Special Educational Needs: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 598 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 141 Next Page Last Page

The following motion was moved by Deputy Crowe on Tuesday, 22 February 2005:

—noting that progress has been made in the area of special needs education, including the passage of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004;

—expresses its concern that families still find it necessary to seek redress in the courts for the failure of the State to meet the educational needs of their children;

—urges the Government to ensure that there is further progress in delivery of promised improvements, including allocation of the resources required to meet the special needs and equal rights of all pupils and to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools;

—notes the widespread concern among parents, teachers and principals that the proposed weighted system of allocation of special needs teachers to schools would, in practice, be a “quota” system which would result in the loss of teachers to many schools, especially in disadvantaged and rural areas, and loss of support to many pupils with special needs;

—acknowledges the statement of the Minister for Education and Science that she wishes to see a system introduced that would not result in loss of services to any child;

—calls on the Minister for Education and Science to immediately conclude her Department’s review of the proposed weighted system, to publish the outcome of the review and to initiate a revised and improved system for deployment of special needs teachers as soon as possible;

—urges that such deployment of teachers be based on the right of each individual pupil to have his or her special educational needs assessed and on the right of each pupil to the resources [645]required to ensure that each can reach his or her full potential;

—calls on the Minister for Education and Science to immediately approve the enhanced support and investment essential for existing schools catering exclusively for pupils with special needs;

—calls on the Minister for Education and Science to recruit the additional 650 teachers needed to implement the programme of improved education for persons with special needs;

—urges the full implementation of the recommendations of the Report on Educational Provision and Support for Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, the report of the task force on autism 2001;

—calls for the immediate provision by the Irish and British Governments of all the necessary additional financial, personnel and other resources required to accelerate delivery of the Middletown Centre for Autism, County Armagh; and

—urges the Government to take immediate steps to fulfil its commitment to reduce class sizes for children under nine to less than 20 and to plan for future teacher supply requirements, including by the immediate establishment of a forum on teacher supply.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

“—notes that progress has been made in the area of special needs education, including the passage of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004;

—commends the Government for the significant additional resources made available for the education of pupils with special educational needs; and welcomes the legislative and administrative measures being taken by the Government to improve the framework within which services are delivered to pupils with special educational needs, their parents and schools; and

—further acknowledges that there are over 4,000 more teachers in our primary schools and over 2,000 in our post-primary schools than there were in 1997, that these extra teaching resources have been used to reduce class sizes, to tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional support for children with special needs, [646]and that the Government is committed to reducing class sizes further.”

Mr. Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I wish to share time with Deputies Michael Moynihan, Keaveney, O’Connor and Hoctor.

Acting Chairman: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak briefly on the motion tabled by Sinn Féin. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with Sinn Féin a policy-driven issue. It is a wide-ranging and worthwhile motion, which provides an opportunity for a useful debate in this House, if only to highlight the fact that much of what is included in the motion has either been delivered already or is in the process of being delivered.

When I was first elected to the House in 1997, I came from a teaching background, having spent 30 years as a primary teacher. There was no legislative base for primary education since the foundation of the State. We were governed by a raft of circular letters, and much of my time was spent trying to find relevant circular letters. This Government, and the previous Government, put in place a range of legislative measures which underpinned significant investment in education at primary, post-primary and third level education. It went a long way towards the progressive implementation of all our aspirations, particularly in the area of special needs education.

  7 o’clock

I want to focus on the area of teacher supply. Before coming to that, I compliment the Sinn Féin Party on drawing attention to the report of the task force on autism and the issue of the opening and proper resourcing of the Middletown Centre for Autism in County Armagh. I expect there will be an opportunity to debate these two issues under Committee D’s report at the plenary session of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body meeting in Bundoran. I note Deputy Morgan will attend it and I hope he will have an opportunity to participate in the debate. We can all learn from our experience here and in other parts of the various islands in this part of Europe.

On teacher supply, it is important to reiterate what is proposed in the Government’s amendment. There is currently more than 4,000 additional teachers in our primary schools and more than 2,000 in post-primary schools in comparison to 1997. Additional teacher resources have been used to reduce class sizes, tackle educational disadvantage and provide additional support for children with special needs and the Government is committed to reducing further class size. I have no doubt the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, who eloquently outlined the Government’s record in her speech last night, will continue to implement all the aims contained in An Agreed Programme for Government. I am also confident they will be substantially, if not completely, implemented by the time the next election comes round. It is important to state that the [647]pupil-teacher ratio has swollen from 22.2:1 in primary schools in 1996-7 to 17.44:1 in 2003-4. I recall a time when it was significantly higher. We should move towards a lower ratio, but it not just a question of mechanically reducing the pupil-teacher ratio; it relates to how one best uses and targets resources and measures outcomes. We have a very dedicated teacher workforce and there is an extensive range of ancillary support services in all primary schools, particularly dealing with areas of disadvantage and in areas of special need.

There has been strong and sustained investment by the Government over the years in this area, which is recognised in the motion. Considerable expertise has been developed among the teaching cohort in dealing with children with special needs. It is not that long ago since there was just one training course for special needs teachers. There were two courses at one stage but some Government closed down one of them. I am not flying the teacher flag, but I want to underline the significant commitment on the part of teachers. Over the years teachers have piloted very innovative projects, whether through youth encounter projects which began in the 1970s, Breaking the Cycle initiatives, Early Start or the integration of children with special needs into mainstream classrooms and mainstream schools. All of this has been carried out by very dedicated teachers.

Much of this expertise is only now becoming policy. I know the Minister is committed to continuing with this. It is not that long ago since there was minimal engagement with the home and families. That is the key to advancing the needs of all children, but it is crucially important in the area of advancing the needs of children with special needs. The materials and resources suitable for children with special needs were not available in this country for a long time. This is an area in which further investment ought to be made. Many of the learning resources available are imported from other jurisdictions, some of which are very appropriate and some of which are not. Curriculum development and development of resources is an area in which teachers could be used much more. It is a pity that greater use is not being made of teacher expertise and experience. Teachers should be allowed opportunities for further study, including getting into the inspectorate, because they would have much to contribute in this area.

