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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 183-202
 Header Item National Children's Hospital Expenditure
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Emergency Works Scheme Funding
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Data
 Header Item Schools Health and Safety
 Header Item European Globalisation Fund
 Header Item Apprenticeship Data
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Schools Amalgamation
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item School Staff

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 183-202

National Children's Hospital Expenditure

 183. 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 body or bodies that will be prepaid for a school building at the national children's hospital; and the amount they will be paid from his Department. [9153/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh My Department has agreed to pay €4.3m for the construction cost of the school to be delivered as part of the new National Children's Hospital together with a sum of €714,000 plus VAT in respect of equipment. 70% of the construction cost amounting to €3.1m was transferred to the Department of Health in 2018.

This is separate to my Departments commitment to pay €10m in 2019, of an existing commitment to higher education facilities in the National Children's Hospital.

Schools Building Projects Status

 184. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the reason for the 16 year delay that has prevented the commencement of construction work on a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if construction of the school will be expedited; the timeline for construction of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9157/19]

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

A legal challenge to the pre-qualification process for the main contract from one unsuccessful contractor has recently been struck out and it is expected that a new invitation to pre-qualify will issue in early March on the e-tenders platform.

When the pre-qualification process for the main contract and reserved specialists contracts is complete the project will then be progressed to tender stage.

The Department has met twice recently with school representatives and continues to be in regular contact with them in relation to the project.

Regarding the site, legal representatives for both parties are working together with a view to concluding the conveyancing. There has been significant progress recently on foot of close and intense engagement from all parties. All parties continue the work to ensure the acquisition completes at the earliest possible date and at this point it is still not anticipated that the completion of conveyancing will impact on the timelines for delivery of the building project.

State Examinations

 185. 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 provision within the education system for a derogation from set exam time allowed for students with additional needs, learnings difficulties and diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder or Asperger's syndrome; the guidelines for allowing schools to grant extra time during mock exams and final exams; the deadline for applying for a derogation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9160/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Departmental Staff Data

 186. 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 number of conferences that staff of his Department have attended in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the number of staff that attended each conference; the cost of same in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9167/19]

 188. 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 number of staff in his Department, that attended a summit (details supplied) in Dublin in 2017 and 2018, respectively; the cost to his Department or agency under the remit of his Department; if his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department undertook advertising or sponsorship in respect of the summit; the cost in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9201/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take questions Nos. 186 and 188 together.

  I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from my Department attend conferences or seminars from time to time, where attendance at such events is required for upskilling or training purposes, or is required to keep appraised of best or emerging practices in specialist subject areas.

  The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the table attached. I wish to confirm that no official from my Department or its aegis bodies attended the Pendulum Summit in this period.

  Conference Attendance 2017-2019 Department of Education & Skills

Year  Number of Conferences (total) Number of Staff (total) Total Cost 
2017 62 99 €9,625
2018 57 86 €9,417
2019 (to date) 3 3 €71

Departmental Expenditure

 187. 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 amount spent in advertising and-or sponsorship in respect of conferences external and internal, respectively in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, by conference; the aggregate amount for each year; the amount available in the remainder of 2019 to fund same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9184/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh  The details requested by the Deputy are outlined in the table.

  My Department does not have a dedicated budget in relation to this category of advertising or sponsorship and consequently cannot predict costs for 2019. Any costs arising in relation to such activities are met from the relevant business unit’s subhead and accounted for in the Department's annual Appropriation Accounts

Conference

Details
Expenditure

2017
Expenditure

2018
Expenditure

2019
2018 10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education.     *€25,000
Shared Services in the Irish Public Service Conference. The Printworks, Dublin Castle 10th October 2017 (DES contribution-: 25% of Conference Cost)



