Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
44. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the services of the visiting teachers are available to non-verbal children who do not suffer a hearing impairment; the early education supports available to such children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31693/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Visiting Teacher Service for Children and Young People with a Hearing Impairment is provided by my Department from the time of referral through to third level education. The Visiting Teacher service provides advice and support to parents and schools to ensure the needs of children and young people with hearing impairment are met. This service is available at pre-school, primary and post-primary levels and includes children at the pre-school stage whose specific needs could be beneficially addressed through the work of the Visiting Teacher Service and the expertise within the service, such as children with auditory processing disorders. Specifically, the service works in partnership with parents of pre-school children with hearing impairment, visiting their homes and/or meeting them in groups to inform, advise and offer guidance on matters pertaining to their education and overall development and helping their children to derive maximum benefit from the educational opportunities available.
There is no scope to further extend the provision of this service to children who do not have a hearing impairment. The Deputy may be aware that the vast majority of supports for child care, including pre-school education, is not provided by my Department, but is provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The principal vehicle for delivery of pre-school education is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which was introduced in January 2010 and provides early learning in a formal setting to children in the year before they commence primary school. My Department will continue to work in partnership with other departments and agencies to complement and add value to existing Early Years programmes.
My Department provides a range of teaching and care supports for children of schoolgoing age with special educational needs. My Department’s policy is to provide for such children to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. In special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled. Health and Therapy support services are also provided for students in schools in some instances, by the Health Service Executive.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers for allocating resources to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department’s criteria in allocating such support. For children under the age of five, the NCSE, through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers, liaises with Assessment Officers in the HSE in respect of the assessment of need process under the Disability Act 2005. My Department’s Circular 0020/2011, which is available on my Department’s website and issued to all primary schools earlier this year, clarifies the roles of the NCSE and the HSE in relation to the assessment of need process as well as the role of the school in this regard.
45. Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy regarding providing professional resource teachers to schools with students suffering from delayed language development disorders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31696/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides an extensive range of supports for pupils with Specific Speech and Language Disorder. My Department provides for the establishment of special classes for Specific Speech and Language Disorder in primary schools. Applications to establish such classes are considered by the school’s assigned Special Educational Needs Organiser. Those meeting the criteria for establishment are approved by the National Council for Special Education. A full-time teacher is assigned to each class, and classes operate with a reduced pupil-teacher ratio of 7:1. Speech and language therapy services are provided to these classes by the HSE. An enhanced capitation grant is provided to schools operating special classes for pupils with Specific Speech and Language Disorder. The current rate is €912 per pupil. Pupils who are not enrolled in a special class for Specific Speech and Language Disorder and who meet the criteria for Specific Speech and Language Disorder, as outlined in my Department’s Circular 0038/2007, may qualify for additional teaching support where he/she is enrolled in mainstream school. Applications for such support may be made to the National Council for Special Education through the local Special Educational Needs Organiser. Pupils with mild speech and language difficulties may qualify for supplementary teaching support from within the school’s general allocation of learning support/teaching support.
46. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 19 students at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 are not receiving their allocation of resource hours due to the cap on resource teaching hours; and if he will ensure that additional personnel are made available to accommodate the needs of these most vulnerable students. [31698/11]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department’s criteria in allocating such support. Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs. In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the 2011/12 school year an initial allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy. This allocation, in the first instance, provided schools with the majority of their allocation, yet preserved enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that my Department can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations. All schools had been requested to forward any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications to the NCSE for consideration before 16th September 2011. The NCSE has advised that it allocated 50 resource teaching hours to the school in question on foot of applications received in respect of 15 individual pupils. A further application in respect of 4 pupils is currently being processed by NCSE.
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