The Minister did not touch on one other aspect last night. While the whole school completion programme is yet another pilot project, it has great potential for being mainstreamed. Even though there are just 11 of these projects throughout the country, they are important initiatives whereby children are tracked from their early childhood educational stage right through to transfer from primary to post-primary school. That includes mainstream children, as well as children with special needs. That has huge poten[648]tial because they can think outside the box, so to speak. We need to be ambitious and courageous enough to acknowledge that it does not always require a teacher to implement many good educational programmes. This is happening in the whole school completion area. Much work is also being done in the areas of music therapy, the integration of children with special needs with children who are very gifted, pre-school breakfast clubs and after school clubs, involving the probation and welfare service, arts based groups and so on. These have a significant role to play.

I support strongly the Minister’s amendment. The Government and the Minister are deeply committed to implementing the commitments made in An Agreed Programme for Government, including many commitments which are not included in that programme. There will be a progressive implementation of the aspirations in the recent legislation applied to a very satisfactory level before this Government completes its term of office.

Mr. M. Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and thank Sinn Féin for tabling the motion. Provision for those with special needs, particularly in education, has been neglected by the State for a long number of years and its record on providing for children with special needs has been poor. We are now trying to catch up and in recent years considerable work has been done and resources committed to the area of special needs, including special educational needs.

It is worth noting for the benefit of the House that since we last discussed this matter four or five months ago, the National Council for Special Education has been established on a statutory basis. Some 80 special educational needs organisers now work locally with schools, parents, children and teachers. An extra 500 children got the benefit of special needs assistants, new units have been opened up and the weighted system, as announced last year, is being reviewed.

Progress made in the allocation of resources and in the provision of additional staff to this area has been immense in recent years. More than 2,600 resource teachers work in primary and post-primary schools, which is an increase from 104 in 1998. There are 1,500 learning support teachers, more than 1,000 teachers in special schools and more than 600 teachers in special classes. There are nearly 6,000 special needs assistants in our schools compared with only 300 six years ago. More than €30 million has been spent on school transport for special needs students and more than €3 million has been allocated for special equipment and materials, which represents an increase on an allocation of £800,000 in 1998.

Considerable change has taken place in the education sector at primary and post-primary level in the past seven or eight years. The work that has been done must be welcomed. We should record the commitment given by teaching staff, managers of schools and those who have been [649]taken on as special needs assistants. Members will be aware from their visits to schools, including special needs schools, of the work and commitment of the dedicated staff, as I am aware from visiting St. Joseph’s Foundation in Charleville in my constituency. We hear much criticism about shortfalls in the system, but we should recognise that these people put in an enormous effort above and beyond the call of duty.

The National Council for Special Education was established in December 2003 as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education Order 2003. The council has 12 members, all with a special interest or knowledge in the area of special education, including children with disabilities. Since September 2004, 71 special educational needs organisers have been employed by the council and deployed on a nationwide basis, which means that at least one special educational needs organiser has been deployed in each county.

Resources are of major importance to the provision of services. There are duties on the Ministers for Finance, Health and Children and Education and Science to ensure that adequate resources are provided for the delivery of services. In particular, the Minister for Finance is obliged to have due regard to the State’s duty under the 1937 Constitution to provide an education appropriate to the needs of every child and the necessity to provide equality of treatment for all children.

Parents have a right to be fully consulted and informed at every stage of their child’s education. If they feel their views are not recognised or their child’s education plan is not being implemented effectively, they have a right to appeal a decision concerning their child and other such matters to an independent review body. In this context, the board would have the power to compel bodies under the Health Service Executive to take specific action to address matters before it. This is to be welcomed.

For too long the education system almost excluded parents and it was frowned upon when parents took a proactive approach to their children’s education. That has long since ceased to be case and that is welcome. As we move forward in providing proper resources for people with special needs, an inclusive approach is the only way forward. There is a commitment in that respect. Provision of services in this area has progressed considerably in recent years but we have a long way to go. We must ensure that in future everyone involved in the area of special needs, be they parents, children or people providing services, are consulted and that the system is inclusive.

I commend the Government’s amendment to the motion. I congratulate the Minister for Education and Science on the work she is doing not only in this area but throughout the education sector.

[650]Cecilia Keaveney: Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Chuala méóráid an Aire aréir agus bhí sí go maith. Dúirt sí go bhfuil obair déanta agus go bhfuil a lán oibre le déanamh freisin. Tá sí, maraon leis an Roinn, na tuismitheoirí agus daltaí scoile, ag obair maidin agus oíche na rudaí eile a chríochnú. Tús maith leath na hoibre agus go n-éirí an bóthar léi.

It is important to keep education to the fore and I welcome this opportunity to speak on it. I come from a background of music education. As chair of the arts committee, apart from anything else, I always make the case that music education should be at the core of a child’s development. It is beyond question that a child’s ability in terms of co-ordination, rhythmic development, language development, ability to deal with people, development of confidence and many aspects of an unborn child’s engagement with life outside the womb and following birth can be multiplied by access to and interaction with music. If I were to achieve one objective this evening, it would be to encourage the Department of Education and Science to re-examine the international proof in this area, including the two reports our committee prepared, that point to the undoubted need for the role of the arts in education to become more central.

I wish to pick up on the issue of the role of music therapy and the fact that we need to expand not only on that and the number of locations where it can occur but that when people search for what they consider alternative but which I consider central, funding is made available for that therapy to be developed. I say that in the context of supporting what takes place in this area.

When I was elected to this House in 1996 I was in Opposition. I battled to ensure a classroom assistant in a class for moderately handicapped children in Scoil Íosagáin was not re-assigned to a class for profoundly mentally handicapped, which was what was proposed. I begged for a second assistant to be appointed to ensure that those children would have the facility of a classroom assistant. I remember that well because it was the subject of an Adjournment debate and the then Minister of State, Deputy Allen, was unfortunately given a response concerning the wrong school and it was extremely embarrassing for him and for me.

Scoil Íosagáin is only one such school but is a good example of one in that period where the mainstreaming of special needs at all levels has taken place and is supported. It has 28 special needs assistants, three full-time resource teachers, two full-time learning support teachers, a principal and 21 mainstream assistants and school staff, a class for severe profound general learning disability, two classes for moderate learning disability, one class for mild learning disability, three classes for autism and two classes for specific learning disability. While I could continue to list the supports it has, I am simply outlining the change that has occurred in that school in a relatively short number of years. However, what is [651]a short number of years for people involved in legislation is a terribly long period for those involved in this area. The children that were entering school when I was elected are well on their way through the system by now. We must keep up the good work because for every parent, his or her child is the most important, not the child who will be there in 20 or 30 years time.