  €6,982.85  
ESF 60 Years Conference. 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Treaty of Rome. The ESF Managing Authority in the Department of Education and Skills hosted a one day conference to celebrate the ESF’s 60th Anniversary. The conference was held in the Printworks in Dublin Castle and took place on the 28 November 2017. This event did not receive support from any private companies. ESF branded merchandise was provided. €1,082.98    
ETBI Annual Conference. ETBI represents the 16 Education and Training Boards in Ireland. Delegates from second level schools, ETB Boards, training centres and centres of education attended the two day conference. The ESF Managing Authority operated an information stand at the conference and provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. The event also received support from private companies.   €82.93  
‘A Fresh Start for Women’ conference. This conference was organised by the WISE Project, which is co funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF PEIL 2014-2020. Th ESF Managing Authority provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. The event also received support from private companies.   €292.13  
HCA & Carers Ireland Conference 2018. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) project focuses on promoting women’s entrepreneurship. The MRCI is co funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF PEIL 2014-2020. The MRCI hosted an information stand at the Carers Conference which was held in CityNorth Hotel & Conference Centre Gormanston on the 22 November 2018. The ESF Managing Authority provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. The event also received support from private companies.   €123.00  
Le Chéile National Volunteer Conference 2018. This conference was organised by Le Chéile, which is co funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF PEIL 2014-2020. The ESF Managing Authority provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. The conference took place on 29 September 2018 in the Killeshin Hotel Portlaoise. This event did not receive support from any private companies.   €453.26  
Garda Youth Diversion Projects Annual Conference. This conference was organised by the Irish Youth Justice Service and was held on 11 November 2018. GYDPs are co funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF PEIL 2014-2020. The ESF Managing Authority provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. This event did not receive support from any private companies.   €706.02  
National Association of Youthreach Co-ordinators Annual Conference. This conference was organised by the NAYC and held on 21-23 February 2018. Youthreach is co funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF PEIL 2014-2020. The ESF Managing Authority provided ESF branded merchandise for attendees. This event did not receive support from any private companies.   €384.99  
Education for Sustainable Development Forum €3,800.22 €1,734.19  
Literacy and Numeracy Strategy   €7,451.72  


   *Conference August 2018 Awaiting Submission of Payment Documentation.

Question No. 188 answered with Question No. 186.

Emergency Works Scheme Funding

 189. 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 when a school (details supplied) can expect a decision on an appeal for emergency funding. [9237/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The school to which the Deputy refers applied for Emergency Works funding to carry out repairs to the roof of the school building in October 2018. The application was assessed and all the funding requested in the application was approved. The project was devolved to the school authority for delivery.

The school authority subsequently wrote to the Department requesting that the roof be replaced in its entirety. This matter has been considered by officials in my Department and a response in that respect was issued last week. In this response, the school was informed that the mechanism for such a substantial increase in the scope of works is the Summer Works Scheme (SWS) and it was open to the school to apply for funding under a future SWS. This response also noted that no works have been carried out to date on the project already approved for funding,

Notwithstanding the above, the school authority has been informed by my Department that it can submit a further Emergency Works application form for the minimum works necessary to repair the roof.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 190. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans to increase apprenticeships in the construction sector in view of the shortage of skilled staff to address the housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9253/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Securing additional skills supply from education and training to meet the needs of the construction sector is a major focus of my Department as part of broader Government actions to increase housing supply and roll out the National Development Plan (NDP) and the National Planning Framework (NPF).

A Construction Sector Working Group has been established to ensure regular and open dialogue between Government and the construction sector in relation to issues that may impact on the successful delivery of the NDP on a value-for-money basis for the State. As set out in the NDP, part of the Construction Group's remit is to consider the supply of necessary skills and enhancing the capacity of the sector. The NDP also highlights the importance of examining the role of Building Information Modelling and adopting other technologies and innovative practices in driving improving productivity and efficiencies. The work of the Group will, therefore have an important role to play in ensuring that the construction sector enhances its capacity to meet infrastructural priorities over the next decade.

The Government is also closely monitoring all aspects of construction skills and labour supply, through the national skills database and through the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council and the Regional Skills Fora. A study of the construction sector will be undertaken by the EGFSN in 2019.

In responding to specific skill needs for the construction sector, a particular focus of my Department and the education and training sector more generally has been an expansion in apprenticeship recruitment. Apprenticeship is a demand driven educational and training programme, which aims to develop the skills of an apprentice in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market. Consequently, the number of construction related apprentices being registered is determined by employers within the construction sector. My Department and SOLAS are committed to supporting the registration of apprentices in the construction sector.

