Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Department of Education and Science
Special Educational Needs
I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 88 together.
The Deputies will be aware that the 2007 Programme for Government committed to the long-term funding for the centres in the ABA pilot scheme subject to agreement with my Department on standards that will enable them to be supported as primary schools for children with autism. Agreement on transitional arrangements for the pilot centres was reached following a long process of discussions and engagement with the representative body of the pilot centres. I am pleased to advise you that I have been able to respond positively to applications for recognition as special schools from all of the centres in the pilot scheme and all the centres have now been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism.
Managers have been appointed by the Patrons to manage the transitional process from centre to special school. The schools have now advertised for the posts of Principal Teacher. As part of the transition process, my Department is arranging for training in a range of autism-specific interventions for the new Principals and Teachers once they have been appointed. In addition, training has been provided for the Managers and the new Boards of Management. It is my intention to continue to support the transitional process.
In relation to the issues raised by this question it is important to clarify for the Deputies that although reference is made in the correspondence supplied to two centres only one of them is participating in the pilot scheme and therefore currently transitioning to special school status. The key issue raised follows from an arrangement bilaterally agreed between both Centres. My Department was not party to the arrangement. On request officials from my Department facilitated a meeting of the Boards recently to discuss the position. However I must emphasise that the resolution of funding and enrolment issues are a matter for the Boards locally. It is also important to clarify for the Deputies that in the meantime placements are available for the children concerned. Furthermore I wish to advise the Deputies that the request for the retraction or release of the HSE report on the centre in question is a matter for the HSE.