Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Adjournment Matters

Special Educational Needs

5:45 pm

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am pleased to be given the opportunity by the Senator to clarify the position on the provision of teaching support tor children with Down's syndrome. The position is that pupils with Down's syndrome who are attending mainstream primary schools 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 which are allocated to schools by the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's circular, Special Education 02/05. Pupils with Down's syndrome who are assessed as being within the category of mild general learning disability but who also have an additional assessment of another low incidence disability such as hearing impairment will also be supported by an additional allocation made by the NCSE. Resource teaching provision is, therefore, made for children with Down's syndrome in the same manner as for other children with assessed syndromes and in accordance with the policy of my Department set out in Circular 02/05. It should be noted that, whether resource teaching hours are allocated to schools under the general allocation model or through an allocation made by the NCSE based on individual low incidence special needs, it is ultimately a matter for schools to utilise and manage these resources to best provide for the teaching needs of qualifying children. Each school will use its professional judgement to decide how the provision of additional resource teaching time and hours is made for the qualifying pupils in the school to ensure all of their individual needs are met. Additional teaching time may be provided for pupils on an individual basis or in pairs or small groups. It may also be provided in the classroom through team teaching or withdrawal to a resource teaching room. Guidance for schools on the management of their resource teaching allocations is provided in the circular, Special Education 02/05.

I advise the Senator that the NCSE which has a formal role under section 20 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 to advise the Minister for Education and Skills on any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities has been asked to provide policy advice on 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 will be included in the NCSE's policy advice on how the education system can best support children with special educational needs which will be presented to the Minister shortly. As I am not in a position to pre-empt this expert policy advice, we must await the advice received from the body with the greatest expertise in this area. I can assure the Senator, however, that the Government is very conscious that meeting students' educational needs in an equitable manner is the paramount consideration which must be kept at the centre of proposals and recommendations. The position of all children with assessed syndromes and special educational needs must be considered in any review of policy. The Minister will give full consideration to this matter once the policy advice has been received.


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