There were 3,398 construction related apprenticeship registrations in 2018 which represents an increase of 14% on the 2017 figure of 2,971 and almost 47% on the 2016 figure of 2,316. Registrations on craft apprenticeships are forecast to increase further up to 2020.

The range of apprenticeships on offer is also being expanded to meet the identified skill needs of the sector. Arising from the Apprenticeship Council’s two calls for apprenticeship proposals apprenticeships in Engineering Services Management, scaffolding and senior quantity surveyor apprenticeship are currently being developed into national apprenticeship programmes. The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) is industry lead in the Engineering Services Management and scaffolding apprenticeships and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland is Industry lead in the senior quantity surveyor apprenticeship. These new programmes, once developed, will add to and complement the range of apprenticeships currently on offer in developing the skill needs identified by the sector.

Schools Building Projects Status

 191. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the school building programme for County Wicklow at both primary and secondary level and the start date for the construction of each in tabular form.  [9280/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh To assist, schools, Deputies and the general public, my Department publishes on its website monthly updates on all major projects included on the Department’s Capital Programme 2016 -2021 including the type and extent of each project. Similar details are also published in respect of all approved additional accommodation projects and this list is updated on a weekly basis.

There are currently five Additional Accommodation applications on hand in respect of Co Wicklow that have yet to be assessed.

When these applications have been assessed the school authorities will be informed of the outcome and if approved, details will be published on my Department’s website as outlined above.

Schools Building Projects Data

 192. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the criteria used by the school building programme for tendering procurement; and the changes to this criteria and scoring since 2011 to date. [9282/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The criteria for procurement of Building Contractors and Design Teams are set out below and have remained largely unchanged since 2001.

   Contractors

  The procurement approach for the delivery of all school building projects is set out in guidance and procedures published by my Department’s Planning and Building Unit.   

  In general, for Public Works contracts there are two methods of tendering (the Restricted Procedure and the Open Procedure).

  In the case of tenders for the appointment of main building contractors for less complex school building projects of a small to medium scale, the Open procedure can be used and all contractors are entitled to submit a tender but must meet the minimum standards as set out in the invitation to tender (thus facilitating the inclusion of small to medium enterprises and those with no experience in educational projects). These contracts are generally awarded on the basis of lowest tender.

  For larger or more complex school building projects, where it is considered that pre-qualification of contractors is warranted, the Restricted Procedure is normally used. In the Restricted procedure, there is an intermediary qualification stage during which the numbers of applicants is reduced (or restricted) to a specified amount (normally 8 - 10). The pre-qualification process uses a combination of pass/fail criteria and qualitative criteria to establish the tender short-list. All criteria have minimum standards which must be met. These contracts are then generally awarded on the basis of the lowest tender.

  Tenders for projects being delivered under my Department’s “Design & Build” programme are evaluated using the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) approach. This means that the criteria for the award of the contract include technical merit as well as price. In the case of the Department’s current Design and Build programme,   Technical Merit carries a 60% weighting and Price carries a 40% weighting.    Over 150 projects have been delivered under the Department’s Design and Build programme since it was commenced in 2008.

  The evaluation of tenders for projects being delivered under Public Private Partnerships (PPP) arrangements has also used the MEAT approach. The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) is responsible for the procurement of PPP projects in the education sector.

  Design Teams

  For design team appointments on projects with a construction value over €1m in value the criteria for contract award are:

Price A Price
Quality B1 Tendered Rates
Quality B2 Resources (hours devoted to project)
Quality C Project Assessment (Site and Project Specific Issues)


  For appointing design teams for small projects (i.e. projects with a construction value of less than €1m) the criteria are:

  1. Summary of service to be provided.

  2. Competency of the firm to carry out the work.

  3. Project delivery (how the project can be completed on time and within budget)

  4. Price.

Schools Health and Safety

 193. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of the development of guidelines for schools on the specific issue of restraint or seclusion in educational settings; and the current rules in relation to the matter. [9284/19]

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 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.

The NCSE’s Policy Advice Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2015) recommended that the Department of Education & Skills develop guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of crisis student behaviour situations in schools.