I welcome the fact that we are doing a lot and moving forward. It is frustrating for all of us who know the children and see the delay between an application for support and a recommendation for support on the other side, but the establishment of the NCSE will be a help in that. The Minister outlined her desire for co-ordination and unless there is co-ordination across the board, between Departments, service users, providers and funders, we will not get very far.

The new council offers local decision making so that people will be treated as individuals. There are also opportunities for collective work. Many of the children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and fragile X can be dealt with on a group basis and we should have the flexibility to bring in children and put the resources into schools, leaving them to decide how they are used. The schools know best what the needs are. I hope the slow decision making is a thing of the past.

I wish the Minister well and ask that music and art therapy become more central in education. We must keep up the good work because people are working hard to develop services for their children. It is happening all over the Inishowen peninsula, in Carn, Buncrana and Moville, where people are doing their bit to help and they deserve recognition.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and I compliment Sinn Féin on its efforts in this regard, particularly my colleague, Deputy Crowe. I am happy to share a constituency with him. We have both been challenged by the Tallaght west report, which highlighted the need for the Department to respond in a positive way to educational disadvantage. I compliment the Minister for Education and Science in this regard. She has been particularly proactive since she took on this role in September. She came to Tallaght and spent a day with us, going to a number of schools in the area, including St. Thomas’s junior and senior schools in Jobstown. She saw for herself the good work being done by teachers and parents in co-operation and she saw where resources can be used to telling effect. As other colleagues have said, it is important that we cherish all the children of the nation and that we do as much as possible to ensure educational resources are made available, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

I listened to the Minister last night and it was interesting that she acknowledged the poor record of the State over a number of decades in providing for children with special needs. That admission is a good starting point — the Govern[652]ment should be brave enough to admit where there are shortcomings and where extra resources are needed. There will always be a demand for resources in every area but it is important that we understand the needs of education, and I will always make the case in arguing for Dublin South-West that it is very important to use our resources to ensure all children are given an equal chance.

I support the view expressed in the motion about dealing with people with special educational needs. It is important that where families face challenges, they get the best possible assistance from schools and State agencies. I hope the Minister will continue her efforts in that regard and she will have my support as she does that.

I look forward to the rest of the debate and supporting the Government amendment that points out that while there are deficiencies, efforts are being made. The Minister is right to do that.

Ms Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Tá mé buíoch as ucht an tseans labhairt ar an rún tábhachtach seo. I welcome this debate that Sinn Féin has brought before the House, although I regret we do not have more time to discuss this vital issue. Deputy Crowe is behind this issue, on which he has aired his views, but the provision of adequate and enhanced services for all children in schools, particularly those with special needs, is a common cause for all Deputies.

I welcome the progress made in appointing additional staff to all schools — 4,000 extra teachers and 1,500 learning support teachers since 1997 at primary level demonstrate the progress that has been made. The model mentioned for allocating resource teachers to schools with more than 150 pupils caused alarm in some schools last year and I welcome the fact that the Minister is addressing that by putting in place a model by September 2005 at the latest. She has indicated that she hopes to have it in place before the summer of this year so that schools will know what is happening before the new school term. It is important in the allocation of resource teachers that those schools will be in a position to plan and ensure early intervention for those children who are most in need.

I welcome the Minister’s initiative for children who have dyslexia and minor learning disabilities. It is important that teachers are adequately trained in all areas of disability and that such training is not just an optional module on the course but a mandatory part of it. We must impress on the Minister that this must form part of the training programme for teachers at both primary and secondary level.

The autism units have proven to be a success in all eight areas where they are located. I am familiar with one in Boher outside Nenagh in County Tipperary. The ongoing training of specialist teachers is important in addressing the needs of the growing numbers of children with autism. The management guidelines for these [653]units must be clearly set out so that schools that take on a unit adjoining the mainstream school are certain about what is expected of them and the rules to which they must adhere.

Parents of children with autism must be fully involved in their education and consulted about the progress the children make. An overall approach involving both home and school environment provides the best chance of early intervention. Access to all learning resources from an early age makes a difference to the children in question. I welcome the fact that Members acknowledged the Minister’s statement that she wishes to see a system introduced that will not result in the loss of services to any child. That is the common ground we share, the common ground on which we will continue to work.

Ms O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I propose to share time with Deputies Sherlock and Lynch. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and thank the Sinn Féin Party for tabling the motion.

I have many concerns regarding the proposed weighted system and I intend to address mainly that issue. I have raised the issue many times by way of priority question, written question and so on, and the Labour, Fine Gael and Green Parties put forward a joint motion last October on this issue.

I acknowledge the Minister’s announcement that she will carry out a review of the weighted system and that she hopes it will be finished quite soon. If it goes through as proposed, with the allocation of resources depending on whether the school is a boys’ school, a girls’ school, a mixed school or a disadvantaged school, the result will be a huge transfer of resources from some schools to other schools. The schools that will lose out will be the ones that have a verifiable need for these resources based assessments carried out by trained educational psychologists, mostly by NEPS psychologists but, in some cases by psychologists from outside the NEPS where there are not enough NEPS psychologists.

There is something wrong with a system that removes resources from children who have a verifiable need and gives them to children who have not. That is a terrible waste and maladministration of public resources. I am not sure that any type of review of the weighted system will solve that problem because there is an uneven distribution of special needs. We are talking here of the most common needs. Children who have a less common need are entitled to an individual assessment of need. The children we are talking about here are those with dyslexia, those with mild and borderline intellectual disability. I am not sure whether children with ADHD and ADD are included because that has not been clarified.

Studies have been carried out that suggest that more than 1,000 primary schools will lose resources. I accept that more schools will gain resources but the point is that the ones that are losing are ones that have a verifiable need. If the system goes ahead as intended by the former [654]Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, 72 schools will lose a total of 40 special education resource learning support teaching post equivalents. Some 31 of these posts will be redistributed among 61 schools in the county but nine special education resource learning support teaching posts will be lost to my county. The same will happen in a number of other counties. Some counties will gain.

