Written answers

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Photo of John LyonsJohn Lyons (Dublin North West, Labour)
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539. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills why the term unit is used to describe special needs classes; if this term is seen by many families as suggesting that their children should be contained or kept separate from other children; if she will change this term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44075/15]

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I wish to advise the Deputy that the policy of my Department is that children with special educational needs, including children with autism, should be included, where possible and appropriate, in mainstream school placements with additional supports provided. In circumstances where children with special educational need require more specialised interventions, special school or special class places are also available.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has recently submitted their Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

In developing this policy advice, the NCSE has consulted widely with parents, professionals and other stakeholders and interested parties while also conducting research. The NCSE has advised that during this consultation process stakeholders raised concerns in relation to the use of the term "unit" in relation to ASD classes.

The policy advice is currently under consideration in my Department. My officials will consider and report to me on any recommendations in the report which relate to the issue raised by the Deputy.

In the interim I will continue to keep this issue under review.

Photo of Noel HarringtonNoel Harrington (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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540. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for a special needs assistant by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44168/15]

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support, which is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014.

Circular 0030/2014 sets out the policy of allocating SNA support for a newly enrolling Junior Infant who has clear and obvious need for such support e.g. a child who has a significant additional care need arising from an intellectual, sensory or physical disability.

For those children where it is not yet clear whether difficulties will manifest in a classroom environment, the Circular states that, in general, it is expected that all primary school pupils having their first school experience will have been enrolled and will have commenced attending school before any application for SNA support will be made. Particularly in relation to possible anticipated behavioural difficulties, it is more appropriate to wait until the child begins school in order to see how they have been able to engage in the classroom.

In considering applications for SNA support from post primary schools the NCSE will take into account the importance of the requirement to allocate necessary care supports with the right of a child to acquire personal independence skills.

The deployment of SNAs within schools, once allocated, is then a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

All schools were asked to apply for SNA support for the 2015/16 school year by 18th March 2015. The NCSE has also continued to accept applications after this date in recognition that enrolments may not have been completed or where assessments were not completed. The NCSE has published details of SNA allocations for schools for the current school year on its website.

Details of the manner in which a school or parent may appeal the level of SNA or resource teaching allocation which has been made to support a child in school, to the NCSE, is set out at www.ncse.ie.

All schools have the contact details of their local SENO, while Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

As this question relates to an allocation for an individual child, I will arrange to have the matter referred to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply to the Deputy.


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