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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 110-134
 Header Item Schools Designation
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Facilities
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Data
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Special Education Review
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Summer Works Scheme
 Header Item Schools Amalgamation
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Teachers' Professional Development
 Header Item Parliamentary Questions Data
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 110-134

Schools Designation

 110. 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 a decision has been made on the application by a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to become co-educational; if not, the issues delaying the sanctioning of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52376/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of correspondence from the Patron of the school in question relating to a proposed change of the school's status.  Further information requested by my Department in that regard has recently been received; this allows the request to be progressed.

Schools Building Projects Status

 111. 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 tenders have been invited for the completion of a campus (details supplied) in County Kildare; the number of contractors from which tenders have been sought; the closing date for receipt of tenders for the project; when it is envisaged the successful contractor will be on site; if the completion date remains June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52379/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy will be aware, the project to which he refers is being delivered by Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB).  Since the main contractor for the project went into liquidation earlier this year, KWETB and its Design Team have been working to prepare the project to tender the unfinished works.  It was also working with the bondsman for the project on a proposal to finish out the envelope of the building so as to weather the works already carried out.

I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that an acceptable agreement has been reached with the bondsman to allow the weathering works to be done and my Department has given its approval to the ETB to proceed with this arrangement.   A builder is currently on site carrying out those works.  

In the meantime, the remainder of the finish-out works are on track to be tendered to pre-qualified contractors shortly.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 112. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 21 November 2018, if agreement has been reached on a new site for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52380/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As previously confirmed to  the Deputy, officials in my Department are currently making progress on the identification of a suitable site to accommodate the school to which the Deputy refers. Ongoing close engagement with Kildare County Council and discussions with a landowner on a potential site continue. Due to commercial sensitivities relating to site acquisitions in general, I am not in a position to provide further details at this time.

Schools Building Projects Status

 113. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 9 October 2018, if tenders have been sought for the appointment of a design team for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the closing date for receipt of tenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52382/18]

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 Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB).

  My Department has given approval to KWETB to proceed with the appointment of a Design Team for the project. That process is currently underway.

Schools Building Projects Status

 114. 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 a school (details supplied) in north County Kildare will open in September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52383/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Maynooth Community College opened in 2014 with an Irish-medium Aonad and it was stated that should the Aonad demonstrate sufficient viability after four years from its date of establishment, a Gaelcholáiste would be established.

As the Deputy will be aware, Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board and An Foras Pátrúnachta had been working through the practical arrangements necessary to facilitate the establishment of a new Gaelcholáiste.  My Department has recently received correspondence from both parties and this is currently being considered.

Schools Facilities

 115. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will provide a list of all primary schools; the primary schools that have a kitchen or a canteen; the primary schools that do not have a kitchen; and the primary schools that do not have a canteen, respectively, in tabular form. [52411/18]

 116. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if all new school build contracts include the provision of a kitchen and a canteen for students and teachers. [52412/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 116 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that a list of all primary schools nationwide is available on the Department's website  www.education.ie/Publications/Statistics/DataonIndividualSchools/LatestAvailablePrimary SchoolsLists.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that my Department does not hold details of schools with canteen or kitchen facilities or those without such facilities.

My Department has in place detailed design guidelines for primary and post-primary schools. These guidelines, which are available on my Department's website, 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 Staff

 117. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to introduce an immediate appeals procedure for staffing allocations to special schools for matters such as staffing allocation which are not given to special schools until late in the academic year, often July (details supplied); if he will clarify or correct the situation by which he and the principal officer of the special education section deny responsibility to adjudicate an appeal from a special school stating it rests with NCSE which in turn states it rests with his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52413/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, in accordance with the policies of my Department.

Enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios are provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs. Since 2012, special schools are staffed on the basis of their actual pupil profiles and the disability category of each pupil, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with my Department's Circular 0042/2011. 

Special school staffing allocations are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE and schools are staffed on the basis of each year’s school enrolments, unlike mainstream primary and post primary schools, which are allocated staffing based on staffing schedules.  

