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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 184-205
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item Schools Facilities
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item School Transport Eligibility
 Header Item School Services Staff
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Teachers' Remuneration
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Home Tuition Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item School Funding
 Header Item Ministerial Meetings
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme
 Header Item Third Level Staff Remuneration
 Header Item Scrúduithe Stáit
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item School Admissions

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 98 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 184-205

Schools Building Projects Status

 184. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the timeline for planned school building works at a school (details supplied); and if this project will be prioritised throughout each development stage due to the urgent need for the additional buildings. [50112/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The project referred to by the Deputy is being devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). My Department is currently making the necessary arrangements to enter into a Service Level Agreement with the NDFA. This is the first step to initiate the delivery of the project.

Once the Service Level Agreement is in place, the NDFA will set up the required procedures to commence the design and construction processes.

As part of the Service Level Agreement, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress once all of the essential arrangements are in place to enable the commencement of architectural planning for the project. In that context, it is too early in the process to provide a timeline for completion of the works.

School Accommodation Provision

 185. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of proposed developments at a school (details supplied); when works will commence in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50115/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I can confirm to the Deputy that the school in question recently submitted an application for additional accommodation to cater for increasing enrolment.

  I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has been liaising with the school relating to the application and additional mainstream accommodation has been approved. The school authority has been advised accordingly.

Schools Facilities

 186. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if his attention has been drawn to the need for astro pitches on the grounds of a school (details supplied); if provision will be made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50116/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As part of a building project at the school referred to by the Deputy the following outdoor sports facilities are being provided:

- Basketball courts - 6 all weather courts in a porous macadam surface finish with goals, lining and secure sports fencing; and

- A soccer pitch - 1 grass soccer pitch (90 x 46m) to English Football Association and Sport England specification "Natural Turf For Sport: Football and Rugby Pitches".

  My Department's Building Unit has not received any request or proposal from Dublin Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board in relation to the provision of an astro pitch.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 187. 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 an assessment of needs for a special needs assistant will be carried out on a person (details supplied). [50129/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) 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 focused consultative approach to maximise 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 have made enquiries in relation to the pupil referred to by the Deputy in his question and am informed that an educational psychological assessment was not requested nor warranted in this instance, the issue of concern being essentially a medical one in origin. I understand that the assigned psychologist to the school concerned gave the school authorities a letter in support of an application for a Special Needs Assistant in view of those medical needs in the context of the child’s young age.

School Transport Eligibility

 188. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the reason a school transport option has not been put in place for a person (details supplied); and if he will address the matter without delay. [50152/18]

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.

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 km annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

Under the terms of my Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs, children are eligible for transport where they are attending the nearest recognised school that is or can be resourced to meet their special educational needs.

School Transport Section has not received an application for school transport from the person referred to by the Deputy. However, it should be noted that the facility in question is not a recognised school and therefore transport cannot be provided under the terms of the School Transport Scheme.

School Services Staff

 189. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the estimated cost in 2019 if the ancillary grant rate increased by €5.50 per pupil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50180/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The estimated full year cost of increasing the rate of ancillary grant by €5.50 per pupil in primary schools is circa €3.1m.

  Improvements have been made in recent years for the restoration of grant funding that is used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff. The ancillary grant was increased by €6 in 2016, €5 in 2017 and €5 in 2018, in order to enable primary schools to implement the arbitration salary increase for grant funded school secretaries and caretakers and to also implement the restoration of salary for cleaners arising from the unwinding of FEMPI legislation.

  A circular will issue shortly outlining further increases in grant funding in 2019 associated with the final phase of the arbitration award for grant funded school secretaries and caretakers and also further increases associated with implementing the restoration of salary for cleaners arising from the unwinding of the FEMPI   Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020.

Direct Provision System

 190. 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 he has had discussions with the Minister for Justice and Equality or the Reception and Integration Agency regarding the need for additional spaces, teachers and educational resources in respect of the proposed direct provision centres in County Donegal; his plans to ensure the education needs of the residents will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50198/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh My Department engages on an ongoing basis with officials in the Department of Justice & Equality in relation to education issues arising from the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees and resources are provided where necessary. My Department has seconded an official to the Department of Justice and Equality to support the arrangement of education provision for children residing in centres under contract to the Department of Justice and Equality. This arrangement facilitates close liaison with relevant areas of my Department in relation to education provision.

