Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Department of Education and Skills
Ruairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
As the Deputy may be aware, the vast majority of supports for child care, including preschool education, are not provided by my Department, but by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The principal vehicle for the delivery of preschool education is the free preschool year under the Early Childhood Care and Education programme, which was introduced in January 2010 and provides early learning to children in the year before they commence primary school. Children with special needs can avail of their free pre-school year over a two-year period. My Department provides for some targeted initiatives for preschool children. In the main, these are delivered through the primary school system. For children under the age of five who are enrolled in primary schools, the National Council for Special Education, 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. Pupils with Down’s syndrome may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model of teaching supports if the pupil’s educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability or high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department’s Circular Sp Ed 02/05. Pupils with Down’s syndrome who have care needs may also receive access to special needs assistant support. It is open to schools to apply to the school’s assigned Special Educational Needs Organiser for additional teaching and/or care supports, in line with my Department’s criteria in this regard.