My point is that this system is not based on any kind of evaluation of the needs of the children in the schools. The evidence suggests that these needs are widely distributed. Therefore, any kind of quota system, as this weighted system is, will not be fair. A study was carried out in consultation with NEPS in Dundalk and Leitrim. It has not yet been published, but I understand it shows that some schools have no need of extra resources while in others up to 50% of children have resource needs. It cannot, therefore, be fair to distribute resources in this way.

Similarly, the intellectual disability database suggested wide variation. A recent study on disadvantage showed that disadvantaged schools are likely to have three times as much literacy need as schools that are not disadvantaged. No matter how well the system is weighted towards disadvantage, I cannot see that it will adequately cater for schools in disadvantaged areas. In some cases it will result in resources being given where they are not needed. I am very concerned about this. I would like the Minister of State to address this issue with her senior Minister. What will happen next year to schools where 40% of the children have a verifiable need?

I accept the point the Minister made that it is a good idea to have resources in a school when the children arrive. Surely it would be better to put in resources on the basis of a verified pattern in a school over a period of time rather than simply on the basis of numbers. That would be in some way fair if these needs have existed in a school for a time. I urge a proper and total review of the weighted system. I would scrap it and instead put in a system that is fair.

Last night the Minister referred to the fact that in 1999 the Government took a decision that has transformed the level of provision for pupils with special educational needs and that they would be entitled to an automatic response. I commend the Government for that decision. However, the current proposal takes away that right. That is wrong. The Minister said during Question Time and again last night that the children would continue to get the level of service appropriate to their needs. Will those needs be assessed by NEPS psychologists or will there be a new type of evaluation of needs? Where children had, perhaps, two and a half hours of one to one resource teaching, will they now get two and half hours in a group of six?

The SENOs will be a good addition to the system. However, the former Mid-Western Health Board area, where I come from, should have 11 speech therapists but there are only four, [655]and only six of the 16 NEPS psychologist posts are filled. I do not know about the other health board areas but I believe they may be in the same position. The service cannot be provided if we do not have the specialists. These are my main concern regarding the weighted system.

I have a few more minutes in which to touch on the other two issues that are of concern in this motion. My colleague, Deputy Lynch will address the issue of autism. However, I want to say one thing about it. I met a group of parents last week who have set up a preschool for autistic children but they fear they will run out of funds and be unable to continue. This facility has made an enormous difference to their children and they have been scraping money together to keep it going. Others around the country are in the same situation. Needed supports should be provided for a group who are particularly in need of support, and it is very effective if provided at an early stage. They need a much greater level of support, and parents’ groups around the country should get the supports they need.

The issue of class size is another issue about which I am concerned. It is disappointing that one of the first things the Minister for Education and Science said when she came into office was that she would not be able to fulfil the promise in the programme for Government to reduce class sizes so that all children under the age of nine years would be in classes of 20 or less. I hope that announcement is reversed and the promise in the programme for Government fulfilled. I have received replies to parliamentary questions indicating that more than 100,000 primary school children are in classes of more than 30. That does not work. I spoke to a mother in Leixlip last week when I was canvassing, whose child is in a senior infants class of 35. That is unmanageable and must be addressed. More teachers are being trained and it should be possible to address the problem.

There is a problem regarding special needs at second level as well. There are no adequate guidelines and no adequate training. Children who had support at primary level which discontinued at second level face serious difficulties. Class size is also an issue at second level. More than 35,000 teenagers are in classes greater than 30 in second level schools according to information from the ASTI. While we tend to focus on primary level, there are problems at second level.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  This motion is timely, coming just a few weeks before the plenary session of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. A motion will come from committee D of that conference on the question of special educational needs. During the past 12 months or more, much attention was paid to the issue and various countries were visited. It was decided to narrow the remit of the inquiry to provision for children with needs in the autistic spectrum. The rate of autism in Ireland is increasing at an alarming rate. Experts [656]expect a threefold increase in autism among children of schoolgoing age in Ireland within five years. Service provision is not keeping pace. Resources have been increased but they do not meet the needs of the existing autistic population. There is an absence of planning that will have a sufficient effect on services.

Service provision will worsen and the issue will not be tackled as the increased autistic population comes through the system. The Government needs to think on a longer timescale. There is next to no investment in this area. This needs of this group must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Pre-schools dedicated to autism should be provided now.

There were visits to different countries during 2004. In early 2005, the committee may visit Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and its report will come before the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. The key principle of the special educational needs code of practice for Wales is that children with special needs should have their needs met and the Scottish Parliament passed an Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004. The Scottish Act creates a new system for dealing with special educational needs. That is the criteria we will apply here to ensure needs are met.

Who is responsible for identifying the possible special needs of a child? Is it the responsibility of the child’s general practitioner, nursery school staff or other education professionals? Who is responsible for the diagnosis and determining how often should the child be assessed? Is it possible for every child identified as having special educational needs to be provided with assistance before the age of five? Is that taking place or is it likely to take place?

Ms Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I appreciate Sinn Féin tabling this motion because it is timely. If it were to be tabled next week or the following week, it would be equally timely. No matter how many times we debate this issue there appears to be no great urgency on the part of the Government to put in place the supports necessary to help children and their parents. No matter what report is put in place and no matter how many times we debate the issue we are constantly playing catch-up.

I attended a St. Valentine’s ball recently which was a fundraising event for a school for children with autism. Apart from me and the person who accompanied me, everyone else at our table was the parent of a child with autism. Some were not just autistic. One couple had a child who was autistic but was blind and profoundly deaf. We have no concept of what it is like to deal with that situation. Neither have we any concept of what it was like for them to go out for the night to support the school that is doing so much for their child. The mother told me she had to fight like an alley catto have the child diagnosed. One must also fight to get one-to-one tuition. When that is available the child is expected to go to school and the complications that causes are enormous. That [657]is the reason it is necessary to start at the beginning with preschool for children with autism, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and so on. Pre-school is necessary to prepare them for a school setting to ensure they are not taken from the security of their home and put into a school setting which can be disturbing for them and upsetting for their parents.

On Valentine’s night we attended a fundraising ball. One may ask why one was present. We were there because the school is running out of money. It is incredible the Government does not realise that early intervention in special education is very important and the difference it could make not only to parents but also to children and eventually the State and society. I have seen the difference that can be made following diagnosis and intervention at an early age.

