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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 105-124
 Header Item Home Loan Scheme
 Header Item Vacant Sites
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme
 Header Item Emigrant Support Services
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item State Examinations

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 105-124

Home Loan Scheme

 105. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the credit criteria for inclusion in the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme, for example, if a previously defaulted credit card is grounds for refusal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24588/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is designed to enable credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range. The scheme is targeted at first-time buyers who have access to an adequate deposit and have the capacity to repay a mortgage, but who are unable to access a mortgage sufficient for them to purchase their first home.

  As part of the application process for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme, applicants must:

  - consent to an Irish Credit Bureau search; and

  - provide evidence of all existing borrowings, with 12-month up-to-date loan statements.

  Applicants with a poor record of repayments for credit cards etc are unlikely to secure approval for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.  However, the final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis.

  Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.  Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority.

Vacant Sites

 106. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the amount of vacant site tax collected annually by each local authority in each of the years between 1 Jan 2017 and 31 Dec 2019, in tabular form. [24673/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Under the vacant site levy provisions in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, planning authorities were empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market valuation of relevant properties which were listed on local authority vacant site registers in 2018, which relevant owners were liable to pay in January 2019. The rate of the levy increased to 7% for sites listed on local authority vacant sites register from 2019 onwards which site owners became liable to pay in January 2020.

  My Department proactively engages with local authorities with a view to ensuring that the vacant site levy achieves its full potential in terms of bringing concerned sites into productive use. In this regard, the Department issued Circular Letter PL 08/2020 on 9 June 2020 requesting the submission of a further progress report on the implementation of the levy by each local authority.

  The Department received a return from each of the 31 local authorities which indicated that as of 31 May 2020 there were 352 sites listed on local authority registers.

  Under the levy provisions, 2019 was the first year that local authorities could issue a demand for payment of the levy. The 2019 demand was in respect of sites on the registers in 2018.

  The below table sets out the information available in relation to the specific request:

Planning Authority 3% Levy Liability 2019 €  payments collected 2019
Carlow 0.00 0.00
Cavan 0.00 0.00
Clare 0.00 0.00
Cork County*  380,910.00 0.00
Cork City 0.00 0.00
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown 0.00 0.00
Donegal 14,611.95 0.00
Dublin City  2,935,650.00 640,950.00
Fingal 14,400.00 0.00
Galway City 0.00 0.00
Galway County 0.00 0.00
Kerry 0.00 0.00
Kildare 0.00 0.00
Kilkenny 151,800.00 72,900.00
Laois 0.00 0.00
Leitrim 0.00 0.00
Limerick 0.00 0.00
Longford 2,250.00 0.00
Louth 0.00 0.00
Mayo 0.00 0.00
Meath 0.00 0.00
Monaghan 0.00 0.00
Offaly 0.00 0.00
Roscommon 0.00 0.00
Sligo 0.00 0.00
South Dublin  132,600.00 0.00
Tipperary 0.00 0.00
Waterford 255,365.58 3,645.00
Westmeath 0.00 0.00
Wexford 12,000.00 0.00
Wicklow  300,000.00 165,000.00
Total 4,199,587.53 882,495.00


  * Following the issuing of demands, 5 sites with a levy liability of €87,960 were transferred from Cork County Council to Cork City Council as part of the Boundary re-alignment. 

  All levies due on an individual site will remain a charge on the land concerned until all outstanding levies due are paid. Accordingly, under the vacant site levy provisions, there will be a cumulative effect associated with not activating a site for development purposes for each year that a site remains vacant or idle and in respect of which levy liability is not paid. Local authorities are currently in the process of implementing debt recovery procedures to recoup arrears due.

  The levy is not intended to be a revenue generating measure with the proceeds accruing to the relevant local authority rather than the Exchequer.  The levy proceeds generated are specifically intended to be used by local authorities for the provision of housing and regeneration development in the local area in which vacant sites are located.  No more than 10% of the levy monies received by planning authorities may be used on their administration costs in collecting the levy. 

