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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 192-207
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Psychological Assessments
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item DEIS Scheme
 Header Item Third Level Education
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Enterprise Support Services

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. 192-207

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 192. 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 amount of funding that will be allocated to schools in County Wexford to provide the necessary equipment and resources to reopen in September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19428/20]

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.

My Department is providing capital and current funding of an additional €377 million to support the safe and sustainable reopening of schools under the Roadmap.

There will be an additional €52 million for schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Enhanced grants are being made available for cleaning to schools with special classes and special schools.

Funding of approx. €84.7 million so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff. There will be additional funding of €41.2 million, for substitution in primary schools. This will provide more certainty on the availability of substitutes for primary schools and cover substitutions that are not covered by existing schemes. The Supply Panel Scheme will be expanded nationwide and I am allocating 200 posts to provide substitute cover through these panels. The purpose of supply panels is to support schools to manage the sick leave and other absences by having a supply of teachers to meet substitution needs when required. Schools will continue to be able to access substitute teachers through the normal process, particularly if they are not connected to a supply panel.

Other funding measures for primary schools include release days for teaching principals which equates to one release day per week and release time for deputy principals in primary schools with an admin principal.

There is also funding of €40m for enhanced supervision for post primary schools to minimise the interaction of students from different classes, in line with public health advice. An additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level at a cost of €53 million will be provided to support the important work of teaching and learning and provide additional teachers needed to support teacher substitution, management of physical distancing requirements by reallocating class timetables in schools to smaller groups class sizes where necessary.

Funding of €4.2 million will also be made available to enable schools to employ an aide to assist with implementing logistical changes. €3.8m is being made available to ensure that schools have lead worker representatives, whose role is to support the school to limit the risk of COVID-19 infections.

I also recognise that the full implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plans for Schools, and the Public Health Advice, may require some reconfiguration works within schools. To support this work, a once off enhanced minor works grant will paid to all primary schools by mid-August.  There is a one off €75 million capital allocation to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening including an uplift for schools with SEN pupils.

In providing funding to schools in this way, schools will have the necessary flexibility to implement necessary physical measures in their school quickly in compliance with the Public Health Advice and the Roadmap.

Schools Building Projects

 193. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 462 of 7 July 2020, if information is now available with regard to the impact of Covid-19 on the school building programme; the extent to which the programme will experience delays; the number of schools by county that will not have their school building programme finished in time for September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19440/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As the Deputy is aware, the construction sector has been re-opening on a gradual and phased basis since Monday 18th May. Whilst remobilisation has occurred,  with construction activity ongoing, it is still too early to quantify exactly the impacts of COVID-19 on the school building programme more generally as a result of  new working arrangements on a building sites. In relation to those school building projects due for completion for September 2020, my Department is closely monitoring progress.   My Department continues to work closely with school authorities and patron bodies to ensure that contingency arrangements are in place where necessary if a school building project due  for completion,  is not completed in time for the start of the new school year as a result of delays caused by Covid. This work is on-going and it is envisaged that all issues will be addressed prior to the start of the new year.

School Accommodation

 194. 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 the number of special units requested for County Wicklow in each of the past five years; the details of the schools that made these requests; the locations in which these units have been approved in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19458/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased almost threefold, from 548 to 1,618 for the 2019/2020 school year; with 1,353 of these catering for children with autism.

  167 new special classes have been established nationally for the 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 are new autism special classes, comprising 6 Early Intervention, 100 primary, and 50 post-primary autism classes.

  A list of special classes for September 2019 is available on the NCSE website at:

  https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NCSE-List-of-Special-Classes-for-September-2019.pdf 

  Budget 2020 provided for an additional 265 special class teachers in 2020, which will allow for the opening of additional classes where required.

  The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide; has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents; and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements. 

  It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, a range of supports, including capital funding, is made available to the school. My Department works closely with the NCSE in this regard. 

  The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places nationally to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

  The NCSE's local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise both schools and the parents of children with special educational needs in relation to special class provision in the Wicklow area. 

  The table below details the information currently available from the NCSE on special class provision in Co. Wicklow together with a breakdown of the figures over the last 5 years.

  Wicklow Special Classes

Opened Post Primary Primary Grand Total
Pre 2015 5 21 26
01/09/2015 1 6 7
01/09/2016 1 3 4
01/09/2017 4 8 12
01/09/2018 1 2 3
01/09/2019 1 9 10
Grand Total 13 49 62
  The NCSE will continue to support schools in the Wicklow area in establishing special classes to meet an identified need for the establishment of such classes as well as providing advice and information in relation to the availability of special class placements within the area.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 195. 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 if the plans to provide 10,000 third level students with devices to aid remote learning due to Covid-19 will be means-tested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19464/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science recently secured Cabinet approval for a substantial package of supports for third level institutions and students. The distribution of the funds and the principles and eligibility criteria governing the additional supports for students including in relation to access to devices will be finalised over the coming days and weeks with key stakeholders.

