Header Item Written Answers Nos. 47-55
 Header Item Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools Scheme
 Header Item Schools Healthy Living Strategies
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff Contracts
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item Third Level Participation

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 935 No. 1
Unrevised

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Written Answers Nos. 47-55

Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools Scheme

 47. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the review of the DEIS programme; when the review will be published; the details of the expansion of the programme; the methods by which a school can apply for inclusion in the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1997/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, a process to review the DEIS Programme is nearing completion. I intend to publish a new Action Plan for Educational Inclusion in the coming weeks.

  The review process is looking at all aspects of DEIS including the potential for increased integration of services provided by other Departments and Agencies to improve effectiveness. Among the measures to be included in the plan are a series of pilot schemes aimed at introducing initiatives shown to work well in improving results for disadvantaged children and students. The plan is expected to include targeted measures in the area of:

  - School leadership

  - School networks and clusters

  - Teaching methodologies

  - Integration of schools and other State supports within communities

  - Greater use of Home School Community Liaison services

  A new assessment framework is also being developed using centrally held CSO and DES data to assess schools for inclusion in the Programme. The number of schools to receive supports under a new School Support Programme and any expansion of the programme will be determined by this new identification process and funding available for the programme. All schools in the country will be assessed so there is no requirement for schools to submit an application as the methodology being applied involves the use of centrally held data already available to my Department.

  Implementation of actions arising from the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion will begin in the 2017/18 school year, and will be a continuing theme in our wider Annual Action Plan for Education.

Schools Healthy Living Strategies

 48. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will make recommendations and provide support to schools to include certain advertisements in their school journals that promote health and well-being of young persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2000/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am reviewing the activity of my Department in the area of Wellbeing. I shall ask that the Deputy's suggestion be considered in that context. I am of course conscious that the content and procurement of school journals and resources is a matter for individual schools. This provides schools with the flexibility to select the resources that are most appropriate to the needs of their students.

Teacher Recruitment

 49. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will approve the resources that may be necessary for the allocation of a temporary teaching post until June 2017 for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1300/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The key factor for determining the level of staffing at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September.  The staffing schedule for the current school year is available in Circular 0007/2016.  The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Primary Staffing Appeals Board.

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application to the Appeals Board under the Small Schools criteria.  In order to be granted a second teacher for this school year, the school needed to have an enrolment of 19 on 30th September 2016.  As the school had an enrolment of 17 on that date, the Appeals Board determined that the appeal did not satisfy the criteria published in the staffing schedule.  The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

The measure announced in Budget 2017 provides a capacity for one-teacher mainland schools to make an appeal to the Staffing Appeals Board for a second teacher where the school has a minimum enrolment of 15 pupils across 6 or more class groups.  This new measure is in recognition of the challenges faced by the teacher having to teach 6 class groups or more.  This measure will be introduced in September for the 2017/18 school year.  The detailed arrangements for this measure will be set out in the staffing schedule for the 2017/18 school year which will be published in the coming weeks.

School Patronage

 50. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will provide a progress report on the divestment programme commenced by the last Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2003/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Ten new primary schools have opened since 2013 under the patronage divesting process, two of which opened in September 2016.

The Government is committed to progressing the development of a dynamic and innovative education system that reflects the diversity of twenty-first Century Ireland.  The Programme for a Partnership Government reflects the Government's objective of strengthening parental choice and further expanding diversity in our school system.  The desire of parents for diversity in education is primarily being pursued by increasing the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools with a view to reaching 400 by 2030.

In addition to the phased transfer of Catholic schools to new patrons already under way, this requires considering new ideas and new approaches to substantially accelerate the changes in school provision in order to achieve greater diversity.  By developing new approaches which enable engagement with the landowner, I am convinced that we can significantly increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools. I am progressing these matters as a priority and have already held a round of consultations with patron bodies in this regard.  I aim to be in a position to announce these new approaches shortly.

In addition to progressing the reconfiguration of existing school provision to provide greater choice to parents in areas of stable population, the Government is committed to ensuring that parental preferences will continue to be key to patronage decisions on new schools established in areas of demographic growth.

Special Educational Needs Staff Contracts

 51. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will address the concerns regarding special education teachers who cannot complete their probationary requirements due to the lack of available opportunities and who cannot get permanent posts or places on the supplementary panel as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2007/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Teaching Council is the statutory body with responsibility for professional standards at all stages of the teaching career. It has established standards for post-qualification professional practice, as set out in Droichead, the new model of induction and probation for newly qualified primary and post-primary teachers.  The Droichead programme was the subject of a three-year pilot before it was approved by the Council in March 2016. The programme is being introduced on a phased basis since last September.

During the growth and development phase of Droichead, teachers employed in a special education or restricted setting must avail of the Droichead programme to achieve full registration with the Council.  While a new policy on teacher probation was adopted by the Teaching Council last December, this does not change the requirement for teachers in a special education setting to avail of Droichead.