Tenant Purchase Scheme

 107. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the current legislative and policy position of his Department with respect to the issue of tenant purchase among the approved housing body sector. [24682/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015, provide the basis for the current Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme, which came into operation on 1 January 2016, which allows local authorities to sell local authority owned dwellings to existing social housing tenants. The Scheme does not extend to houses owned by Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs).

Under the terms of the various funding schemes supporting the delivery of social housing by AHBs, AHBs are the legal owners of the properties and must make them available for social renting for the duration of the mortgage or, as the case may be, the availability agreement.

Section 45 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 does provide for the sale by local authorities and AHBs of designated new houses to eligible households, subject to specified terms and conditions set down in the Act and the associated Housing (Incremental Purchase) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 252 of 2010). However, any such sales would have to be progressed by the AHBs in conjunction with the relevant local authority concerned. Neither my Department or myself has any role in the process.

 There are currently no plans to introduce a general  tenant purchase scheme, analogous to the 2015 Scheme in operation for local authority tenants, for tenants of houses owned by AHBs.   

Emigrant Support Services

 108. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the estimated cost of increasing the budget for the emigrant support programme by 12.5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24578/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy The Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) provides funding to non-profit organisations and projects to support our most vulnerable emigrants overseas, to strengthen Irish communities abroad and to facilitate the development of closer and more strategic links between Ireland and the global Irish.

  The budget for the programme in 2020 is €12.595 million and is a demonstration of the Government commitment to our people abroad.

  An increase of 12.5% in the budget for the Emigrant Support Programme would cost €1,574,375.

Defence Forces Personnel

 109. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a former member of the Defence Forces (details supplied) applied to the Army Pensions Board for a disability pension in December 2018; when the applicant will be called for medical examination; when the case will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24686/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under the Army Pensions Acts 1923-1980 a disability pension or gratuity may, following retirement, be granted to a former member of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) for permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad)  or to a disease attributable to, or aggravated by, overseas service with a United Nations Force. 

  I can confirm that a claim under the Acts has been received from the person in question. The application and administration process of such claims can take some time to complete.  This is due to the nature of the claims, whereby service and particular events across an individual’s career in the Defence Forces must first be verified and investigated, and then the individual must be examined and assessed medically.

  The award and rate of a disability pension or gratuity depends on the degree of disablement and whether it is attributable to military service.  This is assessed by the Army Pensions Board (APB), which is an independent statutory Board appointed under the Army Pensions Acts to investigate applications for pensions, allowances and gratuities under the Acts and to report to the Minister thereon.  The Board determines the question of attributability to military service in each case; assesses the degree of disability; and reports its findings to the Department. 

  Due to the public health emergency the APB suspended its hearings in March 2020 in the interests of safety of applicants and Board members; however, my Department has been informed by the Chairman of the Board that sittings are due to recommence next week. 

  Claims for disability pension are dealt with in accordance with the date of receipt of application.  Once the Board is in a position to investigate the claim in the case of the individual in question, the Secretary of the Board will contact the applicant to arrange an appointment for medical examination.  The cessation of APB activities for public health reasons will, unfortunately, mean some further delays will be experienced for claimants.

  When a final decision has been made on the rate of disability pension or gratuity to be paid, my Department will make the necessary arrangements for payment.   In this regard the Deputy may wish to note that in the event of a disability pension being awarded, payment is made from the date of discharge from the Defence Forces.

As the applicant in question has received compensation from another source for the same injury/condition the provisions of Section 13(2) of the Army Pension Act, 1923 as amended will be relevant in this case.  Section 13(2) provides that any alternative compensation received by the applicant may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded for the same injury or medical condition. The underlying objective of Section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement.       

  Finally, I understand that the person in question was recently in contact with my Department and that an official has explained the position regarding the application.  

National Educational Psychological Service

 110. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the breakdown of employees of NEPS including grades and locations, in tabular form. [24450/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The following tabular statement gives details of the professional and administrative staff on a regional basis at the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) as at the 31st August 2020.

