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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 176-191
 Header Item Psychological Assessments
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Third Level Education
 Header Item Curaclam Scoile
 Header Item Autism Support Services
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Freedom of Information
 Header Item School Enrolments
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Curaclam Scoile
 Header Item Psychological Assessments

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 176-191

Psychological Assessments

 176. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of children in each county on the waiting list for phycological assessment for educational needs in 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19369/20]

 188. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of children in each county on the waiting list for phycological assessment for educational needs in 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19385/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

NEPS does not maintain waiting lists but, in common with many other psychological services and best international practice, has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The Deputy may be aware that in 2017 my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resource. This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

Furthermore I can inform the Deputy that starting from a level of 173 whole-time equivalents in 2016 and following increases allowed in successive Budgets the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist currently stands at 204 w.t.e. Some 199 of these posts are currently filled which represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Indeed the Deputy may be aware that I was pleased to announce this week the provision of an additional 17 NEPS psychologist posts as part of my Department's package to assist schools in the task of reopening in the coming school year. The filling of these and the remaining posts referred to above is being actively pursued by my Department in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service. My Department is and remains committed to the maintenance of a robust and effective educational psychological service.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

School Transport

 177. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when the school bus routes for County Wicklow schools will be finalised in order that parents can start the application process for concessionary tickets; if his attention has been drawn to the level of uncertainty this is creating for families that are unsure of the transport arrangements for September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19457/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.

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

  In the 2019/2020 year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.

  Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application and payment process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

  Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application and payment process on time, will be considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.

  All school transport services are reviewed over the summer months. Arising from this, routes may be altered, extended or withdrawn depending on the number and location of eligible children who will be availing of school transport for the following school year.

Third Level Education

 178. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to provide relief to third-level students that may lose deposits on student accommodation as a result of a switch to remote learning for the academic year 2020/2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19242/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On 22nd July the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science published a three-pillar series of guides for returning to on-site learning in 2020/2021 which will provide guidance and support for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in their planning for the new academic year. However ultimately HEIs are autonomous institutions and are entitled to regulate their own academic affairs and administrative processes.  Decisions on the balance between online and on-site learning will be made by each institution, in line with public health advice, and arrangements will vary between institutions and between courses. The HEIs will communicate the arrangements for the new academic year to students as soon as these arrangements have been finalised.  Questions on arrangements for a specific institution or course should be directed to the institution in question.

Student accommodation license terms including cost, duration, refund and cancellation policies should be set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year. While I would hope that accommodation providers would show flexibility to students in the current times, agreements between students and accommodation providers are a private matter, and neither I nor my Department have any remit to issue instructions in relation to the private rental market.

Curaclam Scoile

 179. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley cén uair a dhéanfar cinneadh maidir le conas a dháilfear pointí bónais i dtaca leis an gcúrsa Gaeilge úr atá á fhorbairt ag an gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta (NCCA) chun a chinntiú go roghnóidh daltaí, cainteoirí dúchais agus siad súid a bhfuil Gaeilge líofa acu ach go háirithe, an cúrsa úr dúshlánach, mar chuid dá n-ábhair scrúdaithe don Ardteistiméireacht amach anseo. [19252/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Tá an Chomhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta (NCCA) ag forbairt sonraíochtaí ábhair nua faoi láthair maidir leis an Ardteistiméireacht. Tógann forbairt sonraíochtaí T1 agus T2 ar leithligh ar an tsonraíochta a cuireadh ar fáil cheana féin sa tSraith Shóisearach agus tá straitéisí agus polasaithe na Roinne mar bhonn agus mar thaca leis, lena n-áirítear an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus an Polasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta.

Is gnó casta é seo. Tá oifigigh mo Ranna agus an NCCA ag breithniú raon saincheisteanna a bhaineann le cur chun feidhme na sonraíochtaí nua do Ghaeilge na hArdteistiméireachta. I measc na saincheisteanna atá á mbreithniú tá bearta chun daltaí i scoileanna Gaeltachta agus i nGaelscoileanna a spreagadh chun tabhairt faoin tsonraíocht T1 don Ardteistiméireacht. Tá na breithnithe sin ag dul ar aghaidh agus níor thángthas ar aon chinneadh maidir le pointí bónais a thabhairt isteach mar bheart dreasachta chun staidéar ar an tsonraíocht T1 a chur chun cinn.

Autism Support Services

 180. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the way in which she will support the implementation of the National Autism Plan as set out in the Program for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19266/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Deputy's question refers to the Autism plan for the health services.

  An allocation of €2 million was provided to the Department of Health in 2019 to implement a range of measures under an Autism Plan for the health services.

