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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 532-556
 Header Item Education Policy
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item DEIS Scheme
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item Siollabas Gaeilge
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Insurance Coverage
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Autism Support Services
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Early Start Programme

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 114 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 532-556

Education Policy

 532. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her Department has examined the need to establish a new secondary school in Enniskerry, County Wicklow (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13140/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit and school enrolment data, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise and where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. Enniskerry is in the Bray school planning area.

  Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date information on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes.

  Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, be provided through:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools;

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools; and

- Provision of a new school or schools.

  Following such analysis, a new post primary school to serve the Bray, Kilternan and Ballybrack-Shankill school planning areas (North Wicklow ETSS) was established in 2016.

  The requirement for additional school places is kept under on-going review and work on an updated exercise to assess needs for the coming years, including those which may arise in the Bray school planning area, is at an advanced stage. Additionally, my Department will continue to liaise with Wicklow County Council in respect of its review of the County Development Plan with a view to identifying any potential long-term school accommodation requirements across the county.

School Curriculum

 533. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some secondary schools require first-year students to choose their subjects for second year in the coming weeks despite the fact students have not physically been in school since December, and some students are yet to experience subjects in person given that schools offer certain subjects before and after Christmas; if she plans to address this issue given that the situation makes it much more difficult for students to choose the correct subjects; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13148/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Subject choices are a matter for the individual schools depending on resources available. The programme that each school plans and delivers should be based on my Department's approved specifications, and the teaching hours should be registered on the school timetable.

The Department of Education does not have the authority to dictate to schools regarding what subjects are offered. Schools are generally privately managed institutions which, although largely funded by the State, are relatively autonomous. Any issue with the subject choice being offered would have to be addressed to the principal of the school in question, and/or the Board of Management.

DEIS Scheme

 534. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will consider a reduction of one in all class levels in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, band one schools and not just for senior classes, given that they have not received a reduction in several years unlike mainstream primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13183/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On 1st March 2021, I announced a package of measures to tackle educational disadvantage. This announcement includes a one point reduction in class size from 22:1 to 21:1 in Urban Band 1 vertical schools and 20:1 to 19:1 in Urban Band 1 junior schools. This is in addition to previously announced one-point reduction for Senior Urban Band 1 schools from 24:1 to 23:1. It is estimated that the reduction of class size in Urban Band 1 schools will require an additional 50 teaching posts and have a full year cost in the region of €2.45 million.

Having considered options on how best to support those learners with the highest levels of need, I have also decided to allocate a 5% increase in the budget of the School Completion Programme and approve the extension of the School Completion programme to 28 Urban Band 1 and post-primary schools newly included in DEIS in 2017. I have also reduced the enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional deputy principal in DEIS post-primary schools, from 700 to 600 students.

DEIS remains this Department's main policy to tackle educational disadvantage. My Department will spend over €150 million on the programme this year.

School Staff

 535. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when the role of school secretaries will be upgraded to clerical officer status; and if there is a timescale for this transition. [13187/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I am keenly aware of the vital contribution of secretaries and caretakers within school communities and I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.

In recognition of their role, I have put special arrangements in place for this school year whereby schools will be funded to employ a replacement secretary or caretaker in the event that staff who are at very high risk of contracting serious illness from COVID-19 cannot work on the school premises. I have also extended the Employee Assistance Service to all school staff including caretakers.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under grant schemes. Where a school employs a staff member to support those functions those staff are employees of individual schools and responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman's Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department implemented the 2015 recommendations of an independent arbitrator. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covered the period up to 31 December 2019 and has been fully implemented and increased funding was provided by my Department.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019 been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

Fórsa trade union has tabled a follow-on claim from the 2015 agreement. Officials from my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and School Management Bodies have been engaging with Fórsa on the claim. On 27th of October 2020 under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, an understanding was agreed on a pathway to progress the issues. Several key strands have been identified, and a phased approach will be taken to the development of proposals. The parties are currently scheduled to return to the WRC this month and I support meaningful engagement on this issue by all parties.