Where a special school has a query in relation to their allocation, they can discuss their concerns, in the first instance, with the Special Education Needs Officer (SENO) who will provide the basis for, and background to, their class teacher allocation.  Where a special school is unhappy with the SENO's decision, the advice of the Senior SENO may be sought on the matter.

Special Schools are advised of their teaching and SNA staffing allocations at the same time. Following the Government's decision of 5th July 2017, that the allocation of SNAs would now be part of the annual Estimates process, this has allowed the NCSE to make staffing allocations to special schools much earlier than in previous years. Special Schools were advised of their staffing allocation on 20th May 2018.  

I have recently requested the NCSE to develop policy advice on the educational provision that should be in place for students educated in special schools and classes and make recommendations on the provision required to enable students in special schools and classes achieve better outcomes.  Issues in relation to appeals will also be considered.

The NCSE have been asked to complete and submit it’s report to the Minister not later than June 2020. There will be no change to the staffing arrangements currently in place in special schools, pending the receipt of this policy advice.

Special Educational Needs Data

 118. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to undertake an exercise to scope out the requirement for special school places particularly in the area of ASD and complex needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52414/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh 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 ASD attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

Some students with ASD, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there and placement in an ASD special class should be considered.

Special classes are part of a continuum of educational provision that enables students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools. They offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.

Students enrolled in special classes should be included in mainstream classes to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities.

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. Enrolment of a child in a special school is based on a professional assessment in consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special class or special school provision is required, it is planned and established to meet that need. The NCSE continues to establish additional special class and special school placements to support children with Special Educational Needs including Autism as required. 

From time to time, the Council identifies local areas where additional provision is required.  In those circumstances, SENOs work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.

My Department is aware that the establishment of special provision in some schools and communities can be challenging.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 will assist in addressing this issue in areas where the NCSE is of the opinion that there is insufficient education provision for children with special educational needs.

Section 8 of the Act, which commenced Monday 3rd December 2018, will provide the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the 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.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children who require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities. To this end the Department and the NCSE have convened a working group to put in place a new working protocol to ensure that there is effective pro-active planning and timely delivery of specialist educational places for students in special classes and special schools.

The focus of the working group is to guide the development of necessary placements in schools in the short, medium and longer terms to meet the anticipated needs of pupils and to ensure that any necessary school building or refurbishment and school transport considerations are resolved as early as possible so that placement options can be accessed where and when they are needed.

Special Educational Needs

 119. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to introduce a reduction in the paperwork requirement for special schools particularly the personal pupil plans when requesting one extra SNA in addition to a reasonable timeframe for a response from the NCSE in view of the fact that staff continue to deal with violent behaviour in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52415/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Board of Management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all pupils and employees in their school.

Students who have a challenging behavioural needs should, in the first instance, be supported by teachers, other staff members and by whole school polices on the management of behaviour in schools. The emphasis in the school situation should be on the development of well co-ordinated interventions in response to the student's identified needs. The provision of appropriate teaching and health supports, as required, should result in improved behaviours, leading to improved educational outcomes.

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.

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.

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.

In situations where behavioural management strategies have not been successful and where it is demonstrated how access to SNA support can assist with ongoing planning and intervention for the student such support will be provided in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014.

Further to this, a new model of allocation of SNA support is currently being considered by my Department. The Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, published by the NCSE on 30 May 2018, has recommended the development of a frontloaded model for allocating SNA support to schools for children with special educational needs who have additional care needs.

The introduction of such a model of allocation would reduce, and in many cases eliminate, the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources. 

Work is also ongoing in my Department in relation to the development of guidelines for crisis situations. Following a request by my 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. My Department will engage with education partners on these in the coming months. The guidelines will assist schools in responding in circumstances where students pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.

  Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 101.

