The number of financial settlements and the cost of these settlements, reached by the Department of Education and Skills with staff in schools over the past five years is included in the following table.

Year The number of financial settlements reached by the Department of Education and Skills in the last five years with staff in Schools. The cost of these settlements.
2014 0  
2015 0  
2016 3 €36,807.13
2017 0  
2018 1 €1,218.50
Total 4 €38,025.63

Schools Data

 258. 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 the number of financial settlements reached with students in schools nationally over the past five years; and the cost of these settlements. [44682/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The number of financial settlements and the cost of these settlements reached by the Department of Education & Skills with students in schools over the past five years is included in the following table.

Year The number of financial settlements reached by the Department of Education & Skills in the last five years. The Cost of these settlements (Legal costs and Ex-Gratia)
2014 4 €148,429.90
2015 8 €244,965.00
2016 Nil  
2017 Nil  
2018 2 €30,402.50
Total 14 €423,797.40

Departmental Expenditure

 259. 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 the number of financial settlements reached by his Department nationally which included confidentiality clauses. [44683/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The number of financial settlements reached by the Department of Education and Skills which included confidentiality clauses in the last five years is included in the following table.

Year The number of financial settlements reached by the Department of Education & Skills which included confidentiality clauses.
2014 1
2015 1
2016 3
2017 1
2018 2
Total 8

  Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 256.

Schools Building Projects Applications

 261. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will address a matter regarding a new build for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44728/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that the school in question submitted an application for major capital funding to my Department.

The Deputy will be aware that 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 application from the school referred to by the Deputy remains available to be considered in this context.

Schools Building Projects Applications

 262. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board, KWETB, has received the pre-qualification report from the design team for a new build for a school (details supplied); if the report has been approved; when actual tenders will be invited for the construction project from the shortlist of contractors; the length of time the actual tender process will take; when a tenderer will be awarded the construction contract; the estimated construction timetable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44731/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh While my Department understands that the pre-qualification process for the project to which the Deputy refers is well advanced, a pre-qualification report is still awaited in my Department. This is expected shortly. Once this has been received and reviewed, my Department expects to be in a position to firm up approval for the project to proceed to tender to the short listed contractors. Until the prequalification process has been finalised, it is not possible to say when the tender process will be completed and when the contract will be awarded.

School Accommodation Provision

 263. 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 when a school (details supplied) will receive permanent accommodation. [44733/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I understand that the school in question is located in a property provided by the patron. The Deputy will be aware that the immediate priority of my Department is providing 20,000 new and replacement school places each year, to ensure that every child has a school place.

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.

University Governance

 264. 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 persons who hold adjunct professorships but not full professorships are entitled to use the appellation professor. [44742/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh A university will regularly host visiting academics from other higher education institutions contributing to the university’s teaching, research and professional activities. An Adjunct Professor may be an eminent leader in their field and a person of distinction and high achievement. They may possess industry, business, science, academic or professional qualifications and expertise comparable with those expected of a member of the university staff at Professor level.

Visiting academic and adjunct staff are individuals whose appointment to a university enhance the teaching, research profile or contribute to the intellectual life of the university. A visiting academic or adjunct staff title is recognised as an honour bestowed upon an individual by the university. As such, adjunct staff are usually regarded as having honorary appointments and they may receive certain privileges such as access to I.T. and research support resources, library, sports facilities etc. on the same basis as university staff. Appointees are able to use the privileges granted subject to strict adherence with university policy, procedures and codes of practice. An appointee may use the title conferred by the university under this appointment including that of Adjunct Professor. However, to avoid misrepresentation, an appointee must not abbreviate the title conferred by the university. As such, Adjunct Professors are only entitled to use the title ‘Adjunct Professor’ which clearly indicates their status as against those persons with the title ‘Professor’.

Student Universal Support Ireland Administration

 265. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if consideration has been given to amending the eligibility criteria for the special rate of the Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, grant; if consideration has been given to awarding the special rate of the SUSI grant to applicants solely based on the family's total reckonable income and not subject to the condition that reckonable household income includes a long-term Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44745/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education made detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students. The target group of "those most in need" was defined in terms of the dependants of people receiving long-term welfare payments, where the necessary conditions are fulfilled.

  The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for SUSI to determine. In assessing an application for the 2018/19 academic year, SUSI will have regard to the following qualifying criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant:

1. The student must qualify for the standard rate of grant;

2. Total reckonable income, after income disregards and Child Dependant Increase(s) are excluded, must not exceed €23,500;3. As at 31st of December 2017, the reckonable income must include one of the eligible long-term social welfare payments prescribed in the Student Grant Scheme.

  It is not proposed, at present, to change the current terms and conditions in respect of the special rates of maintenance grant.

  In addition to the maintenance grant support, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the institution attended.

  Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners.

School Accommodation

 266. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if his attention has been drawn to the pressure on school places in north County Dublin in particular in Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush and Portmarnock; if his attention has been further drawn to the need for increased school places in each of the towns at both primary and secondary levels; his plans to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44752/18]

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, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.

