Thursday, 13 May 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
The Government has approved the provision of significantly expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021.
This is an incredibly important Government decision, which ensures that for first time all primary and post primary schools have the opportunity to provide summer programmes for students with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage.
The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.
The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those in provided in DEIS schools last year.
Enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage schools to offer the programme, including measures to reduce the administrative burden, provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes, earlier payment of school staff and provision to recruit newly qualified teachers graduating this summer to work on the programme.
The programme’s aims are to support students to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote well-being and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.
A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for students with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school based programme.
The programmes were developed following extensive engagement with education and disability stakeholders. My Department is now working to ensure the necessary supports, guidance and information is made available to both schools and families.
I encourage the school communities to take full advantage of this opportunity and offer this valuable programme to their students.
78. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the review of the pilot scheme of delivering therapeutic support to a regionally grouped set of schools and preschools has been completed in order that her Department is in a position to extend the scheme to a new catchment resources permitting. [24038/21]
The School Inclusion Model (SIM) is based on policy advice from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) based on the principle of providing the right support at the right time delivered by a range of personnel with relevant qualifications and skill-sets.
On 12 February 2019, Government approved the trialling of a new School Inclusion Model (SIM) for the 2019/20 school year in the CHO7 area of West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow.
The purpose of the pilot is to develop a holistic model of support for students with a view to achieving better outcomes. The Model includes the provision of therapeutic supports including speech and language and occupational therapy in schools, a change in the way special needs assistants are allocated for mainstream classes, increased psychological support and more training and professional supports for schools.
Independent evaluation is a central element of the pilot, the outcome of which will guide the future development of the Model.
The SIM pilot was disrupted with the closure of schools as a result of COVID-19 from March to September 2020 and again in January 2021. The HSE therapists who had been working in schools as part of the School Inclusion Model (SIM) were reassigned to Covid related priority work in the health services. Consequently, the pilot has been paused since March 2020.
Because SIM is a priority for Government, additional funding was provided in Budget 2021 to extend the Model to two new areas from September next.
With the full reopening of schools on 12 April, planning for the resumption of SIM and its expansion to the two areas is now underway. Consultation with schools, education stakeholders and relevant Governments Departments and agencies is underway. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the matter over coming months.
As the Deputy will be aware schools are allocated special educational support based on their educational profile. There are currently over 13,600 Special Education Teachers allocated to mainstream primary and post primary schools. The Special Education Teacher allocation process provides a single unified allocation for special education support teaching needs to each school, based on each schools education profile.
Depending on the number of hours allocated, the school can employ a full-time teacher or cluster with other schools to employ a teacher on a shared basis. Where a school does not form a cluster with another school, the school will apply to the Department to have these hours recorded on the Online Claims System (OLCS) as part-time Special Education Teaching hours. Schools can then choose to utilise these hours to employ a teacher for a specified period towards the end of the year.
The current position is that there are 22,415 part-time Special Education Teacher (SET) hours which is the equivalent of 24.5 full-time teaching posts remaining on the OLCS to be utilised by 201 schools in the primary school sector in the current school year.
Some schools bank their hours to be used and employ a teacher toward the end of the year. Ultimately it is a matter for the school authority to identify how best to use their hours to support the children in the school.
It is not possible to extract the number of hours remaining for Secondary, Community or Comprehensive Schools as this information is not recorded separately from other part-time hour allocations.