Written answers

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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180. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 248 of 15 April 2014 in view of his confirmation that over 500 autism spectrum disorder units were opened without a single circular having been issued by his Department on the way to operate the ASD units and that the schools instead received the direct support of the NCSE/SENO or the inspectorate and the relevant NEPS psychologist, and in view of his direct responsibility for the inspectorate and NEPS, if he will provide copies of the documentation issued by NEPS and the inspectorate to these schools and the documentation received from the NCSE by his Department on the way to operate these units; and in the absence of forwarding this documentation with his reply, whether it can be assumed that no documentation exists and that all of the direct support for these schools was always only done verbally by NEPS, the inspectorate and the NCSE. [19157/14]

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
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The NCSE local network of Special Educational Needs Organisers provide support to schools in relation to the establishment of special classes. SENOs may support schools by meeting with Principals to provide information on the resources and supports available for schools which may include, for example, access to specialist staff training. SENOS liaise with NEPs personnel at local level, where appropriate, to inform Principals.

The NEPS service to all schools, including schools where there are ASD classes, is progressed through the Continuum of Support Guidelines which encompasses a graduated problem solving model of assessment and intervention. NEPS service is planned and delivered following planning meetings in schools where needs are prioritised. In addition to case work, NEPS supports schools in developing more systemic and preventative approaches to meeting the needs of pupils with SEN in line with priorities highlighted in the planning meetings.

My Department's inspectorate has a role in evaluating, advising and supporting schools and the Deputy may be interested in their evaluation of educational provision for children with autism spectrum disorders which is available on my Department's website www.education.ie. The website also has details of general guidelines and circulars with regard to the Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs in our schools.

It is not possible to say whether an individual school received documentation as part of the support and guidance provided by either NEPS or the Inspectorate when their ASD unit was opened. Also it can not be assumed that no documentation exists.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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181. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 15 April 2014 in view of the importance of the model A document in the Ó Cuanacháin High Court case, which lasted 68 days and whose judgment was delivered on 16 May 2007 in which model A was referred to over 100 times, and in view of the confirmation from him that responsibility for policy resides with the Minister of the Department, if he will provide details of the exact date of the decision by the then Minister that model A should become outdated; if he will provide a copy of the briefing note prepared for him at that time that formed the basis for that important decision or, in the absence of forwarding this documentation with his reply, whether it can be assumed that no documentation exists and that there is no written record of that ministerial decision. [19158/14]

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
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As previously advised models responding to the differential needs of children with autism were developed over time as a result of engagement between administrative and professional staff from within and external to my Department.

Subsequently it was recognised that the model concept was complex and multi-purpose. It was determined that parents of children with autism should have three distinct choices available to them; their child could either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they could attend a special class in a mainstream school or they could attend a special school.

However it's important to clarify that what was portrayed by the model concept was not disregarded, rather the scenarios described by the models were simplified. Elements of teaching frameworks, whole school training and the extended school year remain features of current provision. As the model terminology was primarily internal the discontinuation of its use did not require a Ministerial decision.

In the course of the period of transfer from the Department to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which fully concluded in or around 2008, the language around models had fallen into disuse and was replaced by the type of correspondence between schools and the NCSE which is seen largely today.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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182. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 15 April 2014 in view of the fact that model A stated the special needs assistants would also receive applied behaviour analysis training and in view of his reply that the discontinuation of the model concept in favour of the mainstream, special class and special school provision did not materially alter the provision being made for children with autism, if he will confirm that special needs assistants are currently not provided with the training in ABA as required under model A and that this change in approach from model A does materially alter the provision being made for children with autism. [19159/14]

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
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Applied Behavioural Analysis, or ABA, is one of the approaches used in special classes for children with autism. The use of ABA as part of the range of interventions is particularly useful for addressing behavioural issues. My Department supports the use of ABA and training is provided for teachers in its use.

As previously advised my Department provides for a comprehensive system of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers in the area of special educational needs including teachers of children with autism.

The brief of the Special Education Support service (SESS) is to enhance the quality of learning and teaching of students with special educational needs through the provision of CPD and support for teachers in mainstream schools, primary and post-primary special schools, and special classes. The SESS also provides whole school training at the request of schools and this can include training for Special Needs Assistants.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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183. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 251 of 15 April 2014 the reason he changed his approach from that expressed by him on 14 March 2013 when he indicated that his Department is currently in the process of preparing a comprehensive statement of existing policy within the boundaries of one document as well as his reply on 28 January 2014 in which he stated he saw no merit in revising the existing format of the current policy in advance of the publication of the new policy advice, which, he has now indicated, will not be available until Spring 2015, over two and a half years after the Ombudsman for Children recommended in October 2012 that the policy should be issued promptly. [19160/14]

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Ombudsman for Children encouraged my Department to consider publishing a policy document on educating children with autism. As noted by the Deputy my Department advised in March 2013 that it was preparing to bring together all of the facets of the policy on the education of children with autism into one document to provide further clarity on the issue.

In the interim I requested the National Council Special Education (NCSE) to bring forward policy advice on the education of children with autism. The NCSE has advised my Department that the Policy Advice will be delivered in the spring of 2015 and will draw upon findings gathered from an extensive consultation process which has already commenced.

I expect that the NCSE final report will reflect the broadest possible range of views and provide recommendations which will assist the development of policy for future years. Therefore I see no merit in revising the existing format of the current policy in advance of the publication of the new policy advice.

However my officials are currently compiling an information pamphlet for parents of children with autism in consultation with NCSE ; the pamphlet is aimed at informing parents and guardians of my Department's policy on the education of children with autism and the supports and services available to them.

The Ombudsman for Children's office supports this approach to the aforementioned encouragement.

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