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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 566-584
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item School Attendance
 Header Item Grant Payments
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Departmental Legal Cases
 Header Item Public Sector Pensions
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Institutes of Technology
 Header Item School Holidays
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Vaccination Programme

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 136 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 566-584

Special Educational Needs

 566. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the current capacity of special schools since they returned at 50% capacity earlier in March 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16480/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I want to assure you the Deputy that I am conscious of the fact that closing schools has hugely adverse consequences at individual, family and societal level and that the effect on children with complex special educational needs can be even greater.

  For this reason, special schools were prioritised to reopen on 11 February on a 50% attendance basis and a supplementary programme was also put in place. Special schools returned to full-time in-school education on 1 March.

  The purpose of managing this cautious phased return is to continue to limit the mobility of the population and curb the spread of the virus.

  The safe return and sustained safe re-opening of our schools is a key priority.

School Transport

 567. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the plans in place to re-establish safe school transport for those attending special schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16481/21]

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.

Based on the public health advice published in early July 2020, and the updated advice received from the HPSC on 7th August and from NPHET on the 18th   August 202, the Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place and with the rolling implementation of measures on post-primary services as required to provide physical distancing, using 50 per cent of passenger capacity.

   Bus Éireann and the Department of Education have put in place measures to support infection prevention and control on all services. The Department has also issued detailed information and guidance to parents and children on the operation of school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. Measures include all post-primary students wearing masks, all bus drivers and bus escorts receiving PPE where necessary, as well as funding to support additional cleaning and hygiene measures, including the provision of sanitiser on all buses. Seating plans with pre-assigned seating are also in place on all routes, with children sitting next to their siblings or classmates where possible which reduces interaction on school transport services.

State Examinations

 568. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will consider the request for the junior cycle exams to take place in special schools for children at risk in June 2021 to allow children who may otherwise leave school without any qualification to achieve a qualification. [16490/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As part of the Government Decision on 17 February last, the normal Junior Cycle Examination processes were cancelled.

  Given the priority that needed to be accorded to the Leaving Certificate examinations and the challenge associated with running them, it was not considered feasible to run a set of Junior Cycle Examinations also.

  Last year, early school leavers and adult learners were offered an opportunity to sit Junior Cycle examinations at a later point. Similar measures will be implemented for this year, with Junior Cycle Examinations for early school leavers and adult learners set to begin in October 2021.

Guidance and further information relating to the Junior Cycle of 2021 has now been published by my Department and is available at http://www.gov.ie/JuniorCycle .

  These guidelines include details on the alternative form of certification designed to meet the current exceptional circumstances. A state certificate of completion of the Junior Cycle from my Department will be issued stating students have completed their Junior Cycle programme of study. In addition to this certificate, a school report detailing the learning achievements through the Junior Cycle programme should be issued to students by their schools. Further details are available in the guidelines.

  To avoid any unfair disadvantage for young people wishing to access National Craft Apprenticeships, it has been determined that the 2020 or 2021 State Certificate and School Report provided to students who were due to complete their examinations in 2020 or 2021 will be deemed to be an ‘approved equivalent’ as per the eligibility requirements for said apprenticeships.

  Schools will shortly be provided with further guidance on continuing to engage this year group in online learning and assessment during the period of school closure and through in-person learning when schools re-open.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 569. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to officially accredit the first ever national training programme for SNAs in UCD; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16504/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) play a huge role in helping to ensure the inclusion of pupils with significant care needs in education and in school life. This was acknowledged in the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme (SNAs) published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in 2018.

The Review made a number of recommendations regarding SNAs and the need for a more broadly based set of supports including therapeutic supports for pupils with complex needs. The Review also referenced the training needs of SNAs. In this regard, the NCSE recommended that a new national training programme at Level 5 of the National Qualification Framework be developed for existing SNAs who do not have the requisite level of training and for new SNAs on appointment. The NCSE also recommended that training tailored to the specific complex needs of some students being cared for by SNAs would also be provided.

The policy advice has been considered by the Department. It was decided that priority should be given to the development of a training programme for SNAs who may not have had a recent opportunity to access a training programme tailored to their role.