Region Director Reg Dir Senior Psych Edu Psych Admin
Head Office 1 0 1 0 8
Dublin Region 0 1 6 24 2
Dublin Mid Leinster Region 0 1 7 31 4
South Western Region 0 1 4 22 3
North Eastern Region 0 1 5 14 4
North West North Midlands Region 0 1 4 17 3
South East South Midlands Region 0 1 6 23 5
Mid Munster Region 0 1 6 21 3
Western Region 0 1 4 18 2
TOTAL 1 8 43 170 34


   

National Educational Psychological Service

 111. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of vacancies currently open in NEPS. [24451/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley There are currently13 vacancies to be filled at the National Educational Psychological Service arising from retirements/resignations and 17 additional positions to be filled to assist the organisation in providing a service to school pupils who are experiencing difficulties arising from the restrictive measures that have been necessitated as a result of COVID 19.

My Department engaged the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in 2019 to conduct a recruitment competition which formed regional panels in order that candidates could be made offers of appointment. Some of the panels were exhausted in 2020 and the PAS were requested to hold a further competition. Interviews were completed in August 2020 which resulted in further regional panels being formed. The panels will be referred to by the PAS with a view to making offers of appointment.##  

National Educational Psychological Service

 112. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of NEPS assessments deferred in 2020 in view of restrictions due to Covid-19; and the alternative arrangements put in place to fulfil same. [24453/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley At the outset, I would like to set out the model of assessment in place to ensure children receive the supports needed. 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 additional resources.  This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools no longer complete an application process annually to 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 an assessment or diagnosis from external professionals.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department delivers a tiered, consultative model of service. Schools are supported to put in place a continuum of support which encompasses, universal best practices for all, early and targeted intervention for some pupils at risk and more intensive and individualised supports for pupils with more complex and enduring needs. NEPS supports schools at a system level in relation to best practices at each level and provides an individual casework response for those with the greatest needs. In this model the school takes responsibility for initial identification, assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with emerging difficulties including those with developmental delay. Where, following initial school based intervention, difficulties persist or a pupil is not making the expected progress, they may request the involvement of a NEPS psychologist to assist with further assessment and intervention planning and monitoring for the pupil. This system allows psychologists to build capacity at school community level while giving early attention to the most complex cases. This model aims to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually.

From the outset of this pandemic my Department has been proactive in supporting schools through the development of advice and guidance to support the wellbeing of school communities.   On the ground at local level NEPS has continued to remotely deliver  a psychological service to schools which has included to the extent possible continuance of support and advice in relation to concerns regarding individual pupils.  As schools reopen  NEPS psychologists will continue to work directly with schools at local level to identify and respond to priority needs including individual casework.  In Phase 1 (first half term) of the return to school NEPS is providing a service to all schools with a focus on wellbeing. NEPS psychologists are connecting with each school, listening to their needs and engaging in initial planning with schools on how best to respond. It is important that children and young people are supported to experience a successful transition back to school, recognising that transition is a process over time rather than a once-off event. In order to support needs an additional 17 NEPS psychologists are being appointed and will be deployed nationally.

School Transport

 113. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if school transport for a child (details supplied) will be reviewed; the status of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24464/20]

Minister for Education (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.

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.

Under the terms of the Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

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

Bus Éireann, who operate school transport on behalf of my Department, has advised that the child referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme as they are not attending their closest school. Bus Éireann has also confirmed that payment for transport was received on 10/09/2020 and a refund will be issued to the family in due course.

School Transport

 114. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley further to Parliamentary Question No. 602 of 8 September 2020, when a bus ticket will issue to a person (details supplied). [24457/20]

Minister for Education (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.

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.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020.  This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal has now re-opened.  However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 20/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020. 

While it is possible to submit a payment, payments made at this time are now late. Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

In addition, payments for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

Bus Éireann has advised that while the family have changed the address on their family portal account on 11/09/20 they have not made an application on this account for the school year 20/21 from their new address. The family will need to amend this on their family portal account and once this has been completed, Bus Éireann will assess the application and advise the family of the outcome.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 115. Deputy Steven Matthews Information on Steven  Matthews Zoom on Steven  Matthews asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if the roll out of a national information campaign will be considered targeted at parents of primary school children with regard to Covid-19 symptoms and the necessary steps in cases in which a parent identifies potential symptoms (details supplied). [24470/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools in line with public health advice including guidance on COVID-19 Response Plans for schools. As part of this guidance there is specific guidance for students and their families, available at. www.gov.ie/en/publication/a04fc-advice-for-students-and-their-families/.