  Questions in relation to this plan should be referred to my colleague the Minister for Health.

School Staff

 181. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if additional hours and funding will be provided to school guidance counsellors to better support students returning to school for the 2020/2021 academic year; her views on the recommendations of the campaign formed by organisations (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19267/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I have noted the recommendations of the campaign formed by organisations (details supplied)

Measures announced by my Department as part of Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 mean that 500 of the 600 guidance posts that were withdrawn in Budget 2012 were restored to schools from September 2018.

As part of the COVID-19 operational supports to schools for the 2020/21 school year, I was happy to announce that under the plan to reopen schools, approximately 120 posts will be provided for guidance to support student wellbeing. These posts will bring guidance provision in schools back to the level last seen before the financial crisis in 2012.

This allocation is provided separately and transparently on each school's staffing schedule.  These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school. 

It is important to note that in previous changes to guidance counselling allocations in 2012, DEIS schools were effectively sheltered from these changes as a result of a more favourable staffing schedule.

The Department has committed considerable resources towards the restoration of guidance counselling hours to post-primary schools, to the provision of CPD for guidance counsellors and to the provision of a national guidance counselling supervision service for post-primary guidance counsellors.

The wellbeing and mental health of our school communities is a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to ensure a successful return to school as we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is crucial that we support the wellbeing of our students and school management and staff in order to support successful re-engagement with teaching and learning. 

Guidance will issue to schools on logistical, curricular arrangements and wellbeing supports to be put in place to facilitate the phased re-opening of schools. All decisions taken in relation to re-opening schools are based on public health advice.

The Department is working with a range of stakeholders in relation to this plan.  An inter-agency group is to be established to help inform guidance in relation to wellbeing and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) will be one of the stakeholders invited to join this group.

In March 2018 The Department of Education and Skills commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out a review of career guidance.  The objective of the review was to examine aspects of career guidance in the Irish education and training system in order to improve the existing career guidance tools and information and to enhance engagement with enterprise.  The review was published in April 2019 and contained 18 recommendations.

On publication, an internal Taskforce was created and that Taskforce is now working on implementation of the recommendations, one of which is to appoint a national policy group to develop a coherent, long-term strategy for lifelong career guidance.

The Taskforce has met six times to date and is progressing the recommendations contained in the Indecon review.  Considerable progress has been made and my Department will ensure that the IGC continues to be kept informed of ongoing progress.

Adult Guidance and information services provide guidance and information to learners and prospective learners on local and national courses available as well as career guidance and progressions opportunities. The Adult Educational Guidance and Information Service is available through the national network of 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs), and is available to all people over 18 years of age, and to those over 16 years and not in full time education, prioritising those who are currently not in employment. There are currently no plans to increase the budget for adult guidance services in FET, however, this may be considered in the light of the emerging guidance strategy and competing funding priorities. 

ETBI and the 16 ETBs are currently focused on providing resources and supporting learners. Significant work has been done to provide resources and supports online. For the duration of this pandemic, guidance counsellors have been faced with overwhelming demand for support from learners/clients, some of whom may be suffering from a range of mental stress or emotional problems.  During this time, guidance counsellors have mainly been delivering their services online and continue to deliver a professional service particularly to those who may be experiencing anxiety, uncertainty, bereavement, poverty, loneliness, lack of purpose. However, it must be recognised that there is a proportion of FET learners with no access to resources and supports online due to issues with broadband and lack of ICT equipment.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 182. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the plans in place to provide resources, financial and staffing related to allow for the extra cleaning needed, substitution teachers to cover sick and other leave and PODs needed to provide for social distancing when schools reopen; if PPE will be required or recommended; if children over 13 years of age and adults will be required or advised to wear face masks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19268/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On Monday, the 27th July, my Department published the report to Government “Reopening Our Schools, The Roadmap for the Full Return to School”.

  This Roadmap set outs how schools will reopen for all students from the end of August and what the operation of our schools will look like and be sustainable in a COVID-19 context.  It has been developed in line with public health advice issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), the Roadmap for Society and Business, and follows comprehensive and intensive engagement with education stakeholders including the school management bodies and staff representatives.

  Reopening schools safely for all children and staff has been my number one priority since I became Minister. The Government has approved a package of supports to provide what is required for the safe reopening of schools.

