Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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167. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the provisions made for leaving certificate students that have learning and behavioural difficulties that would have previously had access to school counsellors, school mentorships, local Youthreach and other resources but as a result of Covid-19 can no longer access such resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5649/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced the postponement of the 2020 Leaving Certificate examinations. Revised arrangements are being put in place to offer students the option of Calculated Grades for the 2020 Leaving Certificate but also to guarantee them the right to sit the examinations at a later stage when it is safe to hold them in the normal way. 

Engagement is currently ongoing with an advisory group of stakeholders includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations Commission, the National Educational Psychological Service, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Department, in relation to the 2020 State Examinations.

Detailed guidance will be provided for schools on how to formulate and submit data for Calculated Grades.

In relation to students with special needs in Leaving Certificate year - where any reasonable accommodation has been approved by the SEC for any student, such as a reader or scribe, schools will be asked to base their estimate of the student’s likely performance on the assumption that this accommodation would have been available.

My Department has also provided a range of support and guidance for schools on how to provide for the continuing education for pupils over the current school closure period.

Supports are provided to schools and teachers engaged in distance learning and these are available at

In additional to the general guidance that has been provided for schools, additional support material has also been provided specifically on how schools should provide for the continuity of education for children with special educational needs.

The guidance describes the school guidance programme and specifies how the guidance needs of students are to be addressed.  It is an integral part of the school's overall school development plan.

The guidance notes that there is a particular need for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) to have regular, ongoing schooling. While all pupils need to be supported to maintain their engagement in learning, those with SEN are among those who need most support at this time. Examples of strategies and measures to ensure that the needs of pupils with SEN are catered for, are provided in the guidance documents and a range of resources are also identified for parents.

It sets out the role of schools and teachers in engaging with pupils with SEN and the role of teachers and school leaders to support such pupils. It advises schools as to how best to keep in touch with parents and guardians and how to keep pupils with SEN safe and engaged in the distance learning environment.

The guidance sets out the role of the special education teacher to support children with special educational needs at this time. It notes that the special education teacher’s knowledge of their pupils’ priority learning needs and agreed targets, as outlined in the pupil support file, will enable them to work with parents and guardians to choose appropriate supports in a remote learning environment.

Special Education Teachers (SETs) are asked to carefully examine how progress on the existing learning targets in student support plans can be reasonably extended by home learning. They are asked to use this knowledge to communicate with the pupils and their parents and guardians and to establish what methods will work best to achieve continuity of learning for the pupils.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is also providing a range of online resources for parents and teachers to support home learning for children with special educational needs during the Covid 19 restrictions.

In addition to the normal supports, the NCSE is providing online resources for children with Special Educational Needs who are at home as a result of the schools’ closure.

Supports provided include those relating to general learning and difficulties for pupils with SEN, Curriculum support, speech language and communication, occupational therapy support, guidance around behaviour, and learning and rresources on ‘Visiting Teachers Support’ for a teacher who teaches children with sensory impairment

Details of the full range of supports that the NCSE provides for teachers and parents is available at:

The Department of Education and Skills’ NEPS psychologists have also developed advice and resources for young people to manage and stay well when schools are closed. The NEPS advice & resources for keeping children and young people well during Covid-19 are available at

Guidelines for continued provision of Guidance Counselling and resources available to support practice is available at

Guidance for parents of primary school pupils, which sets out what they should expect in relation to engagement in distance learning from schools, and how they can support their child in a home schooling environment is also available at:

I also recently announced that a special €10 million fund is being made available to support the purchase of technology and devices for disadvantaged students, including students with special educational needs.

This is additional to the latest round of funding for ICT under the Digital Strategy for Schools whereby €40m grant funding will be distributed in the coming weeks to eligible. €10m additional funding is also now issuing to schools to support children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage during the period of school closures.

While recognising the difficulty that school closure has had for parents and pupils, particularly in relation to pupils with special educational needs, my Department will continue to support and encourage schools to provide as much continuity of education as possible for such pupils, while continuing to engage with public health officials and stakeholders in relation to when schools may re-open and operate in a safe manner that is consistent with public health advice.

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