Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 May 2013

10:40 am

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I know that Down Syndrome Ireland organised a briefing in Leinster House earlier this week for Members at which it made the case that Down's syndrome should be regarded as a disability in its own right and that children with Down's syndrome should qualify automatically for additional resource hours and assistance in the education system. I was unable to attend the briefing but have received a report on it. The Minister for Education and Skills is already addressing the issues that were raised in the briefing. He has asked the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, to provide expert independent and evidence-informed policy on the education of children and others with disabilities. This will include the issue of whether Down's syndrome should be reclassified as a low-incidence disability in all instances regardless of assessed cognitive ability.

This advice from the NCSE on how the education system can best support children with special educational needs is expected to be published in the coming weeks. I do not think we should pre-empt what that expert advice will be because the NCSE is an organisation with the greatest expertise in this area and has been asked to consider this policy issue. I assure the Deputy and the House that the Government is very conscious that meeting students' educational needs is a paramount consideration and must be kept at the centre of any proposals and recommendations. As the Deputy is aware, the Government continues to spend €1.3 billion each year supporting the education of children with special needs. We are committed to continuing to explore how best to improve their experiences and educational outcomes. We have heard the case that has been made by Down Syndrome Ireland and, as I have said, the Minister is already addressing the issues that have been raised.


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