How are children diagnosed? Does one’s friend suggest that something may be wrong and that, perhaps, one should take the child to a specialist? Is it the health nurse when one goes back for the 18-month check up, the preschool teacher, the grandparent, or the teacher in first class at primary school? Where is the net through which no child is supposed to fall through? Where is the desire to ensure children have the early diagnosis and intervention that is so important? It simply does not exist. This is done on the basis of a nod and a wink and of telephone calls to other parents. There is the frustration of having a child with difficulties and not knowing where to turn. It is an area in which we need to be much more proactive.

I have a submission for a second level school for children with Asperger’s syndrome. It is a plea for an essential service. At the other end of the scale are parents trying to set up a pre-school. No child when he or she finishes primary school, even if it is a special needs school, should be told at 11 or 12 years of age that there is nowhere else for him or her to go. While it is expensive, it is no more expensive than other issues factored into the budget every year. Neither is it more expensive than providing public transport because the private sector will not provide it. It is no more expensive than providing free second level education to every child in the State. We must get our heads around this by saying it is simply another service the State must provide. There appears to be a reluctance to go that far. Parents who have enough on their plate have to go out on the streets, go on fundraisers and go fighting when they should be at home doing the things we all do. Any Government which allows this to continue will be judged very harshly.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  I wish to share time with Deputies James Breen, Cowley and Boyle.

I acknowledge the great advances that have taken place in special needs education in recent years such as the establishment of the National Educational Psychological Service with the appointment of 142 psychologists with regional [658]structures. I welcome the appointment of special educational needs officers with responsibility to ensure an appropriate education for the individual child, or at least try to achieve that. However, not every school in the country has access to the services of a NEPS psychologist. The service should be expanded, particularly at primary level where most learning disabilities becomes initially apparent. Such a service plays a key role in the assessment of early indications of special needs education in small children. Just as a stitch in time saves nine, early intervention will preclude the necessity for more costly intervention at a later stage in the child’s life and this cannot be emphasised enough. NEPS is critical in assessing and determining access to and deployment of essential expertise and resources to enable children to benefit from educational resources and play a positive and constructive role in society.

Providing for students with special needs in mainstream schools is a most difficult and complex task that impinges on mainstream teachers, many of whom do not possess the specialist qualifications necessary. There is a myth abroad that all children should be included in mainstream education. One school principal used to boast that his school was at the “cutting edge of the inclusion agenda”. I wonder whose agenda he meant because I do not believe it was the child’s agenda. Inclusion seemed to consist of putting too many children into an unadapted and unsuitable environment with too little support.

To ask a five year old with autism and moderate learning disabilities to join in with a mainstream class is unfair and difficult for the child and could be regarded as cruelty. Inclusion can be highly successful for some children in the right educational environment with the right back-up. Most pupils with special needs can function effectively in a mainstream school, provided the necessary supports exist. They need a little extra support to help them cope with mainstream education, such as further special one-to-one teaching.

The needs of some children are more complex and these children will undoubtedly thrive in a special school where the expertise and support which they require is available. School principals in mainstream schools have extreme difficulty in the allocation of staff for students with special needs. Such staff allocation usually depends on such things as the category of need or the degree of disability, which in turn requires special diagnosis and additional supports in some cases.

At present, teachers in second level schools are required to cater for children with mild disability such as mental handicap and autism. These teachers encounter significant difficulties because they are not trained or equipped with specialist knowledge. The necessary facilities should also be provided for these children. It should not just mean the provision of a ramp in a school but should take into account interior design, lighting and noise levels, for example. Support services are a prerequisite for the integration of special [659]needs students into mainstream schools. The student’s specific needs should be the determining factor for the range of support services that are provided and services provided should match the need.

The integration of special needs children into mainstream schools is particularly difficult unless teachers with appropriate qualifications are available. The opportunity to acquire appropriate qualifications should also be made available to staff in mainstream schools. In-service training is very important. Teachers should be properly equipped and trained.

Inclusive education is a basic human right which leads to improved human development and academic outcomes for the child with special needs. Children with special needs deserve nothing less than parity of treatment with their more able-bodied peers.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I welcome the progress that has been made in the area of special needs education, including the passage of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. I strongly believe that it is our place to stand by children and vulnerable adults who are sometimes unable to speak up for themselves, to demand equality of opportunity and adequate resources for a first class service, which is their right.

I am deeply concerned that families who have no choice but to depend on the system still find it necessary to seek redress in the courts for the failure of our State to meet the educational needs of their children. We cannot just give equality to some, we must guarantee it to all and that includes the people with special needs seeking education and a reasonable quality of life.

A shared society will not be achieved by irrelevant words. We need real action backed up by adequate resources. I urge the Government to guarantee more development in the delivery of promised improvements. I demand stronger legislation and that the Government address the isolation felt by many in our society.

There needs to be more awareness of this condition. Teachers and health professionals must be given training to make more specialists available for the treatment of these individuals. Where are the necessary resources to meet the special needs and equal rights of all pupils and reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in our primary schools? We all have a right to choose in this society. I strongly believe that the right to choose is vital to each and every one of us.

The integration and inclusion of children with special needs is part and parcel of every mainstream school, large and small, and is welcomed as a positive development. What is not so positive is the lack of co-ordinated support that many principals and teachers face every day in providing for all children in our schools. Will our school principals continue to be faced with the dilemma of having to let special needs assistants go? Will [660]they lose teaching posts or be in a position to employ a new teacher? We cannot afford the loss of teachers in our schools especially in disadvantaged and rural areas because it would result in the loss of support to many pupils with special needs.

I call on the Minister for Education and Science to immediately conclude her Department’s review of the proposed weighted system, to publish the outcome of the review and to initiate a revised and improved system for deployment of special needs teachers at once. I also urge that such deployment of teachers be based on the right of each individual pupil to have his or her special educational needs assessed and on the right of each pupil to the resources required to ensure that each can reach his or her full potential.

I urge the Minister to immediately approve the enhanced support and investment essential for existing schools catering exclusively for pupils with special needs and to recruit the additional 650 teachers needed to implement the programme of improved education in our society.

I call for urgent action to be taken in the full implementation of the recommendations of the report on educational provision and support for persons with autistic spectrum disorders and to start a process which will allow smaller schools to respond to changes in society and be a thriving force in the educational landscape in the future.