Special Education Review

 121. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if an urgent review and replacement of report of the special education review committee 1993 will be carried out in view of the fact that the pupil profile has changed significantly but resources have remained the same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52417/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Staffing arrangements for special schools are in line with policy advice provided by the NCSE in 2013, which did not recommend alteration to staffing ratios established under SERC Report in 1993.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, in accordance with the policies of my Department.

Enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios are provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs. Since 2012, special schools are staffed on the basis of the pupil population and the disability categorisations of those pupils, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with my Department's Circular 0042/2011. 

Special school staffing allocations are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE and schools are staffed on the basis of each year’s school enrolments.  

In Budget 2019, it was announced that for the school year 2019/2020, funding will be provided for administrative deputy principal posts in special schools that have a principal and 15 class teachers or more. This change is in recognition of the additional administrative needs of special schools.

I have recently requested the NCSE to undertake policy advice on the educational provision that should be in place for students educated in special schools and classes and make recommendations on the provision required to enable students in special schools and classes achieve better outcomes.

The NCSE have been asked to complete and submit it’s report to the Minister not later than June 2020. There will be no change to the staffing arrangements currently in place in special schools, pending the receipt of this policy advice.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 122. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if consistent access to a multidisciplinary team, particularly a behaviour support specialist, for all special schools will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52418/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme was published by the NCSE on 30 May 2018 and contains 13 recommendations. One of these recommendations is the provision of multi-disciplinary therapy support, including behaviour practitioners, to provide advice and guidance to schools.

In response to the Review, I have undertaken to develop proposals for the implementation of the NCSE's recommendations and to return to Government following engagement with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Health, with a proposed implementation plan to include governance and accountability framework and detailed costings of any recommendations that subsequently may be approved by Government.

Work in this regard is underway and I expect to bring proposals for implementation of the Review's recommendations to Government shortly.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 123. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if an administrative deputy principal will be appointed in all special schools with eight teachers which equates to a minimum staff of 32 in view of the fact that mainstream national schools with five or more special classes and no specified enrolment number can be allocated an administrative deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52419/18]

 131. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the measures he will take to tackle the high levels of absenteeism among staff due to the lack of support available in special schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52483/18]

 132. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to resolve the inconsistency in the way in which the allocation of part-time specialist teachers and or hours are sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52484/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take Questions Nos. 123, 131 and 132 together.

The recruitment, appointment and deployment of teaching and SNA staff is a matter for the individual school authority.

The managerial authority of a school may employ a substitute to replace a teacher and SNA absent on an approved absence including certified illness and maternity leave.

In order to ease the situation reported of some schools experiencing difficulties in finding substitute teachers, in the last school year I suspended the limits that teachers on career break can work as substitutes. Schools were also reminded that, in considering career break applications, the needs of pupils should take precedence and they must take account of the availability of appropriate qualified replacement teachers. Retiring teachers were also reminded that in order to remain eligible for employment in a state funded teaching post for a period of more than five consecutive days, a teacher must maintain registration with the Teaching Council.

Earlier this year my Department established the Steering Group on Teacher Supply. 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. 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.

A consultative forum was held on 8 November. Its purpose is to ensure that all stakeholders are kept aware of the measures being considered and implemented and to facilitate their input and participation. A number of regional focus groups are planned before end of 2018.

The Teacher Supply Action Plan was published on this day and it is an important step in an ongoing process to address teacher supply. Consultation and engagement across the various sectors is key to meeting the challenge and addressing issues currently being experienced in schools.

My Department’s Online Claims System (OLCS) is designed to enable schools to record all absences (Substitutable and Non Substitutable) for all Staff Members paid directly on my Departments payroll and to make claims for substitution in respect of teachers and special needs assistants.

The data input by schools, once validated, updates my Department’s Payroll and Personnel systems and issues payment directly to the substitute staff members concerned, if applicable.

The OLCS does not allow the entitlements under each leave type to be exceeded.

My Department has put in place an Occupational Health Strategy as a supportive resource for teachers and special needs assistants to promote their health in the workplace, with a focus primarily on prevention rather than cure. The Occupational Health Strategy comprises of the Employee Assistance and Well-being Programme and the Occupational Health Service.

