Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
41. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the recourse which is available to schools in disadvantaged areas that have had a reduction in resource teaching hours as a result of the implementation of the weighted system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27678/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): As the Deputy is aware, the new general allocation system is intended to cater for children with high incidence special needs and those with learning support needs. The system was constructed so that allocations would be based on pupil numbers, taking into account the differing needs of the most disadvantaged schools and the evidence that boys have greater difficulties than girls in this regard.
Disadvantaged schools that satisfied the Department’s criteria for additional staffing under the Giving Children an Even Break scheme — a scheme to help schools with high levels of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds — avail of a preferential pupil-teacher ratio of 80:1. Small schools — not eligible for additional staffing under the Giving Children an Even Break scheme — also avail of preferential pupil-teacher ratios under the general allocation compared to larger schools.
It has always been the case that schools that were in receipt of resource teacher support in respect of pupils with special educational needs would lose teacher support, either full posts or part-time hours, when the pupils that triggered the extra support left the school.
The Deputy may be aware that my Department has introduced a new action plan for educational inclusion — DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, which aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people, from pre-school to completion of upper second level education — three years to 18 years — from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed. The new plan is the outcome of the first full review of all programmes for tackling educational disadvantage that have been put in place over the past 20 years and it will involve an additional annual investment of some €40 million on full implementation. It will also involve the creation of about 300 additional posts across the education system generally.
A key element of this new action plan is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second level schools, which will result in improved targeting of resources at those most in need. The identification and analysis processes are being managed by the Educational Research Centre on behalf of my Department.
As a result of the identification process, approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban-town and 300 rural, and 150 second level schools will be included in a new school support programme, SSP. The SSP will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions for schools and school clusters-communities with a concentrated level of educational disadvantage.
While this action plan is in place, it is not my Department’s intention to review individual cases, however transitional arrangements are in place to ameliorate losses of teacher support in certain schools in the current year.
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