Smaller schools have a crucial role to play in the educational and community life of Ireland. Research has shown that standards are as high in such schools as in larger schools. In many isolated rural areas we are already faced with the loss of valued services such as post offices and banks, without further losses becoming a burden. The aim should be to provide support for these areas of special needs that are marginalised due to lack of resources. Every child is of equal worth and has something positive and unique to contribute. Teachers have a responsibility to enable children to explore and fulfil their potential and the Government should stand 100% behind them in providing the sufficient resources.

Every child sitting in a classroom today deserves the best learning experience that we can provide. In determining what resources and staffing a school needs, it must be taken into account that children are individuals with individual needs and not simply part of some statistical formula.

Dr. Cowley: Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  I refer to schools with leaking roofs, damp classrooms, poor sanitation, rotting doors and windows, inadequate toilet facilities and no access to drinking water. I am not referring to India or Africa but Ireland. A recent survey indicated that 80% of schools in the west do not have basic physical education facilities. Expenditure on education lags far behind the rest of Europe, with a recent development report placing Ireland 33rd of the top 50 nations. Primary class sizes average 24.5 pupils, the second highest figure in Europe.

  [661]8 o’clock

The education system is failing many children on the margins. Every year more than 1,000 children fall through the net and do not reach secondary education. Our youngest children are educationally the most neglected in Europe, with access to early childhood education here the lowest in Europe. An estimated one in three children from disadvantaged areas suffers from literacy problems, while only 11% of 15 year olds in such areas are able to complete basic reading tasks.

These statistics apply to so-called able-bodied people. For those with special needs, however, for whom early intervention is the most crucial factor, we fail miserably. The waiting list for people with wheelchair disabilities in need of residential services is longer than at any time in the past 15 years, with thousands waiting for spaces. Due to the appalling lack of appropriate residential care, more than 450 people with learning disabilities live in psychiatric hospitals, an entirely unsuitable setting and a national disgrace.

Disabled people are the poor relations, including children with special needs such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia. There are horror stories of people having to wait for months or years for assessment only to wait even longer for the services they are adjudged to need. Why is access to educational and other services not a right when it is obvious that early intervention is critical? If those who are assessed do not receive the services they need, what is the point of an assessment?

This debate is all about respect for the individual, honouring and respecting people under the Constitution and taking a holistic approach to the needs of all the children of the nation. The system should serve the people and must be reformed if it fails to do so in a manner which provides a semblance of equality and serves the weakest citizens of all, namely, disabled people and those, particularly children, with special needs. A cross-departmental approach is required in which all Departments examine how they can best help individuals. Each individual must have his or her needs addressed, irrespective of whether they are in health, education or other areas. Moreover, the necessary reforms should be backed by legislation. Without legislation, no aspiration will be realised.

The vigour evident in implementing the Health (Amendment) Acts should be matched in legislation to ensure that disabled people, particularly children with special needs, receive the services they need. We must not allow the Disability Bill to create conditions in which thousands of people who have received assessments must wait for services.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I welcome the Private Members’ motion because it provides an opportunity to challenge the Government not to utter more platitudes on special educational needs or point to well-meaning but unimplemented legislation. It must not be allowed to continue to mirror [662]unmet needs with insufficient resources, the reality facing parents of children with special educational needs.

During the Second Stage debate on the Disability Bill, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, took offence at my argument that, despite the passage of the Education for Persons with Disabilities Act, the reality is that many people’s educational needs are not being met. She argued that the Bill had not been long in operation, which is true. However, there appears to be no sense that the potential offered by new legislation will be matched by sufficient resources in the near future.

I acknowledge that the Minister, in one of her first tests, responded correctly in tackling the logjam in the provision of special needs assistants. Unfortunately, the measures she took offered only a short-term solution. I still do not know how she will avoid a repetition of the delays this year.

Department officials take an almost Dickensian approach to assessing whether young people need a special needs assistant. Decisions are not taken following a meeting with a child or an inspection of the environment in which he or she lives but on the basis of reports frequently written by experts in the field who represent private and voluntary organisations. The Department often chooses either to ignore or contradict these reports, which is no way to make decisions on matters of this kind. A type of lottery system operates with regard to determining, even at the most basic level, whether people receive State resources to meet their educational needs.

While early intervention at pre-school level and special intervention at primary and secondary levels is necessary, it must also be recognised that successive Governments have erected barriers to prevent people with disabilities or special educational needs having their needs met.

The constituency I represent has been a fulcrum of the debate on special needs education. Kathy Sinnott, whose son Jamie was the focus of the Sinnott case, lives in the constituency. An even more important case which preceded the Sinnott case was the O’Donoghue case taken by Marie O’Donoghue on behalf of her son, Paul. That bugbear had to be dealt with by a previous Government. These two cases represented a judicial approach to analysing and achieving the right of children to special needs education, which the political system continues to fail to deliver.

It is unfortunate that the House continues to have debates of this type. The best legal or judicial interpretation of the rights of children with disabilities was provided in the O’Donoghue case by the Ceann Comhairle’s namesake, the late High Court judge, Mr. Justice Rory O’Hanlon, who gave a human judgment on what the State should do but fails to do. Among the inconsistencies and contradictions in the State’s approach is the manner in which programmes are [663]funded. The CABAS schools to which other Deputies referred continue to be funded in pilot schemes on a roll-over basis.

The Government approach demonstrates a lack of long-term thinking and generosity as regards how long-term needs should be met. Perhaps the problem lies in a political system in which short-term decisions are made to get us over a hump, whether the most recent crisis or the next election. Such an approach does not meet the needs of young people with special educational needs. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that the Government will make the philosophical change necessary to shift its behaviour sufficiently to deliver the resources required.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Miss de Valera): Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  I thank everybody who has contributed to the debate on these important issues. I am heartened by the acknowledgement by many Deputies that the provision of educational services for children with special educational needs has improved greatly in recent years. It is important to outline in detail the scope of these improvements.