Arising from the enrolment of pupils in local schools from the proposed direct provision centre, additional resources can be provided where the need is identified in accordance with the relevant circulars.

The criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts is published annually on my Department’s website. The staffing arrangements as set out in Department of Education Circular 0010/2018 available on my Department’s website operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location. Resources are provided on the basis of identified need. The staffing arrangements include an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an Independent Appeals Board.

Schools Building Projects Status

 191. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the progress being made on the planning and development of a new site for a school (details supplied) following his visit to Edenderry on 4 May 2018 in which he gave a commitment to progress the application. [50205/18]

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 a new replacement school building on a new site for the school in question is included in my Department Capital Programme.

  In this regard, my Department is currently finalising the project brief and this is expected to be completed shortly. My Department recently met with the school patron and provided update on the project.

Teachers' Remuneration

 192. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if inequity with regard to a person (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50213/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In 2012 a public service-wide review of pay and allowances was carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. As a result of the review, qualification allowances and certain other premium payments were abolished with effect from 1st February 2012. Department of Education and Skills Circular 0008/2013 outlines the effect of this decision on teachers. The Circular was produced following consultations under the auspices of the Teachers' Conciliation Council, a body established in accordance with the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for Teachers. The Council is composed of representatives of teachers, school management, the Department of Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Council is chaired by an official of the Labour Relations Commission.

With the publication of the circular specific allowances payable to teachers were withdrawn for new beneficiaries from 1 February 2012. Where a teacher held such an allowance on 31 January 2012 they will continue to be paid that allowance unless he/she ceases the post, in which case the teacher will lose the allowance.

Appendix 4 of Circular 0008/2013 titled “Job Role Allowances at Primary and Post Primary level”, sets out scenarios for different situations. In regard to teachers who change school/ employer/job role on a voluntary basis on or after 1 February 2012 the Appendix states such teachers post based allowance will cease from the date they changed school/employer/job role and they will not regain eligibility for this allowance where they moved to a specified post on or after 1 February 2012.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 193. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh when funding will be approved for an ASD unit in Clonmel (details supplied). [50227/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh 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.   

  My 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 school placements are provided for other students with ASD and very complex special needs who wouldn’t manage in a mainstream school even for part of the week.

  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.

There are 3 special schools and 66 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Tipperary. Of these, 8 are ASD early intervention classes, 32 are primary ASD classes and 18 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Tipperary have increased from 10 in 2011/2012 to 58 in 2018/2019. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

  The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year in County Tipperary, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need. I have arranged for the Deputy's question on emerging need in the Clonmel area to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. My Department has no role in making determinations in this area.

Home Tuition Scheme Eligibility

 194. 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 when home tuition will be facilitated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50228/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The purpose of my Department’s Home Tuition Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for students who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school.

   In exceptional cases the Department will consider home tuition applications on behalf of students with diagnoses of school phobia and/or associated depression/anxiety which has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, major disruption to their attendance at school. This exception will only apply where a continued absence from school is required to facilitate appropriate medical or therapeutic intervention with a view to the re-integration of the student in their school. The principle that Home Tuition cannot be provided as an alternative to school applies.

   Eligibility in exceptional cases is assessed having regard to, although not limited to, the following criteria:

  - The student’s attendance levels during the previous school year.

  - Psychologist’s/psychiatrist’s report which should

  i. Clearly confirm a diagnosis of school phobia and/or associated depression/anxiety.

 ii. Provide details of medical or therapeutic intervention plans in place with a view to reintegrate the student back into his/her school.

  Details of engagement with the relevant support agencies (e.g. School, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), Education Welfare Officer (EWO), Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), TUSLA (Child and Family Agency), HSE, NCSE).

  An incomplete application for the student referred to by the Deputy was submitted to my Department. My officials have advised the applicant in question on what is required to process the application further and await their reply.

School Funding

 195. 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. [50253/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Funding for all primary schools in the free education scheme is dealt with on a per capita basis.

  The two main grants are the capitation grant to cater for day to day running costs such as heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, general up-keep etc., and the ancillary services grant to cater for the cost of employing ancillary services staff.