Having considered the matter, my Department has undertaken to develop new guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of challenging behaviours (including the use of physical interventions) where such behaviour is considered as likely to present serious risk of physical harm to the student concerned and/or others within the school environment.

A Working Group has been established to develop the guidelines and work is ongoing in this regard. The Department will engage with education partners on the guidelines in the coming months.

It is anticipated that the guidelines will be finalised by the end of this school year.

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.

The guidelines will apply to all recognised schools. They will place a strong focus on prevention and early intervention strategies for the management of crisis student behaviour in which physical intervention may be employed only as the last part of a comprehensive, positive and planned behavioural approach by the school. Implementation of the guidelines will be supported through the provision of information and training supports.

The guidelines will be informed by the evidence which shows that whole school positive behavioural approaches and early and ongoing engagement with the school community, including parents, are necessary for the development of effective school policy and practice.

European Globalisation Fund

 194. 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 clarification on the application process to the European globalisation fund in the context of the decarbonisation restructuring strategy of Bord na Móna and the significant job losses in the midlands will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9296/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Under the current EGF Regulation, when making an application for EGF support to the European Commission, a Member State must provide a reasoned analysis of the link between the redundancies and major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, demonstrated by:

  - A substantial increase in imports into the EU;

  - A serious shift in EU trade in goods or services;

  - A rapid decline of the EU market share in a given sector; or

  - A delocalisation of activities to third countries.

  The Regulation ordinarily restricts eligibility to redundancy situations involving at least 500 redundancies in a specific company (including suppliers and downstream producers) within a 4 month period, or at least 500 redundancies in a specific sector in a 9 month period. However, in exceptional circumstances applications can be considered where the number of redundancies is not entirely met, when the redundancies will have a serious impact on employment and the local, regional or national economy.

  In the context of the redundancies arising due to Bord na Móna’s decarbonisation strategy, my officials in the EGF Managing Authority are considering whether a such a reasoned analysis can be made.

  I understand that the closing date for expressions of interest in Bord na Móna’s voluntary redundancy programme was 31 January 2019 and that no redundancy notifications have yet issued. I also understand that the company has engaged in a detailed support facility for its employees to look at other opportunities.

  EGF applications must specify the number of redundancies that have occurred within the applicable reference period and must be submitted within 12 weeks of the end of that period.

  The potential for an EGF application will be considered having regard to the issues outlined.

Apprenticeship Data

 195. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number of male and female apprentices in training by each employment sector and subsector as of 18 February 2019, for craft based and consortia led apprenticeships in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9318/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan The latest available data for the information, as requested by the Deputy is for the end of January and is set out in the attached table.

  Population by Sector

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 196. 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 the way in which he plans to fill the shortfall in classroom spaces for children with special needs including autism at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare before the new school year 2019-2020; the way in which he further plans to provide an adequate number of school spaces to meet the needs of schoolchildren with special needs in County Kildare from 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [9322/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The delivery of the Campus project for the school referred to by the Deputy has been devolved to Kildare and Wicklow Education & Training Board (KWETB).

  It is understood that the project will be going to tender very shortly with a view to getting on site early in the summer and is still on target for occupation in September 2020.

  The NCSE is responsible, through it's 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.

  The NCSE’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements. This process is ongoing and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in Kildare to ensure that all children who require special class placements can access such placements in for the forthcoming school year.

  My Department will continue to support the NCSE in opening ASD special classes in areas where there is an identified need.

Schools Building Projects Status

 197. 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 rationale for the time delays with regard to the construction of a school (details supplied); and if the project is still within budget. [9332/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The project to which the Deputy refers is a new school comprising 16 classrooms and a Special Educational Needs base. The site has been master planned for 24 classrooms in recognition of possible future demographic growth in the area. The project has been devolved to Westmeath County Council (WCC) for delivery.

The project had been scheduled for completion for September 2018. However, the contractor experienced a number of issues such as unforeseen ground conditions and the severe weather events of late 2017 and early 2018. The expected completion date for the project is now July 2019.

