Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Special Educational Needs
The important point to note, which I may not have mentioned yet, is the fact that the pilot has recommenced in CHO 7 this term. We have plans for expansion of that. The independent evaluation is critical, and I am very satisfied so far with a report we have received on the confidence children with additional needs have gained from availing of the school inclusion model and the fact that they have reached most of their targets in a way in which they had not before. It is important, as both Deputies said, that children get the right supports available at the right time in order that they can achieve better educational and life outcomes. That is what we all want. Special education should never be a partisan issue. It is something we all care about. We in the Government have demonstrated that by providing more than €2 billion, which is over 25% of the entire education budget, dedicated solely to special educational needs.
As for the school inclusion model and the next steps involved, a memo to the Government will be brought in the coming weeks, we hope. That will ensure we continue to roll this out into other CHO areas across the country. I hear both Deputies' enthusiasm for the school inclusion model. I am very grateful they have brought the matter before the Dáil because it shines a spotlight on it and the really good work we are doing. The model provides a framework for teaching, care, training and therapeutic supports that will facilitate the greater inclusion of children with complex needs in education. The Department has received funding of €6 million from the Government in 2021 for recruitment of therapists, including OTs and SLTs.