Header Item Written Answers Nos. 114-22
 Header Item National Educational Psychological Service
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Public Sector Pay
 Header Item Teacher Redeployment
 Header Item School Transport Provision
 Header Item School Accommodation

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 951 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 114-22

National Educational Psychological Service

 114. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, is available for students throughout the summer months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23374/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy will be aware my Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychology service to all primary and post primary schools through an assigned NEPS psychologist and in some cases through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Under this scheme schools can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

THE NEPS services to pupil set out above are moderated through the school and delivered on school premises and during normal school opening period and so would not, save in the most exceptional of circumstances, be conducted during the summer school closure.

Should any parent or guardian have concerns as to the educational, social or emotional development of their child they should, in the first instance, raise these concerns with the Principal of the school concerned with a view to his/her discussing the matter with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS office.

I can inform the Deputy that NEPS psychologists provide direct advice and assistance to schools experiencing a critical incident or traumatic event and attend on-site at the school, when invited to do so by school authorities, throughout the year as events dictate, including during school closure periods.

School Accommodation Provision

 115. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton when a school (details supplied) will receive a decision on an application for additional accommodation of eight prefab classrooms. [23378/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in the 6 Year Construction Programme. In that regard, my Department is in receipt of an application from the school for temporary accommodation to address its interim accommodation needs. The application is currently under consideration and a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities shortly.

Special Educational Needs Staff

 116. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will prioritise special needs assistant, SNA, applications from newly established schools announced in May 2017; and if he will ensure adequate SNA support is in place when they open in September 2017 in view of the fact the announcement came one month after the deadline for SNA applications by schools. [23379/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are provided to assist recognised schools to cater for pupils with disabilities, who have additional and significant care needs, in an educational context and where the nature of these care needs have been outlined in medical and other professional reports as being so significant that a pupil will require additional adult assistance in order to be able to attend school and to participate in education.

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is an independent statutory agency, is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

  The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie,  in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed. My Department’s policy is to ensure that every child who is assessed as needing SNA support will receive access to such support.

  Schools who wish to make applications for SNA support should apply to the NCSE. All schools have the contact details of their local SENO. Contact details are also available on the NCSE website. 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.

  All schools, including newly established schools were asked to apply for SNA support for the 2017/18 school year by 6th April 2017. The NCSE will continue to process applications for access to SNA support which are received after the April deadline. Such applications will be processed in the order in which the applications are received. Schools will be advised of their SNA allocations for the 2016/17 school year, prior to the end of the current school year.

  Once allocated, the recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are then matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

  Where a school wish to appeal the SNA support allocation which has been made to them, they may do so through the NCSE appeal process, details of which are set out at www.ncse.ie.

School Admissions

 117. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23402/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy may be aware I ran a public consultation process from 24 January to 20 March 2017 on the role of denominational religion in the school admission process and possible approaches for making changes. The written consultation process which closed recently attracted almost 1,000 responses from a combination of individuals, schools and stakeholder organisations.

A number of submissions were received from Protestant and other minority faith schools. In this regard, as I have said throughout, I am mindful of the need to avoid possible pitfalls and unintended consequences such as possible impacts on these minority religions and on the wishes of Protestant, Jewish, Islamic and other communities to be able to run schools in accordance with their ethos and admit children from their communities to attend those schools.

The 8 week phase of receiving written submissions formed part of a broader consultation process. I advised that following the receipt and analysis of written submissions, consideration would be given as to whether any additional steps are needed as part of the consultation process. Accordingly, on Monday 15 May I announced that I will hold a Forum on the role of Religion in Primary School Admissions on Monday 29th May 2017.

My aim is to find a solution which addresses the issues in this area, while respecting the strongly-held and legitimate desire of minority religious groups to run schools which are genuinely of their own ethos.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 118. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if there are guidelines in place relating to the use of quiet rooms for children with autism in schools; if his Department monitors the use of such rooms; if training is provided to teachers in the use of quiet rooms and the circumstances in which they can be used; if his Department has received complaints about improper use of quiet rooms; if so, the number of complaints received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23412/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The well-being and safety of children should be at the centre of all policy and practices in schools.

  All schools must have a child protection policy that adheres to certain key principles of best practice in child protection and welfare and all schools are required to formally adopt and implement, the Department’s ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools’ as part of their overall child protection policy.

  The Board of Management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all of the pupils in their school and is required to prepare a code of behaviour in accordance with Section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Section 23 (4) of the Act states that the Principal of a recognised school shall, before registering a child as a student at that school, provide the parents of such child with a copy of the school’s code of behaviour.

  Schools may seek advice from their local National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist, from their NCSE Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO), or from the National Behavioural Support Services, as to how children with behavioural needs can best be supported in school.