  As the Deputy will be aware, the Government recently announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022), including the following new primary and post-primary schools to be established in the area referred to by the Deputy as follows:

- A new 8-classroom primary school to serve the Swords school planning area (South) to be established in 2019;

- A new 8-classroom primary school to serve the Swords school planning area (North) to be established in 2019;

- A new 16-classroom primary school to serve the Donabate school planning area to be established in 2020;

- A new 8-classroom primary school to serve the Killester_Raheny_Clontarf school planning area to be established in 2019;

- Two new 16-classroom primary schools to serve the Donaghmede_Howth_D13 school planning area to be established in 2019 and 2021; and

- Two new 1,000 pupil post-primary schools to serve the Donaghmede_Howth_D13 school planning area to be established in 2019 and 2021

  In addition, the following post-primary schools were also established in this area in recent years as follows:

- 1,000 pupil post-primary school established in 2013 to serve the Rush & Lusk school planning area;

- 700 pupil post-primary school established in 2014 to serve the Balbriggan school planning area;

- 1,000 pupil post-primary school established in 2018 to serve the Malahide and Portmarnock school planning areas as a regional solution; and

- 1,000 pupil post-primary school established in 2018 to serve the Swords school planning area.

  The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular would have regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. In addition to the new schools announced, my Department's capital investment programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms for existing schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified.

Departmental Meetings

 267. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he, his departmental officials or his ministerial predecessors have met companies and an organisation (details supplied) and or representatives of same in the past three years to date; if so, if a schedule of those meetings and the associated minutes will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [44774/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I can confirm that none of my officials or Ministers in their capacity as representatives of the Department of Education and Skills, have met with the company referred to by the Deputy in the past three years.

School Staff Appeals Mechanism

 268. 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 if the appeals board has made a decision regarding an application for mainstream staffing by a school (details supplied) for the 2018/2019 school year. [44785/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts for the 2018/2019 school year is set out in Circular 0010/2018, which is available on the Department 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 30 September 2017.

The staffing arrangements include an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board.

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for consideration at the October meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. The appeal was refused by the Appeals Board on the basis that the grounds of the appeal did not warrant the allocation of an additional post under Circular 0010/2018.

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

School Accommodation Provision

 269. 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 the steps being taken to accommodate 200 students from a school (details supplied) who have had to vacate a school building due to significant structural issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44795/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that arrangements have been put in place by the School to accommodate all students affected as a result of the decision to close Phase 1 of the school building. Transition Year students will be accommodated within the school, while the adjacent Community Centre has made its premises available to the School while the issues with the Phase 1 building are being addressed. All students will have access to the necessary practical rooms, with access to a woodwork room being offered by a local secondary school.

School Accommodation Provision

 270. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the provision of a new primary school in southern areas of Swords, County Dublin; if the school will open in temporary accommodation in 2019; if lands have been identified for this temporary accommodation; if so, the location of these lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44804/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy may be aware, the current focus for my Department is to prioritise the 17 schools due to be established 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 options have been identified for the majority of the 17 schools which includes the school referred to by the Deputy. Work is still on-going in this regard and due to commercial sensitivities attaching to property matters generally my Department is unfortunately not in a position to provide further information on site locations etc. at this time. It is expected that schools will be established in September 2019 in suitable interim accommodation pending delivery of permanent school buildings.

School Funding

 271. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh when a decision will issue on an application for funding by a school (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44822/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding was recently approved to enable the school in question to build six classrooms, a Home Economics room, a Science Laboratory, a Science room preparation area, additional toilets and to refurbish the existing plant room.

  The project has been devolved for delivery to the school's Patron which is the local Education and Training Board.

School Patronage

 272. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh further to Parliamentary Question No. 103 of 30 November 2017 and a reply received from his Department of 27 September 2018, (details supplied) the reason for the discrepancy in the replies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44823/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh PQ reply of the 30 November 2017 set out the general position regarding the statutory role of the Minister in respect of the removal of a member of a Board or the dissolution of the full Board.

The reply from my Department of 27 September 2018 referred to a particular individual who ceased to be a member of the Board of two schools which was confirmed by the Patron. The reply also outlined that while as Minister I have a statutory role regarding the removal of a member of a Board, I have no statutory role in respect of members who cease to be members of Boards for varied reasons.

The Patron has confirmed that the individual in question was reassigned in the course of normal Diocesan changes, and in view of this reassignment would no longer have been available to continue in the role of Chairperson of the Board of either school.

I have no statutory function until such time as a Patron seeks my consent as Minister under the Education Act to remove an individual from a Board or the dissolution of the full Board.

In this particular case I have received no application from the Patron under the Education Act to do either.

Schools Building Contractors

 273. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if all necessary certification was signed off by the sub-contractor as legally required with regard to a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44824/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh My Department has received assurances from the Consultant Architect engaged on the project referred to by the Deputy, that all necessary certification required to facilitate substantial completion of the project was obtained prior to the certificate of substantial completion being issued.