  The supports are comprehensive across a range of areas, including funding for getting schools ready, for providing for additional supervision and substitution, and providing additional teachers to help with physical distancing and class sizes. Funding will also be provided for management supports and enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

  The Roadmap for the Full Return to School also sets out in detail how physical distancing can be applied in primary and post primary settings, using the principles outlined in the public health advice. The implementation of these measures will be supported by funding through the once off enhanced minor works grant.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 183. Deputy James O'Connor Information on James O'Connor Zoom on James O'Connor asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of visiting teachers under the public health provision for schools for September 2020 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19269/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On Monday, the 27th July, my Department published the report to Government “Reopening Our Schools, The Roadmap for the Full Return to School”.  

  This Roadmap set outs how schools will reopen for all students from the end of August and what the operation of our schools will look like and be sustainable in a COVID-19 context.  It has been developed in line with public health advice issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), the Roadmap for Society and Business, and follows comprehensive and intensive engagement with education stakeholders including the school management bodies and staff representatives. 

  The completion and implementation of the Covid-19 Response Plan by a school is the organisational means through which the school community can best prevent the introduction and spread of Covid-19 in the school environment and is a very important living document which will be adapted over time to reflect the evolving COVID-19 context. The school response plan will contain measures that must be followed by visitors to schools including visiting teachers referred to by the Deputy.

  Visiting teachers will be able to access schools similar to substitute teachers or shared Special Educational Needs teachers.

  All visitors to a school, whether they be teachers or others, must observe the control measures in place as part of the school’s COVID Response plan.

Freedom of Information

 184. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of freedom of information requests being processed by her Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; the number at least one week, two weeks. one month and over one month overdue, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19349/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On Monday 27 July my Department has 56 active FOI Requests categorised as follows:

  - 46 are presently active and being processed within the statutory timeframe

  - 1 active request has a 2 week extension applied as allowable under section 14 of the FOI Act

  - 4 are on hold – awaiting requester input – if a response is not received within 8 weeks they will be deemed withdrawn

  - 3 are on hold + 1 month with the agreement of the requestor

  - 3 are delayed + 1 month due to challenges identifying and locating the records and respective record owners.

School Enrolments

 185. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if details of the academic year 2019/2020 class sizes are available; if not, the timeline for when they will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19377/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The class sizes for 2019/2020 are now available on the Department's website at the following link; https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/Data-on-Individual-Schools/

Special Educational Needs

 186. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a child who must remain at home and partake in remote learning during the 2020/2021 year due to Covid-19 health concerns and has had access to an SNA for the past number of years will lose their SNA allocation if they cannot attend school; if they will have to reapply for an SNA allocation in the following school year; if not, if they will automatically retain their allocation from previous years; if the child can return to school, if they will be allowed to use their sensory equipment in the classroom such as pads and hand held devices which enable them to concentrate; if not, if they will be seen as a risk for the spread of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19381/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan The NCSE has responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs including the allocation of SNAs and reviews. My Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations.

  The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme is designed to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs.  Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.

  SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school.  SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. 

  My Department has now published The Roadmap to the Full Reopening of school.

  This roadmap sets outs how schools will reopen for all students, including students with special educational needs, from the end of August.

  It envisages what the operation of our schools will look like upon reopening and contains a range of guidance on the measures to be implemented in schools in order to minimise the risk of the introduction, or spread, of infection in schools.

  The Roadmap provides details of a range of Additional Supports which will be made available to schools to implement their Covid-19 Response Plan and to operate in a sustainable way.

  These supports include:

  - An enhanced Minor Works Grant to support full implementation of COVID-19 response plans

  - Employing an aide to help with the school re-opening logistics;

  - Additional financial supports to provide for additional cleaning, hand hygiene and PPE costs under the COVID-19 response plans;

  - Increased management support to primary schools;

  - Extending the current pilot supply panel for substitute teachers on a nationwide basis at primary school level;

  - 1,080 additional teaching posts at post primary school level including 120 guidance posts;

  - Enhanced supervision supports for post primary schools.

  All of these measures will support the return of children with special educational needs to schools in August.

  However, the Department is also making additional provision for special schools and special classes, in recognition of the particular challenges that these schools and classes will face dealing with children with complex medical and care needs.

  Additional NEPS psychologists will be appointed to provide enhanced services to support the wellbeing of our school communities at this time, with a particular emphasis on the wellbeing of our special school communities.

  Special schools will receive funding equivalent to 10 days, for the purposes of employing an aide to assist with the logistics for preparing for reopening.

  The Minor Works Grant at Primary and Post Primary level include enhanced rates in respect of students in special classes and schools. This will facilitate preparatory works to be completed in schools to facilitate reopening such as refurbishment of toilets and reconfiguration of school spaces.

  The additional per capita funding being provided for pupils in special schools and special classes recognises the additional needs that these pupils have and the additional measures that schools may be required to take to support them.

  Special schools and schools with special classes where there is a teaching principal will receive one release day per week. Those schools with admin Deputy Principals will be provided with 16 release days.