The INTO issued a directive to its members not to co-operate with or participate in Droichead from 1 July 2016. This directive has prevented newly qualified teachers employed in special education settings from participating in Droichead since September and thereby closed off the registration pathway. I hope the INTO will review its approach.

My Department is also considering the impact of the new policy adopted by the Council.

Budget 2016 made provision for some 2,260 additional teaching posts in the current school year. The new posts provide additional opportunities for newly qualified teachers.

The Supplementary Special National Panel has been phased out since the 2012/13 school year.  No new applications to that panel have been accepted since.

School Patronage

 52. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has satisfied himself with the processes in place to determine patronage of new schools, particularly in areas with religious and cultural diversity in the population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2005/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton When it is decided following demographic analyses by my Department that a new school is required to meet demographic needs, my Department runs a separate patronage process to decide who will operate the school. The criteria used in relation to patronage of the new school place particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage, with parental preferences from the area to be served being central to the process. In this regard, as part of their application under the process, patrons and prospective patrons must collect and demonstrate evidence of parental demand from the area to be served for the model of provision proposed and also parental preferences for Irish-medium or English-medium education.

An external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG), oversees the patronage process.  Following their consideration of the Department assessment reports, the NSEG submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision.  The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are available on my Department's website.

The outcome from the recent patronage process for the nine new post-primary schools due to open in 2017 and 2018 was announced in November of last year.  In this regard, eight of the nine schools will operate a multi-denominational ethos.  The outcome of this process has also resulted in the inclusion of a new player at post-primary level further increasing diversity of provision in the post-primary school system.

Given the emphasis on parental preferences, along with an analysis of the extent of diversity already provided in the area, and oversight by the independent group, I am satisfied that the needs and preferences of parents in the areas which the school is set up to serve is being taken into account in the patronage processes.  In its report to me as part of the patronage process for the nine post-primary schools, the NSEG recommended that consideration be given to an examination of other options for a more effective and efficient means of disseminating information to parents and of collecting parental preferences and my Department is undertaking exploratory work in this regard.

The patronage process for the four new primary schools due to open in 2017 and 2018 is currently underway and I expect to announce the outcome in February.

School Curriculum

 53. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to introduce a subject on education regarding religions, beliefs and ethics in primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2008/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector recommended in its report that programmes in Education about Religion and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics be developed. The NCCA was asked, in response to the report, to explore the development of such programmes.

The NCCA produced a Consultation Paper in 2015 outlining the proposed rationale, vision, aims and features of a curriculum in ERB and Ethics, and engaged in an extensive consultation process with patrons, education partners, schools, teachers and parents.  I have received a report on the consultation process from the NCCA, which outlines the key messages arising from the consultation process and emerging directions for the development of a curriculum.  It is planned to publish the final Consultation Report shortly. The NCCA will then be commencing work with a network of schools on gathering and sharing examples of good practice in the area of ERB and Ethics.

School Admissions

 54. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he will take to alleviate the inordinate waiting lists faced every year by students applying for first-year places in secondary schools in Wexford town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1900/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is monitoring the school accommodation position in the Wexford town area.  In that regard, my Department considers that the additional school accommodation planned for the Wexford town area should be adequate to cater for the projected increase in enrolments in that area. My Department will however continue to monitor the position, taking into account the latest pupil enrolment data, the impact of planned expansion of school capacity and developments in the school planning areas adjacent to Wexford town.

My officials are liaising with the authorities of the five post primary schools in Wexford town and a meeting is being arranged with the schools concerned with a view to identifying the various factors that contribute to the compilation and operation of the schools waiting lists.

Third Level Participation

 55. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he is taking to address the inequalities seen in the league tables of students' accession to universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1299/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The data referred to by the Deputy actually serve to highlight the significant progress being made in supporting disadvantaged students to progress to third level.

  For example, the analysis of the data indicates that a significant number of non-fee paying schools are achieving considerable success in terms of supporting their students to progress to higher education.

  Specifically, over the past 6 years, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of non-fee paying schools where all Leaving Certificate candidates proceed to university or another third level college.

  The National Access Plan for 2015-19 contains more than 30 actions that are intended to increase representation in higher education by under-represented groups. These include students from low-participating socio-economic groups, learners with disabilities, mature students, and Travellers.

  Implementation of the National Access Plan is being supported by investment of more than €410 million in the 2016/17 academic year. This provides a range of supports such as the Student Grant Scheme, the Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities.

  In addition, I secured an additional €8.5 million, arising from Budget 2017, for access measures. As well as the reinstatement of maintenance grants for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students, this new funding will support a number of innovative new measures targeted at disadvantaged students:

  - A new centenary bursary scheme will provide bursaries of €10,000 for 100 disadvantaged students each year.

  - Higher Education Institutions will receive additional funding to attract 2,500 more disadvantaged students by engaging directly with disadvantaged communities.

  - New measures will be introduced to support more lone parents to participate in higher education.


Last Updated: 28/04/2017 10:50:44 First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page