Psychological Assessments

 196. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of persons in north-central areas of County Cork who are waiting for an appointment with a NEPS psychologist; the number who are waiting less than six, six to 12 and more than 12 months, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19481/20]

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-tome 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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 197. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the funding that will be allocated to schools in north-central areas of County Cork to provide the necessary equipment and resources to reopen in September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19482/20]

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.

   My Department is providing capital and current funding of an additional €377 million to support the safe and sustainable reopening of schools under the Roadmap.

   There will be an additional €52 million for schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Enhanced grants are being made available for cleaning to schools with special classes and special schools.

Funding of approx. €84.7 million so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff. There will be   additional funding of €41.2 million, for substitution in primary schools. This will provide more certainty on the availability of substitutes for primary schools and cover substitutions that are not covered by existing schemes. The Supply Panel Scheme will be expanded nationwide and I am allocating 200 posts to provide substitute cover through these panels. The purpose of supply panels is to support schools to manage the sick leave and other absences by having a supply of teachers to meet substitution needs when required. Schools will continue to be able to access substitute teachers through the normal process, particularly if they are not connected to a supply panel.

  Other funding measures for primary schools include release days for teaching principals which equates to one release day per week and release time for deputy principals in primary schools with an admin principal.

   There is also funding of €40m for enhanced supervision for post primary schools to minimise the interaction of students from different classes, in line with public health advice. An additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level at a cost of €53 million will be provided to support the important work of teaching and learning and provide additional teachers needed to support teacher substitution, management of physical distancing requirements by reallocating class timetables in schools to smaller groups class sizes where necessary.

   Funding of €4.2 million will also be made available to enable schools to employ an aide to assist with implementing logistical changes. €3.8m is being made available to ensure that schools have lead worker representatives, whose role is to support the school to limit the risk of COVID-19 infections.

   I also recognise that the full implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plans for Schools, and the Public Health Advice, may require some reconfiguration works within schools. To support this work, a once off enhanced minor works grant will paid to all primary schools by mid-August.  There is a one off €75 million capital allocation to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening including an uplift for schools with SEN pupils.

  In providing funding to schools in this way, schools will have the necessary flexibility to implement necessary physical measures in their school quickly in compliance with the Public Health Advice and the Roadmap.

Special Educational Needs

 198. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will ensure that adequate supports are put in place for children with special needs to enable them to return to school when schools reopen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19506/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan My Department has now published its roadmap to the Full Reopening of schools ‘COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe and sustainable reopening of Primary and Special Schools.’

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

  It 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.

  The roadmap also notes that 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.

  Full details of the supports for the reopening of schools is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b264b-roadmap-for-the-full-return-to-school/

   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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 199. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to reopen primary and secondary schools; the measures that will be introduced to support this reopening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19519/20]

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.

   My Department is providing capital and current funding of an additional €377 million to support the safe and sustainable reopening of schools under the Roadmap.

   There will be an additional €52 million for schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Enhanced grants are being made available for cleaning to schools with special classes and special schools.

Funding of approx. €84.7 million so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff. There will be   additional funding of €41.2 million, for substitution in primary schools. This will provide more certainty on the availability of substitutes for primary schools and cover substitutions that are not covered by existing schemes. The Supply Panel Scheme will be expanded nationwide and I am allocating 200 posts to provide substitute cover through these panels. The purpose of supply panels is to support schools to manage the sick leave and other absences by having a supply of teachers to meet substitution needs when required. Schools will continue to be able to access substitute teachers through the normal process, particularly if they are not connected to a supply panel.

  Other funding measures for primary schools include release days for teaching principals which equates to one release day per week and release time for deputy principals in primary schools with an admin principal.

   There is also funding of €40m for enhanced supervision for post primary schools to minimise the interaction of students from different classes, in line with public health advice. An additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level at a cost of €53 million will be provided to support the important work of teaching and learning and provide additional teachers needed to support teacher substitution, management of physical distancing requirements by reallocating class timetables in schools to smaller groups class sizes where necessary.

   Funding of €4.2 million will also be made available to enable schools to employ an aide to assist with implementing logistical changes. €3.8m is being made available to ensure that schools have lead worker representatives, whose role is to support the school to limit the risk of COVID-19 infections.

   I also recognise that the full implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plans for Schools, and the Public Health Advice, may require some reconfiguration works within schools. To support this work, a once off enhanced minor works grant will paid to all primary schools by mid-August.  There is a one off €75 million capital allocation to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening including an uplift for schools with SEN pupils.

  In providing funding to schools in this way, schools will have the necessary flexibility to implement necessary physical measures in their school quickly in compliance with the Public Health Advice and the Roadmap.