  The school referred to by the Deputy received €110,416 in respect of capitation funding in 2018, €74,770 for Capitation and €35,646 for Ancillary Services. In addition to these grants the salaries in respect of two Secretaries have been paid directly by my Department under the 1978/79 scheme, one of which will continue for 2019.

  Schools are permitted to regard the capitation and ancillary services grants as a combined grant and Boards of Management have autonomy on how they use and prioritise this funding to meet their day to day running costs, including for the provision of secretarial and caretaker services.

  There is no provision for additional payments outside of those outlined above.

Ministerial Meetings

 196. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the public events he attended by county since 1 May 2018 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50281/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Minister's diary is published online at https://www.education.ie/en/ and includes all the events the Minister attended.

Schools Building Projects Status

 197. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the stage 2 submission by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50295/18]

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

  The Deputy will also be aware that the Stage 2A submission has been submitted to my Department for examination. It is currently being reviewed. The outcome of this review will be conveyed to the ETB as soon as it is available.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

 198. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he consulted the civil court records when he was establishing the redress scheme for victims of historical child sexual abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50311/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In the establishment of redress schemes, the Minister has been cognisant of the right of individuals to take proceedings in Civil Courts. Under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement, the State had agreed to indemnify the congregations in respect of all court awards and settlements relating to child abuse in residential institutions which would have been eligible for consideration under the Redress Scheme, provided that civil proceedings were initiated within 3 years of the closing date for applications to the Redress Board.

Third Level Staff Remuneration

 199. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the reason for the decision to intervene in a Workplace Relations Committee ruling regarding staff at Waterford Institute of Technology who were not moved onto a higher lecturer’s scale despite the fact that their colleagues were moved up the scale (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50317/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Public Service Stability Agreement precludes cost increasing claims. A long-standing Industrial Relations Forum exists in respect of academic staff in Institutes of Technology. The Department, staff representatives and management representatives are members of this Forum, which facilitates dealing with industrial relations disputes without recourse to industrial action. The Department's position is that the matter should have been raised by the TUI at the national forum after exhausting local avenues and before the matter was referred to the Workplace Relations Commission.

Scrúduithe Stáit

 200. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh an bhfuil athbhreithniú á dhéanamh maidir leis an easpa scrúdú béil ceart a bheith ann don Teastas Sóisearach nua i bhfianaise an athbhreithnithe atá idir lámha ag an Aire maidir leis an stair a bheith roghnach don Teastas Sóisearach. [50319/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Cé nach mbeidh an scrúdú béil roghnach sa Ghaeilge ar fáil a thuilleadh agus nach bhfuil sé i gceist an cinneadh seo a athrú. Tá sé den tábhacht a rá gur cuid dhílis den eispéireas foghlama teanga iomlán é measúnacht scileanna teanga ó bhéal agus déanfar i roinnt slite éagsúla í i sonrúcháin nua na Sraithe Sóisearaí. De bhreis ar réimse tascanna a chríochnú ina bhfuil ar na daltaí úsáid a bhaint as a gcuid scileanna teanga ó bhéal agus iad a thaispeáint chun na torthaí foghlama sonraithe a bhaint amach, déanfar measúnacht fhoirmiúil ar scileanna teanga ó bhéal i Measúnacht Seomra-ranga-bhunaithe (CBA) 2 sa tríú bliain. Nascfar an tasc seo le malartuithe sa seomra ranga a bhíonn ar siúl go leanúnach. Dá bhrí sin beidh sé ina léiriú níos údaraí ar shuimeanna agus leibhéil chumais na ndaltaí. Lena chois sin is féidir leis na daltaí téacsanna a chur san áireamh a léiríonn a gcuid scileanna teanga ó bhéal chun críocha Measúnacht Seomra-ranga-bhunaithe (CBA) 1 - Portfóilió Foghlama. Sonraítear anseo go gcaithfidh mír amháin a bheith sa phortfóilió atá bunaithe ar fhuaim/físeán. D’fhéadfadh léiriú, óráid nó dán a bheith i gceist leis seo.

Schools Building Projects Status

 201. 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 status of a new school (details supplied); the stage the development is at; the remaining procedures still to be followed; when construction work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50334/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The major building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at Stage 2b – Detailed Design.