While accepting that more can and will be done in this area, it is important to note the progress that has been made. In this respect, more than 2,600 resource teachers are now in place compared to 104 in 1998. There are now nearly 6,000 special needs assistants in our schools compared to only 300 a few years ago. In addition, there are 1,500 learning support teachers in our schools, 1,000 teachers in special schools and more than 600 teachers in special classes. In addition to the putting in place of significant numbers of additional school staff to assist children with special needs to reach their potential, legislative and structural changes have also been made which will ensure that children with special educational needs are provided in an effective and efficient manner with the required resources. In this regard, the enactment of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 provides a framework for future development of special educational needs services. The Act creates rights to assessment, individual education plans and the delivery of services on foot of those plans. It also ensures that parents have a right to be consulted and kept fully informed at all stages of the process. The Act also contains provisions regarding right of appeal where parents are dissatisfied with decisions concerning the education of their children. I am satisfied this Act provides a comprehensive approach to the future delivery of services.

The Government recognises that the traditional structures were not sufficient to deliver the services required following its decision in 1998 to introduce an automatic response to the needs of pupils with special educational needs. To overcome the structural and capacity difficulties that existed in the system, the Government established the National Council for Special Edu[664]cation. The council has approximately 100 staff, the vast majority of whom are special education needs organisers, SENOs, who are locally based throughout the country. The role of the SENOs is to ensure that all special educational needs in their areas are addressed in an effective manner.

In particular, the SENOs serve as a focal point of contact for parents, guardians and schools, and process applications for resources for children with special educational needs. While their work involves regular and detailed engagement with organisations such as health authorities, the Department, including administrative divisions, the inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, the primary responsibility for the processing of applications for special needs resources rests with the local SENO. In this regard, all schools have been notified by the NCSE of the contact details of the SENO attached to each school. I am satisfied the establishment of the council and the work of the SENOs will ensure the delivery of special educational services.

I note the comments of some Deputies on the ongoing review of the general allocation system. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has stated that she hopes to finalise this review in the coming weeks with a view to its implementation in September of this year. Action was required to improve the allocation of resources to schools and the new model will be designed to achieve this. However, resources will continue to be allocated to children in the low-instance disability categories on an individual basis and the NCSE will be responsible for these cases.

Outside the special education area the Government has also provided a substantial number of new teachers to schools over the past several years in an effort to reduce class sizes and tackle educational disadvantage. In line with the commitment from Government, class sizes will be reduced further over the coming years having regard to available resources. The Government is committed to continual ongoing improvements in respect of all aspects of the education system. I thank Members for their contribution to this debate.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  I propose to share time with Deputy Ó Caoláin.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  I will read a number of quotes from letters I have received from parents. One states, “The Department of Education has failed miserably in its duty to educate my son who has autism.” Another writer asserts, “I write this in shock, frustration and anger at the obvious inefficiency in places designed to allegedly help children with autism in Kerry.”“This will be a return to the dark ages as regards the level of education that we will be able to provide if this system is implemented as it stands,” according to another [665]writer. One writer asks, “Please inform the Minister and her office that the treatment of our correct submission through the SEN is shameful.”

These are only some of the comments I have received from parents and school principals in Kerry on the subject of the delivery of special educational resources. I will forward copies of letters from parents of autistic children to the Minister of State. These parents and others wanted to be in the House to meet the education spokespersons of each party. However, it was not possible for them to do so. It is a sad indictment of the Government’s policies which fail to provide for the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society. These parents have become so physically and mentally exhausted, not only by the lack of resources and assistance but also the refusal of necessary resources, that none of them was able to leave their home and come to the House to advocate on behalf of their children.

From the result of a survey undertaken by the Sinn Féin office in Tralee, it is clear there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration among principals, teachers and parents. It is apparent that most schools do not receive sufficient resources to ensure that the educational needs of all children are identified and provided for as mandated by the Education Act 1998. Despite the advances made in some areas, there are serious shortcomings in the system of allocating resources to meet the needs of children with special educational needs. In addition, children seeking assessment must endure a waiting list, some for as long as a year.

The children most affected by the shortcomings of our education system are the most vulnerable who need help to access the school curriculum, develop their skills and reach their potential. For example, the proposed weighting system for the allocation of resource teachers seems to have the potential to reduce the bureaucracy of the system and the unacceptable delays in responding to individual requests regarding children with special educational needs. However, it represents a backward step in meeting the needs of children and schools. This approach contradicts the belief in some circles that Ireland has a child-centred education system and flies in the face of the objectives set out in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and the Equal Status Act 2000.

The structure of the new quota system, for that is what the weighted system is, discriminates between rural and urban schools and between boys’ and girls’ schools. Even considering the higher incidence of special needs in boys’ schools, the proposed ratios are considerably out of balance. Some rural schools, many of them in my county, will end up with fewer teachers and teaching hours notwithstanding a possibly greater need. Even if we were to put these issues aside, the basic and most important concern is that the proposed system is not based on meeting the needs of children as they exist.

[666]Some 72 schools in Kerry will lose 38 full-time special educational needs teacher positions, most of those from the smaller schools which often have a higher percentage of disadvantaged students in need of special assistance. I appreciate that the Minister of State is committed to a review of the proposed allocation system. This review must be thorough, transparent and concluded quickly so that a more equitable and realistic approach can be taken as soon as possible.

Another issue I wish to address is that of the educational resources available to children with autism. The Government is failing autistic children and their families. Providing a few hours per week of special teacher time does not address the problem. Throughout the special education system, particularly in the area of autism, there are insufficient teachers and training, inadequate facilities and a lack of support for families. I am repeatedly told that home-school-community liaison teachers, occupational and speech therapists, psychiatric assistants and respite care providers are badly needed. Every Member of this House encounters the same problems daily.

This is an issue that affects the entire family and the child with autism is not the only person who needs assistance. I have spoken to parents whose marriages are breaking down or have ended and who are so exhausted and stressed that they cannot relate to their other children. Some of these parents have had to leave their jobs. I am aware of autistic children whose behavioural problems have not been addressed, potentially leading to injury or other tragedy. One mother told me that her nine year old child is suicidal. I am not being dramatic. The situation I have described is a reality for too many families.