School Discipline

 274. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his views on the use of prone restraints in schools; if his attention has been drawn to a school that is using such restraints on children with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44830/18]

 275. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he has examined a document (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44831/18]

 276. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the immediate steps he will take to ensure children are safe in school in view of the evidence in a document (details supplied) of physical and emotional harm being caused to children in schools through the use of unregulated seclusion and restraint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44832/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take Questions Nos. 274 to 276, inclusive, together.

  The Board of Management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all of the pupils in their school. Schools should supervise and support children who are distressed or out of control until they have recovered and are able to re-engage in the classroom. In some circumstances this may mean the temporary removal of a child from the environment where the problems have arisen. Schools are not required to report on such interventions.

  Schools owe a duty of care to all their students and any action taken in relation to managing behaviour must be proportionate.

  Tusla's Educational Welfare Service, under the aegis of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has published guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour which all schools are required by law to have in place. The guidelines advise that specialised behaviour management strategies, such as the use of restraint, should not be used without expert advice, training and monitoring. In particular, the guidelines point to certain sanctions which are regarded as inappropriate, including leaving a student in an unsupervised situation while in the care of the school. All parents must be made aware of behaviour management strategies employed by the school.

  Schools may seek advice from their local National Educational Psychological Services psychologist, from the NCSE’s Support Service which includes Special Educational Needs Organisers, the National Behavioural Support Service and the Special Education Support Service, as to how children with behavioural needs can best be supported in school.

A range of guidance is available for schools in relation to the management of student behaviour. The Department published Guidelines for Supporting Pupils with Behavioural, Emotional, and Social Difficulties, which is available on the Department’s website, www.education.ie. The National Educational Psychological Services document Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties – A Continuum of Support   also provides advice for teachers, including some advice on the use of “time out” procedures in the classroom.

  Training is available for schools in relation to the provision of support for children with special educational needs from the NCSE’s Regional Service. The Special Education Support Service can, as part of their designated training modules, provide guidance for schools in relation to the management of difficult behaviour.

  Following a request by the Department for policy advice from the NCSE, which provided recommendations in relation to crisis situations and complex behavioural needs, work on developing guidelines for schools is underway. The Department will engage with education partners on these in the coming months. It is anticipated that the guidelines will be finalised by the end of this school year. The guidelines will assist schools in responding in circumstances where students pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.

  The guidelines will be underpinned by the principles that such intervention is never used for the purposes of discipline; that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to de-escalate the situation. The guidelines will also underline the importance of continued supervision of children during a crisis period including matters related to behaviour. It is also expected that the guidelines will underline the importance of recording such incidents and how they are managed.

  Where a parent, or any other person, has concerns about the care or safety of a child in school they should report these concerns to the Board of Management of the school in the first instance.

  Where a parent or other person has a concern about the welfare or protection of a child in a school they may report the matter as a child protection concern to Tusla or to the Department of Education and Skills who will then report any child protection complaint in accordance with the Department's procedures.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 277. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his views on whether schools are not inclusive of children with an ASD diagnosis; his further views on whether this cohort of children cannot reach their potential in the current education system; when he will fully implement the Education of Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44833/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh This Government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.

  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. This policy is in line with the provisions of the EPSEN Act 2004.

  Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

  As such, this Department’s policy focuses on ensuring that all students, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, can have access to an education appropriate to meeting their needs and abilities.

  This policy has been informed by published research, including the Report of the Task Force on Autism (2001), the Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (2006) and National Council for Special Education (NCSE) policy advice on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016).

  The NCSE policy advice on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016) found that Students are generally well supported in schools with appropriate curriculum; extensive teacher and SNA supports; improved range of educational placements supported by improved accommodation and equipment; improved teacher knowledge and understanding and a generally good standard of provision at primary and post primary levels.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

  While most schools fully embrace an open and inclusive policy, some students with Special Educational Needs continue to experience difficulties in securing enrolment. My Department has acknowledged that in recent years the establishment of special class provision in some schools and communities has been challenging.

  The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 when fully commenced will assist in addressing these issues.

  The Deputy will be aware that, on the 3rd October 2018, my predecessor, Minister Bruton commenced a number of sections of the Act. On that date the Minister also announced the commencement of Section 8 of the Act, from Monday 3rd December 2018, which will provide the Minister 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.   The NCSE is engaging with the education partners and with a view to finalising 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.

  Section 67 of the Act will provide certain powers to the NCSE to designate a school placement for a child in circumstances where a child is experiencing difficulties in securing enrolment.

  A number of the remaining sections of the Act which have not yet been commenced including Section 67, require regulations and procedures to be drafted, and will require consultation with the Education Partners prior to commencement.

  I intend to have the other remaining sections of the Act commenced in time for admissions to the 2020/21 school year.

  The Deputy will also be aware that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 have been commenced, including those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children.

  A number of sections of the EPSEN Act have yet to be commenced.

  The Programme for a Partnership Government committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the Act on a non-statutory basis.

  It is therefore intended to bring into effect many of the good ideas contained in the EPSEN Act, on a non-statutory basis initially through policy developments across a range of areas.

Question No. 278 answered with Question No. 243.


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