  This project was authorised to commence the Pre-Qualification of Contractors in May 2018. My Department has been informed that the Design Team Leader published the contract notice inviting contractors to tender for Pre-Qualification on e-tenders on 2 August 2018 with a closing date for receipt of submissions of 10 September 2018. The Design Team is currently assessing the expressions of interest. A pre-qualification report will be compiled and forwarded to the Department once this exercise is complete.

  In parallel, a tender process is ongoing to appoint a replacement Quantity Surveyor who will commence work on this project from Stage 3 (Tender Stage).

  Once the pre-qualification process is complete the Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with a view to progressing the project to tender stage.

  A tender stage normally takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

  In March 2018 my Department issued a letter to the school and its Design Team outlining the projected timeframe for the progression of this project to tender and construction stage and the steps involved.

Departmental Contracts Data

 202. Deputy Kate O'Connell Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number of contracts and-or tenders that have been awarded to a company (details supplied); the value of these contracts, that is, the amount the company has been paid; the services the contracts were for; and the number of public sector and-or publicly funded catering facilities being run by the company. [50361/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Department does has not have any current contract or awarded tender with the company listed. The contracted in-house catering facilities in our main offices in Dublin, Athlone and Tullamore are operated by entities other than the listed company.

School Curriculum

 203. 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 the status of history at junior cycle (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50373/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Since my arrival in the Department I have been considering the issue of History in the curriculum. I have spoken publicly of how vital it is that our young people can learn from the past so that they can plan for the future. I think it is very important that our education system should provide the opportunity to learn about, and learn from, key times and events in our history, events that we particularly recall in this decade of centenaries. These include the end of the First World War, the delicate path we walk to mark the foundation of the State, and the role of women in society. The study of our history can also afford the opportunity to consider and learn from the story of Irish migration, of the journey from conflict to peace on this island, and to learn about the rich history of our Irish language and its place in our culture and our heritage.

Prior to the implementation of the new Framework for Junior Cycle, only 52% of schools - the voluntary secondary schools - provided History as a core subject. Yet 90% of students present for History in the Junior Certificate examination each year.

It is against this backdrop, of the importance of learning from our past, that I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to review the optional nature of history under the new Framework for Junior Cycle. History was one of the new subject specifications introduced to schools just last September.

As part of their review I have also asked the NCCA to identify how we can best promote the study of history in our schools.

I met with officials of the NCCA and had an initial discussion on this matter. I expect to receive a report from the Council by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 204. Deputy Declan Breathnach Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to increase the income levels for eligibility for the SUSI grant in line with tax band and tax credit increases announced in budget 2019; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the increase in tax bands and credits now puts many persons outside the bracket of eligibility for a SUSI grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50374/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means.

The Student Grant Scheme provides for higher income thresholds for larger families. In addition to this, further increases in the income thresholds are provided for where additional family members are attending further and higher education at the same time.

The lowest income threshold of €23,500 is set for the special rate of maintenance grant. This income threshold has increased in line with increases in the Old Age Pension for the 2017 & 2018 schemes and will be reviewed again for the 2019 scheme. The highest income threshold, for a family of less than 4 dependent children, is currently set at €54,240. This will qualify a student for 50% of the student contribution.

Changes to the income thresholds are announced as part of the budget process. No further changes to the thresholds were included in Budget 2019.

School Admissions

 205. 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 using county boundaries to distinguish between pupils in a feeder school in a school admissions policy (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50408/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh In relation to enrolment generally, it is my Department's responsibility to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. Parents can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary.

  This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

  Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on my Department's website: www.education.ie.

  The Education Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01-7718500.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 was signed into law by the President on 18 July 2018.

  The overall objective of the Act is to provide a new framework for school enrolment that is designed to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications for admission is structured, fair and transparent.

  The measures provided for in the Act will make the admissions process more equitable and consistent for all. Schools that are not oversubscribed must continue to accept all applicants and this will be further enforced by the Act when it is commenced.

  On 3 October 2018, a number of sections of the Act were commenced and are operational from that date. Other sections of the Act which have not yet been commenced, including the section relating to admission policies for schools, require regulations and procedures to be drafted. Consultation with the Education Partners will shortly take place and I hope to have the remaining sections of the Act commenced in time for admission to the 2020/2021 school year.


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