School Transport

 200. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to ensure that school transport will remain available for students with special educational needs in the coming school term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19520/20]

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.  In the 2019/20 school 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.

I have announced a comprehensive plan detailing a package of measures and resources to be provided to facilitate schools in re-opening.  I have also published a detailed roadmap for the full return to school. This roadmap set outs how schools will reopen for all students from the end of August.  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 all relevant stakeholders including Bus Éireann, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Transport Authority on the logistical considerations that arise in planning for the operation of school transport services for the reopening of our schools. 

School Transport Scheme services, including services for children with special educational needs, operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department will fully operate as normal, in line with public health advice, when schools re-open for the 2020/2021 school year with the appropriate hygiene and other measures in place. 

 

Observing hygiene requirements will be a key priority and we will issue clear communications to all parents and students using school transport services to set out the requirements for those travelling on services.

 

In addition, Bus Éireann, in consultation with my Department, will provide information and guidance for their own employees and to contractors contracted to operate on the School Transport Scheme on the operation of services within the parameters of the public health advice and the return to work safely protocols.

DEIS Scheme

 201. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a pilot free book scheme will go ahead in 102 DEIS schools in September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19521/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Additional funding of €1million provided under Budget 2020 was allocated to 102 Primary DEIS schools for a new pilot programme for the 2020/21 school year and was announced in January of this year. https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2020-press-releases/PR20-01-09.html

  The aim of this pilot is to provide free school books for students in the schools involved, and to support these schools in eliminating the cost of school books for parents. It will run for a period of one year and its effectiveness and impact will be monitored and evaluated before any decision is made as regards its possible extension or continuation. Under Circular 46/2013, DEIS schools receive a book grant of €21 per student.  This pilot will provide an additional €64 per student to increase the overall book grant rate to €85 per student enrolled in the school.  This additional funding issued to schools in May 2020. Schools were selected based on their levels of concentrated disadvantage using the data available and represent both urban and rural schools

  A list of the 102 participating schools is published on the Department Of Education and Skills website and can be found at this link https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/school-book-pilot-scheme-2020.pdf

   

  My Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post primary schools within the Free Education Scheme in order to provide assistance for books including Book Rental Schemes. Under this scheme, the Department provided funding of €16.9 million in 2019 to all of these schools.

Third Level Education

 202. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a grant for students to avail of information technologies announced on 22 July 2020 will be made available to students in further education. [19522/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science recently secured Cabinet approval for a substantial package of supports which are for both  further and higher level institutions and students. The distribution of the funds and the principles governing the additional supports for students including in relation to access to devices will be finalised in due course following consultation with appropriate stakeholders.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 203. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if guidance hours for schools will be increased in 2020 in view of the disruption to all second level students and the increased need for student supports, in particular incoming first and sixth-year students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19539/20]

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.

School Accommodation

 204. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a building (details supplied) will be refurbished and retrofitted in order that it can be used by local schools to provide extra space and classrooms to ensure that social distancing can be achieved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19542/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the building to which he refers is going to be refurbished and refitted shortly in order to facilitate its use on a temporary basis by a local primary school while it awaits completion of a project.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 205. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the training being provided to teachers in terms of social distancing and managing social distancing among children before the commencement of the school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19548/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley In accordance with the Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School that my Department published earlier this week, specific Induction Training will be made available to all school staff before schools reopen. This is a mandatory training requirement. The Induction Training will provide information to school staff on a range of issues relating to Covid-19 and the safe reopening of our schools. Information on physical distancing will also be provided as part of this Induction Training.

   

  In addition, my Department is also providing specific guidance, including details on the layout of sample classrooms, to schools on how to achieve physical distancing in classrooms.

Enterprise Support Services

 206. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of applications received for the enterprise support grant from businesses in County Wexford; the number that have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19437/20]

 207. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of applications received for the enterprise support grant from businesses in north-central areas of County Cork; the number of these that have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19491/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 207 together.

The Enterprise Support Grant is a support available to participants of the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance to assist with start-up costs experienced by new enterprises.  In 2019, approximately 4,800 applications were awarded at a cost of almost €3 million.  This information is not maintained on a county basis.

This grant support is now being extended to self-employed individuals to re-open their business upon the closure of their Pandemic Unemployment Payment.  The extended grant will assist eligible self-employed individuals who are exiting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or jobseekers schemes after 25th   June 2020, to re-start their business which was closed due to the impact of the pandemic.  The extended grant, of up to €1,000, will be payable to self-employed micro enterprises which employ fewer than 10 people, have an annual turnover of less than €1 million and are not eligible for support from the COVID 19 Business Restart Grant or other similar business reopening grants.

  The Department is currently developing the systems to put this support into effect and will communicate how to access the grant in the coming week or so.

  I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy. 


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