  The Department is also supporting the replacement of all absences of SNAs in school settings.

  Enhanced COVID-19 rates are payable in respect of students attending special schools and special classes attached to mainstream schools to assist with the extra costs associated with the cleaning of classrooms with a small number of students, operating specialist provision.

  The COVID-19 capitation grant will also be the mechanism through which additional funding will be provided to cater for costs related to hand hygiene measures and PPE requirements under the COVID-19 Response Plan.  Additional provision for this purpose will be confirmed with the establishment of the drawdown framework of suppliers.

  For the Special Education Transport Service, funding supports will be made available to schools for the provision of masks or visors to School Bus Escorts where required, bearing in mind the SEN needs of the child/children on the service, and where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

  It is also recognized that pupils with SEN will require particular support at the time of transition back to school including supporting their well-being, reducing potential anxiety and planning learning experiences that take account of the effect of school closures on their progress.

  Approximately 15,000 pupils with SEN will have availed of the Department supported summer provision and all records of progress for these children, whether the programmes were delivered in school or home settings will be available to their schools to support planning for their needs in the new term.

  Finally it is recognised that some children who have complex medical or special educational needs may not be able to return to school at the end of August because the relevant public health guidelines indicate they are at “very high risk”.

  These students’ schools will provide additional supports for these students through designated teachers from within the staffing resources of the school.

  Schools will have discretion to manage and redistribute their teaching support resources in order to best meet the learning needs of their pupils/students, including pupils/students at ‘very high risk’ to COVID-19.

  During the period of school closures the Department provided schools in the primary and special school sector and at post-primary level with a series of “Continuity of Schooling Guidance” documents to help education professionals and parents to support children learning in a remote environment.  The events surrounding COVID-19 and the public health restrictions which resulted in the emergency closure of schools to learners has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be agile in how they can provide for continuity of teaching and learning in the future.

  The continuity of teaching and learning during the emergency period was achieved with significant additional effort from all school staff working remotely to ensure students were supported during this time.  Most schools put in place arrangements to communicate with students and parents demonstrating innovation and resilience by providing flexible local responses.

  The Department is updating its Continuity of Schooling Guidance documents to support schools in responding in an agile way in the event of localised school closure or to continue to support pupils with medical or special educational needs who cannot attend school.

  Guidance will also provide for additional strategies to support children with ASD where it is likely that the impact of school closures will have been significant so that learning experiences, routines and sensory needs should be carefully planned.

  The return to school package includes enhanced allocations to support children, including children with special educational needs, to be able to return safely for the forthcoming school year.

State Examinations

 187. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the appeal process for students that are not satisfied with their calculated leaving certificate grades on 7 September 2020 in view of recent clarification for those applying for the UCAS system on 11 September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19382/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley All students, whether they opted to receive the Calculated Grades or not, will have the option of taking the Leaving Certificate examination later in the year.  Any student who is unhappy with a Calculated Grade in any subject can seek an appeal and also opt to take the written examination in that subject. 

  A student who is unhappy with their Calculated Grade can appeal to the Department of Education and the appeals process will have three stages.

  Stages 1 and 2 will involve checks to ensure that the data processing was completed correctly by the school and the Department of Education, while Stage 3 will involve a review by Appeal Scrutineers, who are independent of the Department of Education.

  Applications for appeals will open on 14 September. In the event of an appeal being made, it is a matter for the student to work through with the relevant higher education institution in the UK.  Therefore, students are advised to contact the UK college in question and discuss their options around appeals directly.

  Finally, students who remain unhappy will have the opportunity to sit an examination later when it is safe and practicable to do so.  The State Examinations Commission stated that it hoped to be able to run the Leaving Certificate examinations during the month of November.

  Question No. 188 answered with Question No. 176.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 189. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will consider increasing hours and or posts supported in schools for guidance counselling in view of the increased pressures on students as a result of Covid-19; and if supports will be particularly focused on children that may be at a disadvantage. [19396/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Measures announced by my Department as part of Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 mean that 500 of the 600 guidance posts that were withdrawn in Budget 2012 were restored to schools from September 2018.

As part of the COVID-19 operational supports to schools for the 2020/21 school year, approximately 120 posts will be provided for guidance to support student wellbeing. These posts will bring guidance provision in schools back to the level last seen before the financial crisis in 2012.

This allocation is provided separately and transparently on each school's staffing schedule.  These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school. 

It is important to note that in previous changes to guidance counselling allocations in 2012, DEIS schools were effectively sheltered from these changes as a result of a more favourable staffing schedule.