A public procurement competition was held for the development and delivery of a new national training programme for SNAs. A detailed specification of need and learning outcomes was developed and published for the competition. Formal accreditation to the National Qualifications Framework was not a requirement for the programme. Following evaluation of the tenders received, the contract was awarded to University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education, in conjunction with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.

UCD has a strong reputation in the world of education and training. It brings with it a wealth of experience and research knowledge in the training and has very strong quality assurance arrangements for its programmes. Feedback from programme participants is a key feature of this quality assurance process.

This new programme aims to enhance the knowledge, skills and expertise of SNAs whose work is central to the inclusion of students with additional care and complex needs in school life.

The programme consists of five modules, delivered online over a 10-month period. Flexibility is a key part of the approach to the delivery of the programme and participation is voluntary.

The programme is fully funded by my Department and delivered at no cost to the SNA.

Completion of the programme may serve as a stepping stone to further education opportunities in the area.

Each participant who completes the programme successfully will receive a certificate from UCD School of Education which may be of assistance in pursuing further education.

€2.45m will be allocated to this programme over the next 4 year period based on a full uptake of 3,500 SNAs. The first cohort of 500 SNAs enrolled in January and this phase was oversubscribed.

This is the first national training programme for SNAs employed in our schools and is tailored to their needs. The programme will be evaluated and the outcome will inform the approach to the training of SNAs in the future.

The Department recognises that a more strategic approach is required for the training of SNAs. This would deal with a number of matters including the identification of need and the provision of appropriate training programmes. The issue of programme accreditation will be considered further in this context. I look forward to its development.

I am satisfied that the new training programme for SNAs now in place is of high quality and will help to enhance the experience of children with special needs in our schools.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 570. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to officially accredit the first ever national training programme for SNAs in UCD; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16507/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) play a huge role in helping to ensure the inclusion of pupils with significant care needs in education and in school life. This was acknowledged in the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme (SNAs) published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in 2018.

The Review made a number of recommendations regarding SNAs and the need for a more broadly based set of supports including therapeutic supports for pupils with complex needs. The Review also referenced the training needs of SNAs. In this regard, the NCSE recommended that a new national training programme at Level 5 of the National Qualification Framework be developed for existing SNAs who do not have the requisite level of training and for new SNAs on appointment. The NCSE also recommended that training tailored to the specific complex needs of some students being cared for by SNAs would also be provided.

The policy advice has been considered by the Department. It was decided that priority should be given to the development of a training programme for SNAs who may not have had a recent opportunity to access a training programme tailored to their role.

A public procurement competition was held for the development and delivery of a new national training programme for SNAs. A detailed specification of need and learning outcomes was developed and published for the competition. Formal accreditation to the National Qualifications Framework was not a requirement for the programme. Following evaluation of the tenders received, the contract was awarded to University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education, in conjunction with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.

UCD has a strong reputation in the world of education and training. It brings with it a wealth of experience and research knowledge in the training and has very strong quality assurance arrangements for its programmes. Feedback from programme participants is a key feature of this quality assurance process.

This new programme aims to enhance the knowledge, skills and expertise of SNAs whose work is central to the inclusion of students with additional care and complex needs in school life.

The programme consists of five modules, delivered online over a 10-month period. Flexibility is a key part of the approach to the delivery of the programme and participation is voluntary.

The programme is fully funded by my Department and delivered at no cost to the SNA.

Completion of the programme may serve as a stepping stone to further education opportunities in the area.

Each participant who completes the programme successfully will receive a certificate from UCD School of Education which may be of assistance in pursuing further education.

€2.45m will be allocated to this programme over the next 4 year period based on a full uptake of 3,500 SNAs. The first cohort of 500 SNAs enrolled in January and this phase was oversubscribed.

This is the first national training programme for SNAs employed in our schools and is tailored to their needs. The programme will be evaluated and the outcome will inform the approach to the training of SNAs in the future.

The Department recognises that a more strategic approach is required for the training of SNAs. This would deal with a number of matters including the identification of need and the provision of appropriate training programmes. The issue of programme accreditation will be considered further in this context. I look forward to its development.

