Written answers

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Department of Education and Skills

School Transport Provision

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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216. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 5 November 2019, the alternative options for parents to access school transport services at the school which have been withdrawn, leaving many parents without school transport; the availability of additional funding that either parents or schools can apply to for subvention of transport in such cases; if a review of individual cases can be conducted in cases where parents have been excluded from the transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2950/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department's practice has been to respond to the needs of long term or repeat child patients in hospitals and HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) facilities through the establishment of special schools or through the funding of part-time teaching hours.

The purpose of educational provision in HSE CAMHS Units is a short term intervention designed to provide for some continuity of education during the child/young person’s stay as an in-patient. Not all children/young people attending CAMHS are medically fit to avail of education during all of their stay.

Since 2014, my Department’s policy is to provide teaching staff in CAMHS facilities at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 on the basis of the number of inpatient beds in each CAMHS unit. The school refered to by the deputy is one such school.

Current policy does not provide for an additional teaching allocation for CAMHS facilities for children/young people attending as day or out-patients, as young people attending CAMHs as day patients can apply for Home Tuition support to provide for compensatory education in respect of time missed from school, due to medical reasons or attendance at a medical unit.

As not all inpatient beds in CAMHS Units may be filled at any given time, in such instances, subject to prior approval by my Department, CAMHS Units may utilise spare teaching capacity from their allocated 6:1 ratio to offer guidance or support for children/young people attending CAMHS facilities as day patients, and to assist in maintaining some continuity of education from their base school or liaison with their base school on days that they attend the CAMHS Unit.

Students in the special school referred to by the Deputy are attending the HSE CAMHS facility, in the first instance, as in-patients, day patients or out-patients for mental health issues.

While the special school in question was originally designated as a special school for Severe Emotional Behaviour Disturbance, since the school’s re-location with the HSE’s CAMHS unit, the teaching staff allocation has been provided on the basis of the policy outlined above for CAMHS facilities.

The CAMHS team may refer patients to the school for short term education intervention, designed to provide for some continuity of education, while a patient of the CAMHS Unit. All students remain enrolled in their base schools while attending the CAMHS unit. Special schools attached to CAMHS Units do not enrol students on a full time basis, as their main education placement. Therefore, the school's enrolment remains transient.

The purpose of the Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.  Children are eligible when they are attending the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class in mainstream or special school that is or can be resourced to meet their special educational needs.  Eligibility is determined in consultation with the NCSE through its network of SENOs.

As students in special schools attached to a CAMHS facility, including the School referred to by the Deputy, are, in the first instance, attending CAMHS as in-patients, day patients or out-patients for mental health issues, transport to the HSE CAMHS unit does not come within the remit of my Department’s Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs.

In previous years, Special School Transport was provided in error to a number of students who attended this special school while day patients of CAMHS. This arrangement was allowed to continue for these students until they completed their time in CAMHS.

My Department has informed the school that its enrolment policy is to be brought in line with my Department’s policy for the provision of education to children and young people who are in-patients in the CAMHS unit in Merlin Park for the 2020/21 school year onwards; and submit a copy of same once it is complete.

In the interim, the school has been advised that, as an exceptional measure, applications for students who were enrolled in this school for the first time in 2019/20 will now also be considered but no further applications will be considered for the 2020/21 school year onwards.


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