Wednesday, 30 June 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
109. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the widespread disquiet and concern among teachers at the manner in which he announced his approval of an additional 350 teaching posts for special needs, without proper or adequate consultation or review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19332/04]
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): In circular 24/03, which issued to all schools in September 2003, my Department stated its intention to engage in discussions with representative interests with a view to developing a weighted system of teacher allocations for special needs teaching. Since then, significant developments have taken place and, in consultation with representative interests, a new system for the allocation of teaching resources for special needs in primary schools has now been approved.
I am satisfied that the new weighted model of teacher allocation for pupils with special educational and learning support needs will significantly improve the level of service provided for such pupils. To facilitate the introduction of the new system, an additional 350 posts are being made available. This will bring the total number of such posts for pupils with low achievement and special educational needs to almost 4,500. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with learning support needs and those with higher incidence special needs, such as borderline mild and mild general learning disability and dyslexia. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with more acute needs.
The general weighted allocation system will greatly reduce the need for individual applications and supporting psychological assessments and will put resources in place on a more systematic basis, thereby giving schools more certainty over their resource levels. This will allow for better planning in schools, greater flexibility in identifying and intervening earlier with regard to pupils’ special needs, as well as making the posts more attractive to qualified teachers.
The previous allocation system placed significant demands on principals, teachers and psychologists. It has also proven to be time consuming, thereby delaying the allocation of resources for special needs. Action had to be taken to reform the system and the model now being introduced will, over time, significantly improve the capacity of the system to cater for children with special needs in a speedier, more effective way. The revised system will reduce the administrative burden on schools and allow them to concentrate on the delivery of services to pupils with special needs. It will also allow psychologists to devote more time to advising teachers on planning for individual children and for whole school provision.
My Department has communicated with schools about their allocations. Permission will be given to fill all specific allocations immediately. The general weighted allocations will be filled following the determination of clustering and reallocation arrangements. To ease the transition to the new system, my Department has already agreed not to redeploy teachers from full-time posts via the panel redeployment process.
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