I am satisfied that the new training programme for SNAs now in place is of high quality and will help to enhance the experience of children with special needs in our schools.

School Accommodation

 571. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when construction works on refurbishment of a school (details supplied) will be completed; and the estimated cost of this project. [16519/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The school to which the Deputy refers is scheduled for completion in Quarter 2 of 2021. The cost of the project is approximately €7m, which includes the scope of works, Professional Fees, Furniture/Equipment and ICT grants.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 572. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans for the return of outstanding classes in secondary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16528/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has developed a plan with the relevant education stakeholders for the phased return to in-school learning for children in primary, post-primary and special schools. During March all primary level, fifth year post primary students and final year Leaving Certificate students returned to school. This phase also saw a return to full attendance for children in special schools.

The full re-opening of our schools for all students in line with public health advice remains a top priority for Government and my Department is focussing on the safe return of the last group of post primary students set to return to school after the Easter Break.

Special Educational Needs

 573. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the details of the availability of autism spectrum places and classes in the greater Dublin area: the ages catered for and type of place and class available; and the location of same. [16548/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan It is my belief that children with special educational needs should receive their education in placements which are appropriate to their needs alongside their peers wherever possible unless such an approach would be inconsistent with the best interests of the individual child or other children in the school.

  This approach is consistent with the provisions of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004.

  My Department's policy is therefore to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools. The majority of children with special needs attend mainstream education with additional supports

  This policy is supported by significant investment by this Government. The Department of Education 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.

  Only where it has been assessed that the child is unable to be supported in mainstream education, are special class placements or special school placements recommended and provided for.

  It is therefore not the case that special educational placements are required to support all children with special educational needs, nor is it intended that this should be the case

  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.

  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.

  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.

  Through ongoing consultation at local level, the NCSE is also aware of those parents whose children will be seeking placement for the 2021/22 academic year, including mainstream placement with appropriate support, special class placement, Early Intervention and special school placement. The NCSE continues to work to identify any and all relevant suitable placements.

  The NCSE is working with a significant number of schools in this area to encourage and support the opening of new special classes at all levels and has specific plans in place to increase the number of places available.

  I should also clarify that the NCSE does not maintain waiting lists for schools. Boards of management of individual schools are responsible for such enrolment matters.

I can reassure the Deputy that the local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) continue to be available to assist and advise both schools and the parents of children with special educational needs. Parents may contact SENOs directly using the contact details available at: https://ncse.ie/regional-services-contact-list  .

Information on the list of schools with special classes, the types and locations of these classes is published on the NCSE website and is available at www.ncse.ie   

School Attendance

 574. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her Department maintains a record of school online engagement; if school absenteeism is being reported to Tusla; and the steps being taken to follow-up on children who are not engaging with online schooling. [16549/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley During school closures, schools are not required to record attendance in the usual manner. However, in line with the guidance provided by my Department, it is important that schools regularly engage with pupils/students who may not be engaging or have disengaged with remote learning at this time. Any records kept in relation to engagement during school closure periods are retained at school level and my Department does not collect this data.

Notwithstanding the best efforts made by schools to contact pupils/students and their parents, in instances where there is no engagement with learning, or where pupils/students have disengaged, it is good practice to notify Tusla Education Support Service (TESS). It is important that TESS is made aware of such instances so that they can engage with families to provide appropriate advice and support.

TESS has a statutory responsibility to intervene when a parent/guardian is failing or neglecting his/her child’s attendance at school. TESS views all school attendance referrals from a child welfare perspective with the intention of finding solutions that will enable and support pupils/students to attend, participate and be retained in education. The role of TESS is to ensure that all pupils/students have access to education and the service is available to work with any student or family in need of support.

Grant Payments

 575. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of an application for the remote area boarding grant by a person (details supplied). [16552/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The purpose of the Remote Area Boarding Grant scheme is to give students who are disadvantaged because of their remoteness from schools an opportunity to attend school on the same basis as students not so disadvantaged.

The terms of this scheme are set out in Circular 16/2016 which is published on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0016_2016.pdf .