The Occupational Health Service incorporates pre-employment health assessments, sickness absence management, assessments of medical fitness for work and ill health retirement assessments.

The Employee Assistance and Well-being Programme is a confidential service accessible by means of a free-phone telephone helpline available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing counselling on a range of personal health and well-being issues given by qualified clinicians. Up to 6 face-to-face counselling sessions are available to provide supportive and solution-focused care based on an individual’s clinical needs. The telephone service also provides specialist information, support and advice in relation to family, financial, legal, work-related and consumer information services as well as providing management support

The School Authority, as employer, has a duty under Section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees”. The Occupational Health Service (OHS) is in place to assist the employer in carrying out this duty. The employer must therefore refer the teacher/SNA to the OHS, for the purpose of an independent assessment, where reasonable concerns exist as to the capacity of the teacher/SNA to undertake his/her duties in a manner that is safe for both the teacher/SNA and students. The OHS Provider, as contracted by the Department, is the sole recognised provider of independent medical advice for teachers/SNAs and employers. It is a requirement of the Sick Leave Scheme that all participants and beneficiaries of that Scheme abide by the medical assessment of the OHS.

NCSE’s Support Service has brought under its control the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI). The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for teachers, continuing professional development for teachers and support to schools on the management of challenging behaviour. It also enhances the multi-disciplinary capacity of the education system through providing access to expert knowledge in areas such as autism, speech and language therapy and challenging behaviour.

With regard to staffing in special schools, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, in accordance with the policies of my Department.

Enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios are provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs.

Since 2012, special schools are provided with teaching staff on the basis of individual pupil profiles and disability categories of those pupils, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with my Department's Circular 0042/2011. Special school staffing allocations are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE and schools are staffed on the basis of each year’s current school enrolments.

In addition, some special schools are in receipt of part-time specialist teaching hours which were originally allocated to provide for specialist subjects for post primary aged students. The provision has been maintained by the special schools in receipt of same, but no expansion of the provision has been provided for in recent years.

In Budget 2019, it was announced that for the school year 2019/2020, funding will be provided for administrative deputy principal posts in special schools that have a principal and 15 class teachers or more. This change is in recognition of the additional administrative needs of special schools

I have recently requested the NCSE to undertake policy advice on the educational provision that should be in place for students educated in special schools and classes and make recommendations on the provision required to enable students in special schools and classes achieve better outcomes.

The NCSE have been asked to complete and submit it’s report to the Minister not later than June 2020. There will be no change to the staffing arrangements currently in place in special schools, pending the receipt of this policy advice.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 124. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to remedy a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52420/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, in accordance with the policies of my Department.

Since 2012, special schools are provided with teaching staff on the basis of the pupil population and the disability categorisations of those pupils, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with my Department's Circular 0042/2011. Special school staffing allocations  are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE and schools are staffed on the basis of each year’s current school enrolments.  

In Budget 2019, it was announced that for the school year 2019/2020, funding will be provided for administrative deputy principal posts in special schools that have a principal and 15 class teachers or more. This change is in recognition of the additional administrative needs of special schools which operate on substantially reduced pupil teacher ratios.

Special Education Teachers (previously Resource and Learning Support Teachers) are provided under the Special Education Teaching allocation model, introduced in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs. Special Schools are not included under this model, as their staffing is provided as outlined above.

The Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Scheme is a school-based intervention provided to DEIS schools to address the needs of all pupils/families at risk of educational disadvantage through acknowledging and developing the role of the parent as prime educator. The role of the HSCL Coordinator is to work primarily with the salient adults in the child’s life, in order to empower them, so that they can better support their children to attend school, participate in education and develop positive attitudes to life-long learning. Central to the HSCL initiative, is the identification of educational needs and the provision of a tailored and proportionate response to those needs, through a range of interventions, which are evidence-based, focused and structured.