My Department has up to date information on what to do if your child has symptoms of coronavirus, how to get urgent medical help if your child is unwell and how to protect your child from the coronavirus can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/40e9c-protecting-your-child-from-coronavirus/.

  Resources and materials for parents/guardians and for students on returning to school are available in a range of languages, www.gov.ie/en/publication/0cf46-resources-and-materials-for-parentsguardians-and-for-students-on-returning-to-school-multi-lingual/

  My Department has also developed and prepared a comprehensive response to supporting the wellbeing of school communities at this time. NEPS will work with schools to support them to meet the needs of their pupils/students on their return to school.  Information on the wellbeing of school communities can be accessed via gov.ie - Wellbeing resources.

  All pupils/students returning to school should follow the arrangements in place in schools which will be in line with the public health guidelines for schools to protect themselves and to minimise risk of transmission.  Schools will support pupils/students in making a full return to school and to enable them to engage productively in learning in school.

State Examinations

 116. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her attention has been drawn to the case of a student (details supplied) whose leaving certificate calculated grades were downgraded by one grade in six of their seven higher level subjects; if she is satisfied that this student has not been unfairly disadvantaged by the calculated grades system, particularly in view of the fact that 85% of their grades were downgraded compared to a national average of 17%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24494/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, the Educational Research Centre and international external expertise.

  The focus of the Calculated Grades process has at all times been on the student and not on the system and my recent decision, announced on 1 September, to remove the school-by-school historical data from the national standardisation process underpins this commitment, ensuring that the performance of this cohort of students is not constrained by how their school has historically performed at Leaving Certificate.

  Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order (the student's place in the class group) for each student’s subjects.  We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school.  Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. This is to be expected given that there is no national standard on which to base an estimated mark.  But to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied.  

  The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard.  This standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal.   The standardisation process applied across all subject and levels.  The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level.  This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects. 

  The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year there is 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.    

  In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics (e.g. school type, student gender, etc.) either at the level of the student or the school.   The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools  his means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

  While some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved, this is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published. It may be more difficult for students to understand when they see the estimated mark from the school has been adjusted downwards.

  The standardisation model has been subject to a high degree of human oversight by the National Standardisation Group with a number of safeguards built in to ensure fair results for students.

  Technical details of the Calculated Grades model and standardisation process were published on the date of issue of the results and are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2ed9b-leaving-certificate-2020-calculated-grades-technical-reports/.

State Examinations

 117. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the breakdown of the number of leaving certificate students in 2020 who received results downgrades through the standardisation process in 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 subjects, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24505/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process is to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education in a way that is fair and equitable to all Leaving Certificate students.

  Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order (the student's place in the class group) for each student’s subjects.  We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. 

  The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard.  It is important to note that, unlike in other jurisdictions, the starting point for the standardisation process was the estimated percentage marks provided by the school. 

  The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. While the estimated marks have been subject to a process of adjustment to ensure fairness and comparability across schools, the national standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them. 

Following the standardisation process, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7   September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process.  Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades. 

  The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level.  This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced changes to the marks leading to a change in the grade that would have been awarded based on the school estimates in one or more of their subjects. 

  In terms of the grades awarded, there has been no change of grade in 79.2% of cases, with 83.1% of all grades either the same or higher than the school estimates while 16.9% of grades are lower. More detailed statistics are available on my Department’s website at: https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2020-press-releases/PR20-09-07.html.

  Of the students due to take examinations in the Leaving Certificate (including the Leaving Certificate Vocational) programme, the data requested on the number of students whose grades were different to those that would have been awarded based on the school estimates are set out in the following tables.  It should be noted that some students had grades which were higher than the school estimates in some subjects and lower in others. 

