Tuesday, 16 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
330. Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals he is considering for the provision of bilingual education for the deaf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13504/00]
331. Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans, if any, he has for the provision of bilingual education for the deaf at pre-school level; and if he will consider the issue as a matter of urgency. [13505/00]
332. Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will meet with a delegation from the Irish Deaf Society concerning their request for full and proper bilingual education for deaf children. [13506/00]
334. Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will implement the recommendation of the National Forum on Early Childhood Education as it applies to the model school for the deaf project (details supplied); and its plans for a pilot pre-school for the deaf. [13508/00]
I am aware of the debate concerning the best method of teaching deaf children and the changes in methods that have occurred over the years. The views of the Irish Deaf Society and of the parents they represent in regard to bilingualism as an approach to the education of deaf children, with Irish Sign Language as their first language, have already been acknowledged in the Education Act, 1998.
 Following representations from parents a special class was established in St. Joseph's Special School, Cabra, in which the bilingual approach is followed. Special needs assistants with competence in Irish Sign Language have been allocated to the school to support the teachers and pupils in the use of this approach. In addition, training courses in Irish Sign Language have been held for teachers of deaf pupils to equip them with necessary skills. Such courses will continue to be supported. This will enable teachers to meet the needs of those pupils whose chief method of communication is through the medium of signing.
It is acknowledged that no single method of communication is suitable for all deaf students. In this context, the assessed needs of each individual child are of central importance when, in consultation with the child's parents, decisions are being made regarding appropriate educational provision.
I have asked senior officers of my Department to make suitable arrangements to meet a delegation from the Irish Deaf Society and the model school for the deaf committee, to discuss their concerns, including those raised by the Deputy.
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