The ongoing delay of this project is extremely disappointing and frustrating for all parties involved. It is, however, in the nature of any building project, whether it is a school, an office block or a house, that unforeseen issues can arise. The objective always is to deal with these as efficiently as possible to minimise delay.

WCC is continuing to pursue the contractor for as speedy a delivery of the project as possible. It has the full support of my Department in its efforts to achieve this without compromising the integrity of the building being delivered.

To ensure that the school is kept fully up to date with progress on the project, WCC is issuing monthly progress reports to the school's Board of Management. This approach will provide accurate and precise information to help the school to plan and manage its needs until its permanent accommodation is available. The Deputy may also wish to note that officials from Department recently joined WCC at a meeting with the school authority so as to discuss and address its concerns.

The budget for this project included a contingency for unforeseen circumstances. The Deputy can be assured that any deviation from the budget due to unforeseen circumstance is being closely monitored by both Westmeath County Council and officials from my Department.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 198. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh further to Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 20 October 2018, if progress has been made in relation to allocating breastfeeding breaks for SNAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9336/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As previously advised, Circular letter 17/2013 issued by my Department, deals with the Maternity Protection entitlements, including provision for breastfeeding, for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools. Paragraph 14.1 of Circular 0017/2013 states: " Within a twenty six week period after the birth of the child, a special needs assistant who has returned to work is entitled to one hour per day for the purpose of breastfeeding. The time off, without loss of pay, may be taken as follows:(a) one break of 60 minutes, or(b) two breaks of 30 minutes each, or(c) three breaks of 20 minutes each.”Following consultation with school and staff representatives my Department issued Circular 60/2018 which increased the entitlement to breastfeeding breaks for teachers. The extension of these provisions to SNAs is still under consideration.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 199. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the position regarding guideline changes issued by his Department and the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, for SNAs in relation to intimate care needs policy (details supplied); if there has been consultation with SNAs regarding the change; the protections in place for SNAs that feel vulnerable in an intimate care setting without a witness; if these guidelines have been signed into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9338/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Individual school authorities are responsible for the management and effective deployment of Special Needs Assistants within their school. School management authorities are also responsible for ensuring there are up to date policies and procedures in place in relation to child protection. In carrying out their functions, school management must have regard to the law, relevant Departmental circulars and guidance. The principal has overall responsibility for the day to day leadership and management of all staff in the school including responsibility for ensuring that staff understand their roles and responsibilities. Where staff have concerns, these should be raised with local school management in the first instance.

With regard to the management of the intimate care needs of children in schools, my Department is of the view that there is a need to strike a balance between adequately protecting the child on the one hand and preserving the child's dignity on the other. In general therefore, there is no requirement for two SNAs to be present in the management of intimate care needs situations. Schools are required to have a care plan for each student for whom SNA support is provided and the SNA role in supporting the student should be agreed with parents as part of the care plan.

In the context of its Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, the NCSE has recommended that guidance be prepared for schools in this area and this is currently being considered by my Department.

Schools Amalgamation

 200. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of a matter (details supplied) in relation to a school amalgamation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9342/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron/Trustees of the school, and this is subject to the approval of the Department.

Any proposed change 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.

My Department has sought further information from the Patron of the schools mentioned by the Deputy relating to the proposed amalgamation and this is awaited. The matter can be considered further following receipt of this information.

Schools Building Projects Status

 201. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of a new development for a school (details supplied); if the deadline is the same for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9343/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am pleased to inform the Deputy that works commenced on site in June 2018 on the school referred to by the Deputy. The project is progressing well and is scheduled to take approximately 27 months to complete.

School Staff

 202. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the estimated cost of a reduction by one in post-primary school class size from September 2020.  [9346/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education sector, as we continue to implement the Action Plan for Education, our plan to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget will have increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including more than 370 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.

The 2018/19 school year saw an increase of over 6000 teaching posts in our schools compared to the 2015/16 school year.

Each 1 point adjustment to the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level is estimated to cost in the region of €63m per annum (approx. 1,000 additional teaching posts).

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data in relation to our schools including pupil teacher ratios and teacher numbers. The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratios show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.3:1 at primary level and 13.8:1 to 13.1:1 at post primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2017/18 school year.


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