  I am pleased to say that the application referred to by the Deputy has been approved.

  The pupil’s parents have recently been informed of this decision.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 576. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the medical basis on which a decision (details supplied) was reached; the length of time considered short-term; the reason a medical condition such as anxiety would be singled out and those suffering from it have their online education withheld if they feel unsafe at school; if her Department consulted with mental health experts or charities before including same; and if so, the experts or charities consulted with. [16560/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley It is important to note that ‘students who are experiencing short-term anxiety related to COVID19’ are not students ‘with a medical condition such as anxiety’. Students who have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder from CAMH or Clinical Psychology HSE services would have a long term mental health issue which would warrant a medical diagnosis. Experiencing short term related anxiety related to COVID 19 is seen as a normal reaction to abnormal events. It’s normal to feel anxious when things are changed.

  My Department recognises that we are likely to see a variety of responses amongst our students as schools reopen ranging from excitement and happiness to worry and anxiety, which are normal responses to unprecedented events. Normalising feelings by communicating that we have all struggled with aspects of the latest school closure and school reopening, will help to create a safe environment for students.

With regard to the provision of education for children who are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, I would like to draw your attention to Guidance published by my Department in relation to students who have been medically certified as being at very high risk from COVID-19. That Guidance is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7acad-reopening-our-post-primary-schools/   

  As that Guidance indicates, it is the responsibility of parents/guardians to seek medical advice and certification to indicate if their child is at very high risk to COVID-19 and to inform the school of this. Where a school receives such medical certification, it will organise the most appropriate support for the student concerned. The Guidance sets out a number of options for schools to facilitate adapted education provision for students at very high risk to COVID-19.

  It also stresses the importance of schools putting in place measures so students who are unable to attend in such circumstances will remain as connected as possible with their own school community and classmates, that their learning will continue, as far as possible, in line with the curriculum and in a manner that is closely aligned to the learning of their peers in their various subject classes.

Schools are not required to make adapted education provision for students who are not themselves extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. The medical advice for those who may have immediate family members who are at risk is that the household continues to follow all current advice on how to minimise the risk of COVID-19 as set out on the HSE website https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/ . Please note that detailed advice on specific measures within a household are included in https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/managing-coronavirus-at-home/treat-symptoms-at-home.html    

  The wellbeing of all students is a fundamental element of my Department’s overall plan in sustaining the safe and effective operation of schools as we continue to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context the National Psychological Service of the Department (NEPS) is leading on supporting the wellbeing of schools communities. The response to support the wellbeing of all within school communities on the return to school requires a structured, psychosocial response which is compassionate, largely preventative and proactive. This requires a whole-school team approach to planning in order to ensure that staff, students and parents feel safe and secure. The Department’s response is aligned with the HSE guidance and based on the five key principles of promoting a sense of safety, calm, connectedness, self- and community-efficacy and hope.

Special Educational Needs

 577. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when all therapies will resume within special schools for those children who have high educational needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16563/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I wish to advise the Deputy that therapy services, such as Speech and Language Therapy Services, are under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health and the service is provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE).   

  The Deputy will be aware that a demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services was introduced, for a number of schools in the Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow.

  Pending any extension of this project, children who require speech and language therapy services will continue to access these services from the Health Service Executive.

Questions in relation to the provision of therapy services, or in relation to the implementation of the progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme, should therefore be addressed to the Minister for Health and the Minister of State at the   Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration with responsibility for Disability.

Departmental Legal Cases

 578. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her attention has been drawn to instances of litigation or the threat of litigation arising from the inclusion of social clauses in public procurement contracts in each of the years 2017 to 2020. [16589/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Minister is not aware of any threatened or extant litigation arising from the inclusion of social clauses in public procurement contracts in each of the years from 2017 to 2020.