Siollabas Gaeilge

 536. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley an bhfuil i gceist aici siollabais nua Ghaeilge a thabhairt isteach don Ardteist nó an bhfuil i gceist aici ábhair éagsúla a dhéanamh de theanga na Gaeilge agus de litríocht na Gaeilge; má tá athruithe i gceist, céard atá á mholadh agus an mbeidh deis ag scoláirí clárú le dhá shiollabas nó dhá ábhar Gaeilge a leanúint ag an am céanna agus grádanna dá réir a fháil san Ardteist; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [13219/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley D’fhoilsigh an Chomhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta dréachtsonraíochtaí do T1 Gaeilge (an Ghaeilge mar an chéad teanga) agus do T2 Gaeilge (an Ghaeilge mar an dara teanga) na hArdteistiméireachta le déanaí le haghaidh comhairliúcháin phoiblí. Tá siad ar fáil ag an nasc seo a leanas: https://ncca.ie/en/senior-cycle/curriculum-developments/gaeilge/.

  Beidh an comhairliúchán oscailte go dtí an 31ú Lúnasa 2021 agus déanfar athbhreithniú ar na sonraíochtaí i bhfianaise aon tuairimí a fhaightear.

  Tá an fhorbairt seo maidir le sonraíochtaí T1 ar leith agus T2 ar leith ag tógáil ar na cinn atá curtha ar fáil cheana féin sa tSraith Shóisearach agus tá straitéisí agus polasaithe an Rialtais lena n-áirítear An Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus An Polasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta mar bhonn agus mar thaca leo.

  Tá sonraíocht T1 Gaeilge na hArdteistiméireachta dírithe ar chainteoirí dúchais agus foghlaimeoirí i scoileanna Gaeltachta, agus ar scoláirí san earnáil a fheidhmíonn trí mheán na Gaeilge (Gaelcholáistí agus Aonaid lán-Ghaeilge). Tá sé beartaithe go mbeidh sé de rogha ag scoileanna a fheidhmíonn trí mheán an Bhéarla sonraíocht T1 a sholáthar freisin.

  Tá sonraíocht T2 Gaeilge na hArdteistiméireachta ag díriú ar scoláirí a bhaineann úsáid as an nGaeilge mar an dara teanga, go príomha i scoileanna a fheidhmíonn trí mheán an Bhéarla.

  Is cuid dhílis an staidéar ar théacsanna liteartha agus neamhliteartha de na cineálacha eispéiris foghlama a chuirtear ar fáil do scoláirí sa dá dhréachtshonraíocht don Ardteisitméireacht atá foilsithe anois le haghaidh comhairliúcháin.

  Ní dhéanfadh scoláirí ach ceann amháin de na sonraíochtaí do scrúdú na hArdteistiméireachta in aon bhliain amháin.

School Transport

 537. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of school transport for a person (details supplied). [13241/21]

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 current school year over 113,100 children, including over 14,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

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.

Bus Éireann which operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of the Department has advised that the child to whom the Deputy refers is eligible for school transport. A service operates to the school of attendance with a pick up point of 6.3 km from where the child resides.

For a service to be established closer to where the child resides at least 10 eligible pupils from a distinct location would have to be availing of the service.

As this child resides more than 3.2 km from home to the pick-up point, and is eligible for school transport the child will be entitled to the Remote Area Grant from where the child resides to the pick-up point.

School Transport Section of the Department of Education will contact the family in due course to advise of eligibility for the remote area grant to the pick-up point and the process involved in claiming this grant. As it is based on school attendance the grant can only be paid at the end of the school year.

Schools Building Projects

 538. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of representations she received from parents on a school building project (details supplied).  [13305/21]

 539. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a school building project (details supplied). [13306/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I propose to take Questions Nos. 538 and 539 together.

The building project referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's Design and Build Programme and planning permission has been secured for the campus project. The information in relation to the number of representations received in relation to the project is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy.

The decision to grant planning permission by the Local Authority was subject to 57 conditions primarily related to the specification and construction of a significant road network which is essential to access the school site and which will be built by a third party developer.

My Department, through its Project Managers and their Design Team, continues to work closely with the developer and the Local Authority in relation to the necessary planning compliance documentation for both the schools and the roads. Following agreement with the local authority on compliance matters, it is the developer’s intention to commence the roads construction by end of Quarter 1 2021.