  Many schools withdraw pupils occasionally from the main classroom for short periods of time in order to provide support to them, or to manage pupil behaviour, if a child is exhibiting behaviours which may be a danger to themselves or others.

  In some circumstances, a child who is exhibiting extreme behaviours may be brought to another room to ensure the safety of other pupils and until they are calm again. Schools should supervise and support children who leave the classroom until they have recovered and are able to re-engage in the classroom.

  Where used, it will normally form part of a school’s response to behaviour and part of student support structures, procedures and practices.

  The withdrawal of a child from the classroom in order to deal individually with the child does not require the authorisation of the Department of Education and Skills. It is a matter for the school authorities, the child and the parents or guardians of the child concerned.

  Some schools also have multi-sensory rooms that provide a variety of sensory stimuli and which are designed to provide sensory stimulation for pupils with special educational needs, in spaces which are designed to encourage positive actions and responses for pupils with sensory impairment. They can also be used for pupils to use interactive equipment towards specific educational aims.

  My Department, through the Special Education Support Service (SESS), provides continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers working with students with special educational needs, including training for teachers in the area of challenging behaviour and Autism. My Department is also currently examining the issue of developing guidelines for schools on the specific issue of restraint or intervention.

  Where a parent, or any other person, has concerns about the care or safety of a child in school they should report these concerns to the Board of Management of the school in the first instance.

  Where a parent or other person has a concern about the welfare or protection of a child in a school they may report the matter as a child protection concern to Tusla or to the Department of Education and Skills who will then report any child protection complaint in accordance with the Department's procedures.

  The NCSE has published updated policy advice on the Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In developing this policy advice, the NCSE consulted widely with parents, professionals and other stakeholders and interested parties while also conducting research.

  The report includes 11 key Recommendations which focus on improvements which might be considered to the range of provisions which are currently available for children with Autism in schools. The report includes recommendations in relation to Crisis Situations. The report is available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

  My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered and that a timetable for implementation is prepared. The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.

  My Department is aware of some complaints and general queries concerning the use of quiet or withdrawal facilities in certain schools. When such issues are raised with officials of my Department the complainants are referred in the first instance to the school principal or the school's Board of Management.

Public Sector Pay

 119. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a union (details supplied) will be invited to participate in the upcoming talks on public sector pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23413/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, has invited the Public Services Committee of ICTU to discussions on public service pay and a continued approach to the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest legislation.

Teacher Redeployment

 120. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if no teacher who is a member of a union (details supplied) will be made redundant under the redeployment process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23414/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Teacher Allocations Section of my Department contacted 60 second-level schools in early January regarding a potential surplus staffing situation that may occur in the 2017/18 school year. The school management of these schools have provided information regarding anticipated staff changes (i.e. retirements, resignations, career breaks, job-sharing etc.) for the 2017/2018 school year.

Based on the information provided, there are no second-level schools in the position of having to nominate surplus teachers for compulsory redeployment.

School Transport Provision

 121. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will provide alternative school transport arrangements for a person (details supplied) with special educational needs in order to address the concerns of their parents. [23415/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

Currently almost 116,000 children, including some 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The purpose of the School Transport Scheme for Children for Special Educational Needs is to, having regard to available resources, support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability. Bus Éireann endeavours, within available resources, to ensure that each eligible child has a reasonable level of school transport service.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme, is obliged to tender all works, goods and services in line with European Directives on public procurement. The tender process must be fair and equal to all applicants and although a new contractor may mean changes in arrangements for some children, Bus Éireann do not have the discretion to favour one contractor over another.

An individual school transport service with an escort was sanctioned for the child in question. All nominated school transport drivers and escorts are subject to vetting procedures conducted by the Garda Central Vetting Unit.

School Accommodation

 122. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason a school (details supplied) has not been granted funding to provide additional classroom accommodation in view of the fact it was allocated an additional classroom teacher; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the current multi-purpose room is not suitable for classroom accommodation in view of the fact it has no toilet facilities and is currently being utilised as a multi-sensory room for children with special educational needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23416/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places in an area. The area in which the school referred to by the Deputy is located has not been identified as an area of demographic growth. It is considered that there are sufficient primary school places in the catchment area to meet pupil demand and, in that context, the application for additional accommodation was not approved. In this regard my Department considers that the position can be examined further when the enrolment position in the area in which the school is located is confirmed after September 2017.

In that context, my Department suggested that the school use available accommodation, such as the multi-purpose room, to meet the immediate accommodation requirement. While it is understood this room may be used as a sensory room it is noted that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has not approved a special education class, therefore accommodation for a sensory room would not be provided.


Last Updated: 18/07/2017 15:55:04 First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page