Public Sector Pensions

 579. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a pension review for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16633/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I wish to inform the Deputy that a review of the pension file of the named individual has commenced and that direct contact has been made with the individual concerned. When the review is complete, officials from the Pension Unit of my Department will contact the individual with regard to the outcome. If any further communication is required in the interim, the Pension Unit staff of my Department can be contacted directly at pensions@education.gov.ie

Special Educational Needs Staff

 580. Deputy James O'Connor Information on James O'Connor Zoom on James O'Connor asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her attention has been drawn to the potential concerns in quality of education arising from the introduction of the SNA front loading model (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16634/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan A core recommendation of the National Council for Special Education’s (NCSE) Review of the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The frontloaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the frontloaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

Under the frontloaded allocation model, no schools would receive an allocation of SNA support for mainstream classes which is less than their existing 2019/20 mainstream SNA allocation on the introduction of the frontloaded model and some schools will gain.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred for one year i.e. to the start of the 2021/22 school year. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year. This meant that no school received an allocation less then what they had on the date of issue of this Circular and existing SNAs in standard SNA posts could continue in these posts.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DES Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE which is available to schools throughout the current school year.

Schools will be advised, as soon as possible, in relation to the manner in which allocations of SNA support will be made for mainstream school classes for the 2021/22 school year.

Institutes of Technology

 581. 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 the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16644/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My officials are currently reviewing the case referred to by the Deputy in consultation with colleagues in Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Terms and conditions of employment, including membership of a public sector pension scheme are a matter, in the first instance, for the employer ; the person concerned is an employee of an Institute of Technology(IoT) and once the review is concluded the employee will be advised of the outcome by the IoT.

School Holidays

 582. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she has given consideration to reducing the Easter and summer holidays for schoolchildren given the amount of time they missed due to the closure of schools arising from the Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16672/21]

 587. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans for the class time missed out on as a result of Covid-19 school closures to be made up at the end of the academic year and before the summer holidays are taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16712/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I propose to take Questions Nos. 582 and 587 together.

The scheduling of the school holiday periods during the academic years is agreed between the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and my Department for the purposes of standardising breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term. This is important to ensure certainty for the school community about the dates of school holidays.   

My Department has provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to facilitate the remote continuity of learning for all pupils/students in a Covid-19 context during periods of school closure. These are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool .

  The full re-opening of our schools for all students in line with public health advice remains a top priority for Government and my Department is focussing on the safe return of the last group of post primary students set to return to school after the Easter Break.

State Examinations

 583. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a mature student who is studying for leaving certificate Irish in a private college (details supplied) will be receiving accredited grades in their subjects; if not, the alternative arrangements available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16677/21]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On 17 February, I confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 examinations will proceed and students will also have the option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades. Leaving Certificate students have the option of whether to sit the examinations, receive SEC Accredited Grades, or both, on a subject by subject basis. Those who opt for both will have their better grades in each subject reflected in their results.

A Guide to State Examinations and Accredited Grades for Leaving Certificate 2021 has been published and is available on www.gov.ie/leavingcertificate . Students and parents are encouraged to read the guide to familiarise themselves with the processes in place for the certificate examinations in 2021.

On 22 March, my Department published a Guide to Accredited Grades for Leaving Certificate 2021 for Out-of-School Subjects, and Out-of-School Learners. The guide and a short animated guide are available to download on www.gov.ie/leavingcertificate .

  The Guide provides information for two broad categories of out-of-school candidates for whom some special arrangements need to be provided. Out-of-School Subjects refers to students who are enrolled in, and studying in, a school on a full time basis but are also studying an extra subject, or subjects, entirely outside of school. Out-of-School Learners refers to students who are entered for the examinations as external candidates and who are not attending for fulltime tuition at any school, or private college, recognised by the State Examinations Commission. Every effort will be made to provide Accredited Grades to as many students as possible, provided that there is evidence, on which an estimated percentage mark can be based.

Vaccination Programme

 584. 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 the actions she has taken with the Minister for Health and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee to ensure that staff in special education are given priority for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. [16686/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan The National Immunisation Advisory Council’s recommendation, adopted by NPHET, is that the remainder of the population after Group 9 will be completed on an age basis from those aged 64 years and younger, and that this decision will replace the previous groupings in the original plan.

This decision has implications for many sectors including school staff and will result in those working in schools being vaccinated with their age cohort. People who are medically vulnerable including school staff will continue to be vaccinated in line with their original grouping.


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