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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 72-84
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Literacy Programmes
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Pupil Data Collection
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards Data
 Header Item Multidenominational Schools
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item School Equipment
 Header Item DEIS Status

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 66 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 72-84

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 69.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 71.

National Broadband Plan

 74. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the level of involvement his Department has in undergoing a due diligence on the tender for the national broadband plan as confirmed by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment; if the Office of Government Procurement is actively involved in the due diligence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15947/19]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Officials in my Department with responsibility for the Vote of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment have been appraised periodically by that Department of progress on the procurement process but have had no involvement or input in that process or any evaluation of same.  

The Office of Government Procurement was represented in an advisory role on the Procurement Board for this project.  The primary aim of this Board is to independently review the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment’s oversight of the evaluation stages of the procurement process but has no decision making or due diligence role in the procurement process.  This is a matter for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Literacy Programmes

 75. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans for future funding of a society (details supplied); the amount of funding that will help develop and support Irish sign language and specifically the programmes run by the society such as deaf adult literacy services and the Irish sign language academy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15855/19]

 82. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh his plans for the future funding of a society (details supplied); the way in which the funding will help develop and support Irish sign language and specifically the programmes run by the society such as deaf adult literacy services and an academy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15766/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 82 together.

  The national further education authority SOLAS, provided funding to the Irish Deaf Society in 2018 for the provision of literacy courses for the deaf community through Irish Sign Language. €241k was allocated in 2018 to achieve the following:

  - Provide QQI certified, Continuing Professional Development and personal development training interventions and workshops for approx. 400 learners who are members of the Deaf community.

  - Support 60 learners to achieve QQI certification at Levels 2 to 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

  I understand the Irish Deaf Society have applied for funding to provide this service in 2019, and the application is currently being considered by SOLAS.

  It is not my Department’s policy generally to provide funding to representative organisations which operate independently of State provision, or to duplicate funding arrangements where State provision is already in place for services provided.

  My Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils who are Deaf or hard of hearing, including the following:

  - The Irish Sign Language (ISL) tuition scheme, where funding is made available to parents/guardians for tuition in ISL for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and their families.

  - In 2018/19 school year, there are 1,459 special classes in mainstream schools, including 15 for students who are deaf and 1 early intervention special class for the Deaf. Of 124 special schools nationally, there are 2 special schools for the Deaf.

  - Special Education Teaching (SET) support for deaf/hard of hearing students attending mainstream schools.

  - The Visiting Teacher Service for Children/Young People who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing are a part of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Support Service and works in partnership with parents of deaf/hard of hearing children throughout the country, helping the children to derive maximum benefit from the educational opportunities available.

  - The Support Service also provides funding for individual teachers and whole school staff to undertake courses in Irish Sign Language, which are available throughout the country through a variety of providers.

  - Funding to schools for assistive technology such as radio aids and soundfield systems

  - Special transport arrangements for pupils

  - Enhanced levels of capitation in Special schools and Special Classes.

  The NCSE published Policy Advice on the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland which makes a number of recommendations for the improvement of educational provision for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, including recommendations relating to ISL provision.

  In addition, the Comprehensive review of the SNA Scheme, published by the NCSE in 2018, recommends Irish Sign Language qualified assistants in schools, to support profoundly deaf students whose primary language is ISL and that this provision should be aligned to the requirements of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017.

  In line with the recommendations of this review and the requirements of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017, a scheme will be developed to provide Irish Sign Language support for students attending recognised schools, whose primary language is Irish Sign Language.

  On 24 January 2019, I launched a new undergraduate programme in DCU that enables deaf and hard of hearing people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 76. 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 if the special education hours allocation will be increased in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15685/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools set out details of a new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

  DES Circulars 0007/2019 for primary schools and 0008/2019 for post primary schools also provide details of how the allocations are being updated for schools from September 2019, based on updated profile data.

  All schools have now received revised allocations for September 2019.

  As the re profiling occurred, some schools have gained additional allocations, where the profile indicator data indicates these schools have additional needs. Some schools received slightly reduced allocations, where the data indicates less need, and some schools maintained their existing allocations.

  The Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

  Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

  The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fair allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the level of need in each school.

  Schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile. The allocations to schools include provision to support all pupils in the schools, including where a child receives a diagnosis after the allocation is received by a school, or where there are newly enrolling pupils to the school.

  Both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring that all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.

  Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published details of an appeal process for the 2019 allocation process for schools on their website www.ncse.ie.   

  Schools are advised that the appeal will consider circumstances where schools considered that their school profile was calculated incorrectly, using the data set out in DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019. An appeal can be submitted for a review of the information used and of the calculation of the allocation.

  A second process will be put in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.

  The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2019/20 school year.

  Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria will also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

  Additional special education teaching allocations will be made for schools who have increased enrolments to the extent that they achieve developing status, once school enrolments have been verified at October 2019, as opposed to being based on projected enrolments. As the actual enrolments must be taken account of, this process cannot take place until the new school year is underway.

  Finally, it is acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.

  These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of the school's capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

  A process will also be available where schools can seek a review of their allocations in the coming months, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

  As revised updated allocations have recently been issued to schools, this process will recommence in September 2019.

  I am satisfied that there are in place a number of processes which can review the special education teacher allocation for schools where necessary.

  This Government is investing heavily in supporting our children with special educational needs, with €1.8bn being spent annually, about €1 in every €5 of the education budget.

  There are currently over 13,400 special education teachers in schools, an increase of 37% since 2011.

  There are therefore more special education teachers in schools now than we have ever had previously.

  The very significant levels of additional provision we have made in recent years to provide additional Special Education Teachers means that all schools are resourced to provide for the special educational needs of children in their schools.

Pupil Data Collection

 77. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number of children who left primary school in summer 2018 that failed to enrol in a second-level school in September 2018; the corresponding figures in each of the years 2014 to 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [15699/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The introduction of the Primary Online Database (POD) has facilitated the monitoring of pupils as they move through the primary education system and on to post primary. The system was first introduced in September 2014 and it became fully operational in September 2016 when it formed the basis for the annual school census. Accordingly, the earliest it has been possible to join the primary and post-primary school systems at a pupil level is for those pupils who left primary school in June 2017 and entered the post-primary system in September 2017.

  The Department has recently begun an exercise of linking pupils from 6th class in primary schools in June 2017 and June 2018 to entrants to post-primary schools in September 2017 and September 2018 respectively. This data matching exercise will assist the department in understanding the transitions from the primary to the post-primary system, and allow an assessment of likely future demand for post-primary places at a fine geographic level.

   This work is at an advanced stage  and is being finalised at present. We will forward the data requested by the Deputy once it is complete. Data for years earlier than 2017 will not be available.

Appointments to State Boards Data

 78. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the number and percentage of women on each State board under the remit of his Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15706/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The closest comparative data  that is available on the number and percentage of women on each State Board under the remit of my Department is as at 31 December 2015 and 31 December 2018.  The attached table sets out the figures returned by my Department for 31 December 2018 and 31 December 2015 to the Department of Justice and Equality in respect of the 18 aegis bodies under my Department along with the data on boards across the wider education sector. 

  There are 48 State Boards that fall within the remit of my Department. At 31 December 2018 the overall proportion of positions occupied by women was 42.7%.

  My Department participated in the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gender Balance on State Boards led by the Department of Justice and Equality in recent months.  The Government has recently approved a number of the recommendations made by the Group on Gender Balance on State Boards to promote greater gender balance in this area. My Department will work with stakeholders in the education sector to maintain and enhance the progress made to date in regard to gender representation on State Boards.

Board Name Number of Women % of Women Number of Women % of Women
    December 2015   December 2018
An Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann 0 0.0% 4 36.4%
An Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaiochta (COGG) 6 50.0% 6 50.0%
Athlone IoT 7 36.8% 7 36.8%
Caranua (Residential Institutions Statutory Fund) 4 44.4% 4 44.4%
Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 3 60.0% 4 66.7%
Cork IoT 7 36.8% 8 42.1%
DCU 10 35.7% 15 53.6%
DIT 9 45.0% 7 35.0%
Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) Council 0 0.0% 1 11.1%
Dún Laoghaire IADT 9 47.4% 10 52.6%
Dundalk IoT 7 36.8% 7 36.8%
Galway-Mayo IoT 7 38.9% 7 36.8%
Grangegorman Development Agency Board 6 40.0% 7 50.0%
HEA 3 27.3% 8 53.3%
IoT Blanchardstown 8 42.1% 8 42.1%
IoT Carlow 11 57.9% 10 52.6%
IoT Sligo 8 42.1% 7 36.8%
IoT Tallaght 7 38.9% 8 42.1%
IoT Tralee 8 44.4% 8 42.1%
Irish Research Council 7 58.3% 6 60.0%
Léargas 3 33.3% 4 50.0%
Letterkenny IoT 7 36.8% 10 52.6%
Limerick IoT 8 42.1% 8 42.1%
National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) 6 46.2% 7 53.8%
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) 13 52.0% 14 56.0%
National Council For Special Education (NCSE) 6 50.0% 7 53.8%
NCAD 5 45.5% 7 63.6%
NUI 12 31.6% 12 31.6%
NUIG 10 25.0% 18 45.0%
NUIM 11 39.3% 13 44.8%
Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) 5 50.0% 6 60.0%
Residential Institutions Redress Board 6 54.5% 7 63.6%
Residential Institutions Review Committee 1 16.7% 1 20.0%
School of Celtic Studies 3 50.0% 2 40.0%
School of Cosmic Physics 3 50.0% 1 25.0%
School of Theoretical Physics 2 33.3% 2 33.3%
School Transport Appeals Board 2 40.0% 2 40.0%
Skillnets Limited 4 30.8% 5 38.5%
Solas 5 38.5% 4 50.0%
State Examinations Commission (SEC) 2 40.0% 2 40.0%
Student Grant Appeals Board 5 71.4% 6 54.5%
TCD 8 29.6% 10 38.5%
The Teaching Council 19 51.4% 15 41.7%
UCC 13 33.3% 14 37.8%
UCD 10 25.0% 10 25.0%
UL 12 35.3% 10 34.5%
Waterford IoT 7 36.8% 7 36.8%
Educational Research Centre n/a n/a 1 25.0%