  Number of grades which were lower than the school estimates by student

Number of grades per student Number of students Proportion of total student cohort
0 19,596 34.0
1 18,584 32.3
2 11,663 20.2
3 5,288 9.2
4 1,885 3.3
5 488 0.8
6 83 0.1
7+ 11 0.0
Total 57598 100.0


  Number of grades which were higher than the school estimates by student
Number of grades per student Number of students Proportion of total student cohort
0 44572 77.4
1 10842 18.8
2 1843 3.2
3 297 0.5
4 38 0.1
5 6 0.0
Total 57598 100.0

State Examinations

 118. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will broaden the grounds for appeal with regard to the calculated grades process, in order that students can appeal the actual grades they received rather than simply checking for clerical errors in the transfer of grades data, particularly as it is the first time the calculated grades model has been used in Ireland and as such it has not been tested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24506/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The results of the Leaving Certificate 2020 Calculated Grades were made available to all students who opted to receive them at 9.00 am on 7 September via the Calculated Grades Student Portal. I would like to congratulate all students for their achievements in what has been a very trying time for them due to the impact of COVID-19 on their education.

  The Calculated Grades Student Portal has reopened on 14 September at 9.00 am to allow students to view their estimated percentage mark and calculated mark. Students may wish to have access to and consider this data if they are considering an appeal of their Calculated Grade.

  Students who are disappointed with the Calculated Grades they have received in one or more subjects will have the opportunity to submit an appeal.

  The appeals process is a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process.

  It is not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school.  Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process.

  It should further be noted that the design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process. 

  The appeals process has opened on 14 September and students can access this via the Calculated Grades Student Portal. Students will have until 5.00 pm on 16 September to submit an appeal.

  The appeal process will include three stages:

  Stage 1: Checks will be undertaken on the forms completed by the school and that the information was transferred correctly from the forms to the data collection system.

  Stage 2: There will be a review to ensure that the data was correctly received and processed through the systems used in the national standardisation process conducted by the Department.

  Data checks will include a check to ensure that the rank order of the class group for the subject and level taken has been preserved in the standardisation process and that students placed on the same school-estimated mark in the same subject and at the same level taken by the school are conferred with the same calculated mark.

  Stages 1 and 2 will be taken together.

  Stage 3: Students unhappy with the outcome of the above process can invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

  The Independent Appeals Scrutineers will check to ensure the correct procedures were followed throughout the appeals process. The Scrutineers will have access to the records and documentation considered at Stages 1 and 2. 

  Students who consider that their case has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

  If following the appeals process students remain dissatisfied with the outcome, students will be able to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams. Subject to health advice, these will begin on 16 November. Further details about these exams will be provided by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) at a later stage. Those who sit the examinations will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 119. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if there is a Covid-19 plan in place for schools for the remainder of 2020 in relation to pupils going to the yard at their break times. [24507/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools. Each school is required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection and includes key measures such as physical distancing.

In order to facilitate physical distancing in primary schools, pupils and their teachers may be sorted into ‘Class Bubbles’ and ‘Pods’. A ‘Class Bubble’ is a class grouping which stays apart from other classes as much as possible. The objective is to limit contact and sharing of common facilities between people in different Class Bubbles (and Pods within those Class Bubbles) as much as possible, rather than to avoid all contact between Pods, as this will not always be possible.

Whenever possible, pupils and teaching staff should consistently be in the same Class Bubbles. Different Class Bubbles should have separate breaks and mealtimes or occupy separate areas at break or mealtimes. Movement of staff members between Class Bubbles should be limited as much as possible.

While recognising that each school is different in terms of location, physical layout and available space, school themselves are best placed to decide on appropriate changes necessary to maintain physical distancing.

State Examinations

 120. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley further to Parliamentary Question No. 74 of 30 July 2020, the latest contingency planning commenced in relation to leaving certificate 2021; if greater certainty will be provided to leaving certificate 2021 students regarding practical subjects and the format of exams in June 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24533/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On 21 August, I announced a series of changes that would be made to assessment arrangements for both Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations for 2021. This announcement was accompanied by a published document detailing these changes, Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021, and forms part of the Roadmap for the Full Return to School.

