Written answers

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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179. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children whose parents have been forced to decline an early intervention class due to the distance from home involved. [33536/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is the body responsible for organising and planning provision for children with Special Educational Needs, including establishing ASD early intervention classes and special classes in mainstream primary and post primary schools.

There are currently 126 Early Intervention classes for children with ASD in recognised primary and special schools. Early Intervention classes are supported with a pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 and also have Special Needs Assistant support normally amounting to 2 SNAs for a class of 6 children.

From the age of three children with autism (who will not reach the age of 6 during the current school year) can enrol in these early intervention settings. Where such a placement is not available home tuition can be provided.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents/guardians of the child and the Board of Management of a school.

However, parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

The SENO can also advise parents in relation to supports which may be available to support children with special educational needs, including special transport arrangements which may be made available.

The Deputy may be aware that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs provides supports for childcare, including pre-school education.

The principal vehicle for the delivery of pre-school education is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which was introduced in January 2010 and provides for early learning in a formal setting to children in the year before they commence primary school. 

Children with disabilities have access to pre-school services under a new Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) programme of supports, which was announced in June 2016, by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, depending on the needs of the child and the pre-school.

The supports include:

- A new Inclusion Charter for the Early Years sector, alongside updated and strengthened Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education.

- In relation to the qualifications of early years practitioners, a new higher education programme for early years practitioners (LINC) commenced in September 2016.

- A new national specialist service which is based in the Better Start National Early Years Quality Development Service will provide expert advice, mentoring and support to pre-school providers from a team of 50 specialists in early years care and education for children with disabilities.

- A new national scheme will provide specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations which are necessary to support a child's participation in the ECCE programme.

- A new national scheme will also provide additional capitation to pre-school providers where this is critical to fund extra support in the classroom and enable a child's participation in pre-school.  

Details of the supports which are available under AIM can be found at www.preschoolaccess.ie which contains comprehensive information on the access and inclusion model and on how to apply for the new schemes and supports.  For children attending a private pre-school through the ECCE programme, questions relating to the AIM supports should be addressed to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

My Department does not collect or retain information on the number of children who are not enrolled in early intervention classes for any reason. Where parents decide not to seek such placements or where such placements are available but the option to enrol is not exercised by a parent, the decision is a matter for the parent/s in the first instance.


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