Recently in Lixnaw I met a teacher with a class of 25 pupils who in the first two hours of class every morning must deal with one nine year old pupil with serious behavioural problems. As he cannot give him the attention he requires, he had to suspend the child. The sentiments of a parent of an autistic child, a constituent, best sum up their plight. She claims the Government is failing our children who are our future, our hope. She feels distress and pain watching days turn into months and months into years of inaction by the Department of Education and Science to honour its obligations to educate her son.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an gcuid is mó de na Teachtaí Dála a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo. Díospóireacht dhearfach a bhí ann agus tá súil agam go gcabhróidh sí le brú a chur ar an Rialtas chun feabhas a chur ar an gcóras oideachais do dhaoine a bhfuil riachtanais speisialta oideachais acu.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin Deputies, I thank those Members who have contributed constructively to what has been a very useful debate. Sinn Féin’s aim in tabling this motion was not to launch a broadside at the Government or the Minister or to seek party political advantage. I [667]welcome the response in a similar spirit from the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin. All Members want to see results on this issue. As our education spokesperson, Deputy Crowe, stated, “The people concerned deserve all the attention and support the Oireachtas can devote to them.”

The basis of the motion is the right of each individual pupil to have his or her special educational needs assessed and the right to the resources required to ensure each can reach his or her full potential. Nothing less is acceptable. We acknowledge progress has been made on the matter. However, the Minister also acknowledged it has been progress from a low base. What is being built up comes against a background where children with special needs have been scandalously neglected by the State. I pay tribute to the heroic parents and other carers of children and adults with special needs whose determination to demand and win their rights has been responsible for the progress made. Through their tenacity and the depth of their passion for their children’s future, they forced the system to listen and to act.

There is, however, a huge amount of work left to be done. After years of neglect, we now see the full extent of the special needs among our children. A growing awareness is emerging that these children can reach their full potential and play a positive role in society. As a result, a growing demand for their rights and a growing expectation that those rights will be vindicated is also emerging.

The Minister for Education and Science addressed some concerns raised over the weighted system of delivery of special needs teachers announced last year. When she became Minister for Education and Science, she undertook an immediate review, reflecting the extent of concern and anger at the likely effect of the proposed system on many schools and individual pupils. I welcome the Minister’s statement last night that the revised system will not be, as announced last year. I look forward to the announcement of the revised procedure promised in the coming weeks. I hope that all the concerns raised by all Members will be taken on board and acted upon. However, the clock is ticking if an improved system is to be implemented by the commencement of the new school year in September.

Even if the revised system of allocation addresses these concerns, it cannot succeed without greatly increased resources from the Government. The Minister noted her own responsibilities and those of the Minister for Health and Children in this regard. In her speech, she made the following striking observation:

[668]I concur with the Minister and hope the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, will note it carefully and act accordingly in his next budget.

The test of all this is delivery on the ground and in the classroom. The reality is large numbers of children are still not getting the support they need. Two years ago, I was contacted by the mother of a young boy with autism who went through a nightmare getting assistance for her son and her family. She struggled every step of the way to have her child properly assessed and to access the support he needed. Her experience made a mockery of the principle of early intervention. Despite her best efforts, the State completely failed to provide that early intervention. She simply asked that if she is doing the very best for her little boy, why the State is not doing likewise.

This mother, and other parents like her, must provide everything themselves. While she is lucky that her son is now in a special school for children with autism, many hundreds more are on waiting lists for these handful of schools. Their situation is uncertain as the Department regards the schools as pilot projects. They must rely predominantly on voluntary fund-raising and, therefore, cannot count on increased State funding in the future. I urge the Minister for Education and Science to give them the certainty they deserve and to support fully the mighty efforts of these parents and their children, some of whom are observing this debate from the Visitors Gallery this evening.

Only one school caters for children with special needs in counties Cavan and Monaghan, the Holy Family special school in Cootehill, County Cavan. It has long been in need of a major extension for existing school work to continue in a proper environment and to address the school’s waiting list. It received verbal approval for access to temporary premises on an off-campus site. I strongly urge the Minister issue the required written confirmation for the temporary access and then to give full approval without further delay for the commencement of the essential works at the school site. These children and their support staff deserve nothing less. A Cheann Comhairle, I know of your long association with the school and I commend your work in supporting it.

Members on all sides of the House acknowledge the need for action in increasing the supply of occupational and speech therapists as the legislation cannot be implemented without it. Parents, whose children were assessed several years ago, inform me the situation is worse now because the waiting lists are longer and sufficient professionals are not in place. This must be addressed. We cannot tolerate a situation where so many parents must pay for psychological assessments for their special needs children or even go outside the State to access it.

I emphasise our call for the full implementation of the landmark 2001 report on the education of children with autism. Children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity [669]disorder are often highly intelligent but fail educationally when the system fails them. While some progress has been made at primary level, a large gap remains at secondary level. I know of cases where children who have come on by leaps and bounds in primary school have, all too sadly, reached a dead end at second level. I have heard a special unit at second level described as an adult crèche because the educational needs of the child are not being met. This raises the need for long-term plans for these children and for the training and retraining of teachers.

I pay tribute to my colleague, the former Minister for Education in the Northern Executive, Martin McGuinness, and the former Minister for Education, Deputy Woods, who jointly initiated a project to establish an all-Ireland centre for autism at Middletown, County Armagh. I have a letter dated 10 February from the Department of [670]Education in the North which notes that it is unlikely that facility will be ready until autumn 2006. I appeal to the Minister for Education and Science to help speed up that project as the need is patently there.

I urge all Deputies to support the constructive motion tabled by the Sinn Féin Deputies. While I acknowledge the Minister’s positive contribution, the Government amendment does not address the breadth of our motion and we cannot accept the Government’s proposed deletion of those essential elements we have included.

As I stated at the outset, we all want to see results. This is an issue on which we can leave aside party political differences and work together in the interests of those very special children in our society.

Amendment put.

[669]The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 43.

Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin. Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe.
Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Michael Collins  Zoom on Michael Collins  Collins, Michael.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel.
Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  de Valera, Síle. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James.
Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  McDowell, Michael. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim.
Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae. Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.  


[669]Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul. Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  [671]Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.  

[671]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Broughan.

[671]Amendment declared carried.

[672]Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

[671]The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 43.

Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin. Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe.
Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Michael Collins  Zoom on Michael Collins  Collins, Michael.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel.
Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  de Valera, Síle. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James.
Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  McDowell, Michael. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim.
Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae. Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.  


[671]Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul. Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  [673]O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.  

[673]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Broughan.

[673]Question declared carried.


Last Updated: 04/11/2010 07:43:01 First Page Previous Page Page of 141 Next Page Last Page