These arrangements are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the 2019/20 school year and to factor in for some further possible loss of learning time in the 2020/21 school year as a contingency measure. As the loss of learning through school closures will

have affected students’ engagement with their course of study in different ways, the adjustments put in place will play to students’ strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the examinations, while incorporating additional choice. The adjustments have been arrived at through discussions between my Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders. Additionally, briefs for coursework for subjects, including practical subjects, will be issued at least a month earlier in the school year to provide certainty for students.

These changes to the national assessment arrangements have been made with due regard for the principles of equity, fairness and integrity, as these principles apply to assessment and examinations and refer to student to-student, subject-to-subject, and year-to-year comparisons. The changes provide reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools.

Other documents published by my Department to support the return to school include Guidance for Practical Subjects in Post-Primary Schools and Centres for Education and Returning to school: Guidance on learning and school programmes for post primary school leaders and teachers. All documentation published is available on www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

School Transport

 121. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if Bus Éireann has issued or allocated tickets to date for the 2020/2021 school year to over 97,000 children on the primary and post-primary school transport schemes, including tickets for over 26,200 concessionary applicants, as outlined during a Topical Issue debate on 8 September 2020 (details supplied); the way in which it compares to the same period in 2018 and 2019; if she expects in the order of 120,000 children to be accommodated on school bus transport in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24536/20]

Minister for Education (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. 

  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. 

  The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation.

  I can confirm that to date, 97,644 tickets have been issued to students on primary and post primary school transport services. Of this 97,644, 70,972 tickets have been allocated  to eligible pupils while 26,672 tickets have been allocated  to ineligible pupils.  In addition, School Transport services are being provided for over 14,500 children with special educational needs.

  Details of tickets issued in September 2018 and September 2019 are below.

Year (September) Mainstream Eligible Mainstream Ineligible (Concessionary) Mainstream Total
2018 73,953 27,474 101,427
2019 74,514 29,520 103,764


  As the above figures relate to  tickets allocated in September of each year they would not have been the total figures for the school year as these figures would have been subject to increase throughout the school year as Bus Éireann continued to allocate tickets where capacity existed on services.

State Examinations

 122. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a candidate has to appeal the calculated grade in a subject in order to be able to sit the exam in that particular subject in November 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24537/20]

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

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

School Transport

 123. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if school transport will be provided to a pupil (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24579/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2019/2020 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.

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.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020.  This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal has now re-opened.  However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 2020/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020. 

Bus Eireann has confirmed that payment for ticket for the child referred to by the Deputy was received on the 11th September 2020 for the 2020/2021 school year and such their payment is late. However as there is capacity on this service, a ticket will issue to the pupil in the coming days. 

State Examinations

 124. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the way in which the class ranking applied to students grades, particularly for students who switched schools in their senior cycle; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24581/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, the Educational Research Centre and international external expertise.

  The focus of the Calculated Grades process has at all times been on the student and not on the system and my recent decision, announced on 1 September, to remove the school-by-school historical data from the national standardisation process underpins this commitment, ensuring that the performance of this cohort of students is not constrained by how their school has historically performed at Leaving Certifica

  Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order (the student's place in the class group) for each student’s subjects.  We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school.  Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. This is to be expected given that there is no national standard on which to base an estimated mark.  But to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied.  

  The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard.  This standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal.   The standardisation process applied across all subject and levels.  The adjustments that occurred through standardisation resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree o over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level.  This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects. 

  The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year there is 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.    

  In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics (e.g. school type, student gender, etc.) either at the level of the student or the school.   The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools  his means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

  While some students will be disappointed at the results they have achieved, this is the case every year when the Leaving Certificate results are published. It may be more difficult for students to understand when they see the estimated mark from the school has been adjusted downwards.

  The standardisation model has been subject to a high degree of human oversight by the National Standardisation Group with a number of safeguards built in to ensure fair results for students.

  Technical details of the Calculated Grades model and standardisation process were published on the date of issue of the results and are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2ed9b-leaving-certificate-2020-calculated-grades-technical-reports/.


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