While the HSCL scheme is funded by my Department, Tusla the Child and Family Agency, which is the dedicated state agency responsible for improving well-being and outcomes for children has responsibility for the management of the HSCL Scheme.

With enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs, teaching staff typically have extensive engagement with parents, HSE multi-disciplinary teams and the NCSE.

In addition to planning and coordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, each NCSE SENO works in an assigned local area with parents, schools, teachers, psychologists, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in that area for children with special educational needs.

In dealing with parents of children with special educational needs, SENOs will keep parents informed of what resourcing decisions are being made on their child’s behalf. The SENO will also discuss any concerns that parents have about the present or future educational needs of their child. SENOs recognise that parents/guardians are the key stakeholders with regard to the child and are committed to forging good relationships with parents and parent groups. The SENO is available to parents to discuss any issues they have and to offer support and expertise. SENOs are also available to give presentations to groups of parents, advocacy groups etc.

I have recently requested the NCSE to undertake policy advice on the educational provision that should be in place for students educated in special schools and classes and make recommendations on the provision required to enable students in special schools and classes achieve better outcomes.

The NCSE have been asked to complete and submit it’s report to the Minister not later than June 2020.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 125. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if consideration will be given to allocating full-time nursing support to special schools with pupils with complex medical needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52421/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme which set out to ensure that the Scheme is achieving the best outcomes possible for children with special educational needs was published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) on 30 May 2018.  

  The Review contains 13 recommendations, one of which is the provision of nursing support for students with complex medical needs. 

  In response to the Review, I have undertaken to develop proposals for the implementation of the NCSE's recommendations and to return to Government, following engagement with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Health, with a proposed implementation plan to include a governance and accountability framework, and detailed costings of proposals.

  I expect to bring proposals for implementation of the Review's recommendations to Government shortly. 

Schools Building Projects Status

 126. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of a school building project (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52435/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh This project is currently at Stage 2B of Architectural Planning.  Planning Permission has been received and the Disability Access Certificate and Fire Safety Certificate have been granted.

The Department has authorised the pre-qualification of contractors. The school was informed of the timeframe for progression of the project to tender stage and construction stage and the steps involved.  When pre-qualification is complete the project will then be progressed to tender stage.  A tender stage takes between 7 and 8 months to complete.

This major building project is included on my Department’s 6 year Programme and is expected to commence construction in mid-2019.

Summer Works Scheme

 127. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if a scheme (details supplied) will be reintroduced in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52452/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Summer Works Scheme (SWS) is designed to allow schools, on a devolved funding basis, to carry out necessary improvement and refurbishment works that will upgrade existing school facilities.  Under SWS 2016-2017 almost €80 million has been approved to date, in respect of over 640 school projects in categories 1 - 6.  The applications in categories 7-10 remain available for consideration for funding.

The launch of Project Ireland 2040 included an announcement of a major package of investment in education for the next decade with the school building budget increasing by 70%. 

This investment will provide for the continued increase in demographics while also allowing for a greater focus on refurbishment and upgrading of existing school stock.

Schools Amalgamation

 128. 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 reason a school (details supplied) is being amalgamated with another 18 km away; and if this course of action will be reversed in view of the fact that it will cause considerable hardship to parents and students and significantly undermine the ethos of the school that has been in place for many decades. [52472/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I can confirm to the Deputy that the decision making authority for school amalgamations belongs to the Patron/Trustees of a school, and this is subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills. Any proposed changes involves extensive negotiations at local level and must be well planned and managed in a manner that accommodates the interests of students, parents, teachers, local communities and contributes to an inclusive education system.  

In this regard, correspondence from the relevant ETB was received in recent days.  Once my Department has had an opportunity to consider same further contact will be made with the ETB.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 129. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to remove the requirement to take SNAs from panels for special schools in view of the fact that they may not have the necessary skill set, knowledge and relevant experience that is sought through the usual recruitment process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52481/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am not aware of any specific proposal along the lines outlined by the Deputy.  The purpose of the Supplementary Assignment Arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school or ETB.  The arrangements are in place for recognised Primary, Secondary, Community and Comprehensive Schools and ETBs, and apply to all of these schools with no exclusions.