My Department is currently in the process of establishing a Framework of Design and Build Contractors to which Design and Build projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, can be tendered. That Framework is expected to be in place by the end of Quarter 1 2021. My Department’s intention is to have the project referred to by the Deputy tendered as early as possible thereafter.

Schools Building Projects

 540. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a school building project (details supplied). [13307/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's Design and Build Programme.

My Department is currently in the process of establishing a Framework of Design and Build Contractors to which Design and Build projects can be tendered. The tender process commenced on the 4th December 2019. The second stage of the tender process which involves the detailed tender for several schools is expected to be concluded in Quarter 1 2021. It is anticipated that the project for the school referred to by the Deputy will proceed to tender thereafter.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 541. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will give a clear direction that parents dropping and collecting children from school grounds should wear masks while doing so; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13331/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Government has always been guided by public health advice in relation to the safe operation of schools. The CMO has made it very clear in his advices to Government which are published on gov.ie, that schools are safe environments, with very little evidence of transmission within schools, and that the majority of infections of children and adolescents occurs outside the school setting.

  In this context it is very important that the whole school community following public health advice and schools have been asked to remind parents and pupils not to congregate in school grounds/at school gates when dropping and collecting children. Public Health have advised that adherence to the infection control measures in place will keep schools safe for children and staff.

  The Department is very appreciative of the ongoing efforts of the school community working to limit the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in schools and ensuring that the infection control measures put in place in line with the school COVID-19 response plans are effective in making schools safe for children and staff.

Schools Building Projects

 542. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of times she has met officials in her Department to discuss a school building project (details supplied).  [13335/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I meet and engage with my officials form the Planning and Building Unit on a regular basis to discuss capital projects, which would include the project for Carrigtwohill Community College. I am acutely aware of the importance of this project and the need to progress it as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects

 543. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of times she has met officials in her Department to discuss a school building project (details supplied).  [13336/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I meet and engage with officials from the Planning and Building Unit on a regular basis to discuss capital projects, which would include the project for the Patrician Academy. I am acutely aware of the importance of this project and the need to progress it as quickly as possible.

State Examinations

 544. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will provide details of the roadmap for students doing practical exams in, for example, music, home economics, orals, aurals, woodwork, metalwork and so on, given some are commencing in three weeks' time and students have not been informed of plans on same; and if the matter will be addressed without further delay.  [13353/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. In view of this I have forwarded the Deputy's query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to him.

Special Educational Needs

 545. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the process for the implementation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018; the factors that are taken into account in the decision-making process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13373/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. The State will spend approximately €2 Billion or over 20% of its total educational budget in 2021 on making additional provision for children with special educational needs this year.

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

  NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and special school places nationally, to meet identified need. This process is ongoing. Through better planning at both national and local level, it is my objective that specialist education places should come on stream to meet emerging demand on a timely basis. However, the active collaboration of school communities is essential in this regard.

  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.

  Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

  As Minister, I have powers under Section 37A of the Education Act to direct a school to provide additional places but this power is only used as a last resort and where all reasonable efforts have failed.

  This legal power to compel schools to open new special classes is only used where the following criteria apply:

- there is established need for additional places in an area;

- it is considered that the schools involved in the Section 37 process have capacity to open the additional classes; and

- all reasonable efforts have been made to support these schools in making the required provision.

  The legislation has been used twice to date. Firstly, in respect of the Dublin 15 area in 2019. Significant progress has been made in that area on foot of action taken under Section 37. A new special school was established and six schools agreed to open special classes thereby meeting the need for additional places in the area.

  The legislation has been used for a second time in the South Dublin area in 2020. This legal process is still underway and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

  However, I would like to reassure the Deputy that progress is being made and my Department will continue to support the NCSE and schools through the provision of the necessary funding and capital investment to ensure all children are successful in accessing an education.

  I can also reassure the Deputy that the local SENOs continue to be available to assist and advise parents of children with special educational needs.

State Examinations

 546. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Sean Fleming Zoom on Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when clarity will be given to leaving certificate students applied for personal reflection tasks, graphics and construction work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13385/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. In view of this I have forwarded the Deputy's query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to him.

School Staff

 547. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to modernise a circular (details supplied); the position on the employment status of physical education teachers; the number of physical education teachers on the payroll of her Department; and the reason for excluding them from incremental credit.  [13391/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department does not hold records in relation to the subject information that a teacher has qualified in.