Multidenominational Schools

 79. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the status of plans to open an educate together primary school in Killarney, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15716/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is implementing new plans aimed at accelerating the provision of multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of parents, families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment to reach 400 such schools by 2030. 

The previous model of patronage divestment yielded only a very limited number of schools for transfer to multi-denominational patrons (11 since 2013, with a twelfth school, due to be established under this process for September 2019).  I believe that the new Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process has the potential to significantly increase patron diversity in our school system.  

While the Schools Reconfiguration process is being advanced, my Department is continuing to work with the main stakeholders to progress delivery of diversity in areas already identified, including Killarney.

To date, it has not been possible to secure a school property to facilitate a new school being established in Killarney. However, my Department will continue its efforts in relation to identifying a suitable solution under the patronage divesting process, which would facilitate a new Educate Together school being established to serve the Killarney area.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 80. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if provision will be made for additional places in an ASD unit at a school (details supplied). [15718/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes. It is open to any school to make application to the National Council for Special education (NCSE) to establish a special class.

The NCSE, an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE takes account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. In this regard, the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO) may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.

160 new special classes have been opened for the 2018/19 school year, which means there are now 1,459 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin. Of these, 17 are ASD early intervention classes, 139 are primary ASD classes and 41 are post primary ASD classes.

The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin has increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019.

When the NCSE sanctions a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.

Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs. They also assist and advise schools in making decisions in this area.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved. This process is ongoing and the NCSE is actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing ASD classes where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

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. A Working Group, chaired by the NCSE, has been established 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.

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 provides 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.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 81. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will report on the provision of education for a child (details supplied) with autism. [15755/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The Council ensures that special schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special school placements.

The NCSE’s team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs and identify available placements. They also support and advise schools in this area. Parents who are experiencing difficulties in locating a special school placement, should contact their local SENO.

Special schools are staffed based on their actual current pupil profiles and the disability category of each pupil, as opposed to primarily by school designation. School staffing levels are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special school provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved. This process is ongoing and the NCSE is actively engaging with special schools in Cork in relation to ensuring that there will be sufficient placements to meet the identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

I understand that the local SENO is continuing to work with the family of the child referred to by the Deputy in identifying a suitable school placement.

My Department is aware that the establishment of special school and class 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 provides 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.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 75.

School Equipment

 83. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15779/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh My Department operates a scheme of grants towards the purchase of essential assistive technology equipment for pupils with physical or communicative disabilities. On receipt of a recommendation from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) my Department advises schools on the level of grant approved. Schools may then proceed to purchase the equipment and claim the grant payment from my Department. 

  As the Deputy will appreciate, it is necessary to ensure adequate proof of the amount paid for the equipment is received in order to determine the value of the grant that may be paid. Therefore schools are advised to provide the relevant receipts. Unfortunately, while an invoice provides a list of the equipment supplied, it is not confirmation of the value of the payment that the supplier has received for this equipment. 

  Further information in relation to the operation of this scheme is available in Circular Number 0010/2013 which is published on my Departments website at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0010_2013.pdf.

DEIS Status

 84. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh the progress made in conferring DEIS status on a school (details supplied); if this application will be given further consideration in view of the fact that it has been ongoing for some time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15801/19]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh As the Deputy may be aware, the issue of this particular school's inclusion in the DEIS programme has been raised in the House before.  As previously set out, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage.  It is important to note that there is no application process.

  This new model involves a  calculation of the level of disadvantage in each school,  based on the socio-economic background of their pupil cohort using centrally held data as previously outlined and is based on the geographical CSO Small Areas where the pupil cohort resides. A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.

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

  Further analysis is currently being undertaken to examine other variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage in the context of resource allocation.  An analysis is also underway on the quality of the address data of individual schools.  Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.


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