Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
510. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reconsider proposals to reduce staff at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the impact such proposals will have on the pupils and staff at the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8844/10]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is an independent agency with responsibility for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools. The Deputy will also be aware that the NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is at present carrying out a review of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations in all schools with a view to ensuring that the criteria governing the allocation of such posts are properly met. This is an exercise in identifying surplus posts which are in the system and which do not meet the current criteria — posts that have been retained when a pupil’s care needs have diminished or where the pupil has left.
The NCSE has advised the school that it is to reduce the number of SNAs by four and that this should have been achieved by 19th February. The NCSE has also advised the school that it will not alter the level of teaching staff in the school for the remainder of the current school year.
The NCSE is committed to engaging with the school authorities and all other relevant State agencies to manage the situation in the short term and to ensure a sound basis for staff levels in the interest of pupils. The NCSE has already met with the school and is arranging a further meeting. Without prejudice to the NCSE’s role in allocating resources, my Department has indicated to the NCSE that it is prepared to attend a meeting with the school if this is considered helpful. The NCSE has already offered to meet with any parents who may wish to meet with them.
The Deputy is fully aware that I have prioritised the provision of special education supports to schools. This is a key Government policy. However, this does not mean that resources, allocated in response to various historical factors, are retained in schools ad infinitum. At a time of constrained resources it is essential that we ensure that public resources, both staff and resources, are deployed as effectively as possible. Resources left in an area that are not in accordance with criteria mean public resources are not available for another deserving area.
I am sure that the Deputy shares my concern to ensure that there is a consistent application of policy in relation to the allocation of special needs supports across the country. This is all that is happening at the moment. I can assure the Deputy that supports will continue to be made available to schools, including the school in question, in line with my Department’s policy.
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