  Regarding incremental credit the criteria for the award of incremental credit to recognised teachers was agreed under the auspices of the Teachers Conciliation Council (TCC). This Council is comprised of representatives of teachers, school management, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Education and is chaired by an official of the Workplace Relations Commission.

  The criteria for the award of incremental credit is laid out in my Department's Circulars 29/2007 and 29/2010 for Post-Primary teachers. For the purposes of your query the relevant Circular is 29/2007.

  My Department is making inquiries in relation to the application for incremental credit that has been raised and will reply to the Deputy in writing once we have finalised these inquiries.

School Staff

 548. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will create a scheme in order that primary school teachers on an agreed temporary exchange with another school can make the exchange on a permanent basis subject to the agreement of all parties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13393/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley In February 2018 my Department introduced the “Temporary Re-Assignment Scheme For Primary Teachers”. This Scheme was agreed under the auspices of the Teachers Conciliation Council (TCC). The Council is comprised of representatives of teachers, school management, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Education and is chaired by an official of the Workplace Relations Commission.

  The purpose of the Temporary Re-Assignment Scheme is to facilitate an arrangement between two eligible teachers who, with the approval of their respective employers, wish to apply for temporary re-assignment to a different school for educational purposes. The provisions of the Scheme are set out in Chapter 9 of Circular 0054/2019.

  Paragraph 1.3 of the Circular states:

“A teacher may apply for temporary re-assignment to a different school for educational purposes which includes enabling teachers in primary schools to enhance their professional experience by teaching in different types of settings and enrich their personal knowledge which can then be shared with colleagues.

For example, a teacher could seek a temporary re-assignment between:
- an urban school and a rural school or vice versa

- a large school with a single class per teacher and a smaller school with multi-grade classes

- a junior school, that is infants to second class and a senior school where they would teach third to sixth class

- a single gender school and a mixed gender school

- a mainstream school and a special school

- a DEIS school and a non-DEIS school

- a multi-medium school and a Gaelscoil/school in a Gaeltacht area or vice versa”.

  In accordance with the terms of the scheme, the minimum period for which a re-assignment may be facilitated is one school year and the maximum is three school years. Applications for Temporary Re-Assignment are approved by the Board of Management of each school, and details thereof are notified to my Department. On conclusion of the temporary Re-Assignment period the teacher must return to his/her original school and no further Temporary Re-Assignment can be entered into in the course of their career.

  The core function of the panel arrangements is to facilitate the redeployment of all surplus permanent/CID holding teachers, to other schools that have vacancies. Primary schools are required to fill permanent vacancies from teachers on the Main Redeployment Panel in the first instance and thereafter from Supplementary Redeployment Panels comprised of eligible fixed-term (temporary/substitute) and part-time teachers. Primary teachers are placed on redeployment panels in line with the patronage of the school from which they are redeployed and are available to schools with teaching vacancies that are within a 45km distance of the teacher’s base school.

School Transport

 549. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a seat on a school bus will be provided for a child (details supplied).  [13416/21]

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 current school year over 113,100 children, including over 14,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

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 Post-Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest Post-Primary School/Education Centre as determined by the 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 may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only. Concessionary transport is subject to a number of terms and conditions including the availability of spare seats on an existing service and payment of the annual charge. The availability of concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child's education cycle. Where the number of applications for transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann will determine the allocation of the tickets.

Bus Éireann has advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport as they are not attending their nearest post-primary school. A refund of the school transport charge was processed on 10th September 2020.

Insurance Coverage

 550. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley further to Parliamentary Question No. 446 of 24 February, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the lack of insurance cover for teachers and special needs aassistants, SNAs, working under this programme will further disadvantage children with special needs from Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, schools whose parents may not be in a position to pay for private insurance; if she will address this issue, as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13447/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan The supplementary programme is intended to supplement the teaching and learning provided by the student's school and alleviate the impact of this period of school closure through the provision of 5 hours per week in-person teaching or care support to be delivered in homes.

The programme must be delivered outside of the normal school day (i.e. evenings and weekends), so that the student can continue to engage as fully as possible with the teaching and learning provided by their school.

Any unused hours can be delivered to families at any time before 30 April 2021, including during the Easter holidays.