The Department has committed considerable resources towards the restoration of guidance counselling hours to post-primary schools, to the provision of CPD for guidance counsellors and to the provision of a national guidance counselling supervision service for post-primary guidance counsellors.

The wellbeing and mental health of our school communities is a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to ensure a successful return to school as we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is crucial that we support the wellbeing of our students and school management and staff in order to support successful re-engagement with teaching and learning. 

Guidance will issue to schools on logistical, curricular arrangements and wellbeing supports to be put in place to facilitate the phased re-opening of schools. All decisions taken in relation to re-opening schools are based on public health advice.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department is leading on supporting the wellbeing of schools communities. The response to support the wellbeing of all within school communities on the return to school requires a structured, psychosocial response which is compassionate and largely preventative and proactive.  This requires a whole-school team approach to planning in order to ensure that staff, students and parents feel safe and secure.  This response will be aligned with the HSE guidance on such responses, and based on the five key principles of promoting a sense of safety, calm, connectedness, self- and community-efficacy and hope.  My Department will work in partnership with the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to ensure that the wellbeing needs of all members of the school community are met.

Schools can utilise their existing school structures, such as the Student Support Team and internal referral pathways, to identify students who remain more vulnerable and then seek to provide these students with additional support, internally or externally by referral on to the HSE or other appropriate support services.

There may be additional challenges for some students, especially for younger students entering post-primary for the first time and for those entering sixth year.  When planning for both universal and more targeted support, schools may consider particular groups, such as incoming first and sixth year students as groups who require specific interventions to successfully manage these transitions or cope with the return to school. By careful deployment of school resources, including guidance counselling, these students can be effectively supported as part of the overall resumption of schooling plans. The Department has published a number of documents regarding how to support student wellbeing.

The guidance counsellor is not expected to be able to provide individual support to every vulnerable student in their school. More than ever the Continuum of Support Model should be applied in schools, so students most in need of additional targeted support are identified and resources, such as guidance counselling, are directed and distributed appropriately. This should be done in consultation with school management and the Student Support Team.

Other supports will be provided to Guidance Counsellors in schools including a series of on-line Continuing Professional Development webinars from the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) covering topics identified by Guidance Counsellors such as: adjusting the Guidance Plan, further skills training for online guidance counselling, Junior Cycle Guidance lesson planning, decision making, wellbeing issues and in particular how guidance counsellors can manage their own self-care.

 

Curaclam Scoile

 190. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley An bhfuil cinneadh déanta ag an Aire Oideachais maidir le marcanna bónais a thabhairt le haghaidh chúrsa Gaeilge nua na hArdteiste [19387/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Tá an Chomhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta (NCCA) ag forbairt sonraíochtaí ábhair nua faoi láthair maidir leis an Ardteistiméireacht. Tógann forbairt sonraíochtaí T1 agus T2 ar leithligh ar an tsonraíochta a cuireadh ar fáil cheana féin sa tSraith Shóisearach agus tá straitéisí agus polasaithe na Roinne mar bhonn agus mar thaca leis, lena n-áirítear an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus an Polasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta.

Is gnó casta é seo. Tá oifigigh mo Ranna agus an NCCA ag breithniú raon saincheisteanna a bhaineann le cur chun feidhme na sonraíochtaí nua do Ghaeilge na hArdteistiméireachta. I measc na saincheisteanna atá á mbreithniú tá bearta chun daltaí i scoileanna Gaeltachta agus i nGaelscoileanna a spreagadh chun tabhairt faoin tsonraíocht T1 don Ardteistiméireacht. Tá na breithnithe sin ag dul ar aghaidh agus níor thángthas ar aon chinneadh maidir le pointí bónais a thabhairt isteach mar bheart dreasachta chun staidéar ar an tsonraíocht T1 a chur chun cinn.

Psychological Assessments

 191. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of children in County Wexford awaiting an appointment with a NEPS psychologist; the number waiting less than 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months, respectively in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19427/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

NEPS does not maintain waiting lists but in common with many other psychological services and best international practice, has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The Deputy may be aware that in 2017 my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resource.  This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

Furthermore I can inform the Deputy that starting from a level of 173 whole-time equivalents in 2016 and following increases allowed in successive Budgets the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist currently stands at 204 w.t.e. Some 199 of these posts are currently filled which represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Indeed the Deputy may be aware that I was pleased to announce this week the provision of an additional 17 NEPS psychologist posts as part of my Department's package to assist schools in the task of reopening in the coming school year.  The filling of these and the remaining posts referred to above is being actively pursued by my Department in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service. My Department is and remains committed to the maintenance of a robust and effective educational psychological service.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.


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