Under the terms of the most recent Circular (0034/2018), SNAs with a Panel Form 1 (PF1) retain the first option to be interviewed. The employer is obliged to offer the vacancy to an SNA with a PF1, subject to the SNA meeting any specific competencies and/or requirements to meet the special educational needs of the pupil. If none of the applicants with the PF1 form meet the specific competencies and/or requirements of the Board then the employer can call other applicants for interview.

Teachers' Professional Development

 130. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to ensure that there is continuing professional development specifically for various types of special schools for both teachers and SNAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52482/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme which set out to ensure that the Scheme is achieving the best outcomes possible for children with special educational needs was published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in May this year. 

One of the recommendations in the Review is the development of a national training programme at FETAC level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications for existing and new SNAs, recognising the fundamental importance of building schools' capacity to meet students' additional care needs.

In response to the Review, I have undertaken to develop proposals for the implementation of the NCSE's recommendations and to return to Government following engagement with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Health, with a proposed implementation plan to include governance and accountability framework and detailed costings of any recommendations that subsequently may be approved by Government.

Work in this regard is underway and I expect to bring proposals for implementation of the Review's recommendations to Government shortly.

There are also a range of in-service professional development supports provided to teachers by the Department. Since March 2017, the NCSE Support Service, has a remit to develop schools’ capacity to include students with special educational needs and to promote a continuum of educational provision which is inclusive and responsive.

The role of the NCSE Support Service includes enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in relation to special educational provision. The service co-ordinates, develops and delivers a range of professional development initiatives and support structures for school personnel working with students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, special schools and special classes.

In addition to the above, the Department provides funding support for teachers to expand their capacity through courses at the Middletown Centre for Autism and through funded post-graduate provision at a number of higher education institutions for teachers involved in Learning Support and Special Education.

  Questions Nos. 131 and 132 answered with Question No. 123.

Parliamentary Questions Data

 133. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of parliamentary questions his Department has processed in the past three years to date; the number of questions answered directly; the number of questions referred to bodies or agencies under the aegis of his Department for direct reply; the number of staff who are assigned to his parliamentary questions section; and if non-departmental staff, advisers and-or public affairs and relations companies have composed parliamentary question replies or had an act or hand in forming parliamentary question replies in the timeframe specified. [52245/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan My Department has answered 10,895 parliamentary questions from January 2016 to 6 December 2018. This figure includes linked questions where a single comprehensive answer is provided to a number of questions on the same subject. It does not include questions which have been withdrawn, disallowed or transferred to another Department.

When information is sought which is in the purview of a body or agency under the aegis of  my Department, the practice is to seek that information in order to provide it in the response to the parliamentary question, rather than referring the question to that body or agency for direct reply. That is generally the position in relation to, for example, An Garda Síochána, and the Courts Service. Where information is not available in the time provided for by the Oireachtas, I generally issue a follow-up response to the question when the information becomes available. On occasion, I may indicate in my answer that information, or further information, is to be provided directly to the Deputy by an agency or body under my remit.

My Department has a Parliamentary Questions coordinator whose functions include liaison with the Questions office in the Houses of the Oireachtas.  Since September 2017 my Department has operated the ePQ system - an integrated system which allows for the timely submission, approval and transfer to the Oireachtas of replies to parliamentary questions, and involves input from staff across the Department.

Replies are prepared by Departmental staff working directly in the subject area. As with other areas of work, my adviser may liaise with other staff as part of this process and on my behalf, prior to submission of responses to the Oireachtas. Neither public affairs companies or public relations companies have any involvement in the process.

Departmental Correspondence

 134. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when he plans to respond to the correspondence and questions sent to him by a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52279/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy is aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in Wards of Court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.

  The correspondence referred to by the Deputy has been received and is currently being addressed by my Department. A reply is being finalised at the moment and will issue shortly.


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