My Department has been contacted by schools and families who wish to access the supplementary programme in school settings. My Department is willing to engage with the education stakeholders, particularly the school management bodies on the logistical issues which may need to be considered in the running of this programme in school premises, particularly as this programme is intended to happen outside of school hours such as evenings and weekends.

Schools Building Projects

 551. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley further to Parliamentary Question No. 395 of 3 February, if there has been further progress in advancing a much needed building project at a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13449/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I can confirm to the Deputy, that officials from my Department's Planning and Building Unit are continuing to work with the management authority of the school in question to progress the proposed building project to meet the long-term accommodation needs of the school.

Autism Support Services

 552. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the additional technology that may be available to school students who are on the autistic spectrum; and if these students can avail of financial support towards the purchase of a tablet or laptop.  [13494/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan My Department provides for a range of supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs, including autistic pupils, in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, they will have access to an appropriate education.

  As part of the €210m investment programme underpinning the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools, my Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation.

  This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the requirements of their own student cohort and to meet those requirements. In the context of the current public health crisis this funding can be focussed on assisting schools to address ICT needs including devices, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning. This can include the purchase of ICT devices including laptops, which can be shared with students who do not have access to devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of remote learning.

  This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the needs of their learners and to meet those requirements.

  My Department also provides funding to schools towards the cost of assistive technology for pupils in Primary, Post Primary and Special schools, for equipment and specialist software for educational purposes under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

  In order to qualify for equipment under the Assistive Technology scheme, a child must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the child to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including applications for assistive technology.

  Special Needs Organisers (SENOs) make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in making recommendations for support, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

  It is open to schools to appeal this decision. The appeals process is outlined on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/Grants-and-Additional-Support/Assistive-Technology-Grant/.

  All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects

 553. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a building project for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13512/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB).

  The ETB is currently in the process of procuring a Design Team for this project. Thereafter, it will ensure that the project progresses to design stage, obtains the necessary statutory planning permission, and moves the project onward to tender and construction in due course.

  As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for its completion.

  Please be assured that the ETB will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Schools Building Projects

 554. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of progress on a building project for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13513/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB).

  I can confirm that a Design Team to deliver this project has been appointed by the ETB. The Design Team will now begin preparing the Stage 1 report (preliminary design).

  While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, WWETB will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

Special Educational Needs

 555. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if the July provision will be extended by two weeks for 2021 given the disruption to students caused by school buildings being closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13540/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan COVID-19 has negatively impacted across all aspects of society including in the area of education which has seen the closure of schools on two occasions.

  My Department has recognised that such school closures can have a particular impact on children with special educational needs and accordingly has –

- Prioritised children with special educational needs for the earliest possible return to in school teaching, with pupils in special schools and special classes having now returned to school.

- Urgent consideration is underway as to when children with special educational needs who attend mainstream education can return.

- Specific guidance and supports have been provided to schools to support continuity of learning for these children during the school closure period.

- A significantly expanded summer education programme for children with complex special educational needs was provided last year which aimed to prevent regression among children with special needs.

- A supplementary education programme is currently being provided for children with special educational needs who have missed in person education.

  My Department is progressing work on proposals for this years Summer Provision scheme which will be influenced by the current public health emergency. These proposals will be developed based on engagement and consultation with the education partners. Any changes to the scheme will be considered as part of this work.

Early Start Programme

 556. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of Early Start units in schools currently under review with her Department; the reason for the review; if these units are at risk of being closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13541/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Early Start programme was established in 1994, and is a one-year intervention in a number of primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage to meet the needs of children aged between 3 years and 5 years who are at risk of not reaching their potential within the school system. Since the establishment of Early Start, early childhood education and care provision in Ireland has changed significantly. The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme was introduced in 2010, and was extended to two years' provision in 2018. The ECCE scheme is under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

While the ECCE scheme is the national universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children, the Early Start programme continues to run in 40 schools, and in the 2020/21 school year there are 905 children enrolled. Provision of Early Start is monitored across all 40 schools on an ongoing basis, having regard to the cost of provision and numbers enrolled, and Early Start units may also be reviewed in individual schools. There are currently no individual Early Start units in which reviews are taking place.


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