Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
260. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the recent decision by her Department to stop allowing banking special education teacher hours lost by lack of substitute availability to cover special education teacher absences given that special education teacher hours have never been returned to pre-austerity levels; and if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties this change will cause for primary schools in disadvantaged areas in particular. [49225/21]
Among the COVID-19 supports provided for the 2020/21 school year, additional measures for the provision of substitution were introduced. The Substitute Teacher Supply Panel was extended and currently almost 380 newly appointed Supply Panel teachers are employed, providing substitute cover to over 2,500 schools across the country. These substitute Supply Panels are not the sole means whereby schools source substitutes but are set up to work alongside the existing methods of sourcing substitute teachers such as through a school’s own panel of regular substitutes or the national substitution portal service "Sub Seeker", operated by IPPN.
As a measure of last resort, schools were permitted to use non-mainstream class teachers last year to provide cover for teacher absences in limited circumstances. Due to the successful roll out of the vaccination programme, teacher absences due to Covid-19 should be reduced this year. Therefore using non-mainstream class teachers should no longer be necessary and schools should revert to using the normal sequence of filling substitute positions and should plan to ensure access to substitutes in this manner. This will ensure that the disruption to teaching and learning provided by non-classroom teachers will be avoided.
DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools set out the details of the model for allocating special education teachers to schools. DES Circulars 0072019 set out how the allocations for schools are being updated from September 2019.
The Special Education Teacher allocation process provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile. Under the allocation model, schools are provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile. The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need in each school.
Under the allocation model schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile, to provide supports immediately to those pupils who need it without delay. This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require resource hours. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis. In order to minimise disruption for schools, in the current circumstances, and to provide for continuity of allocations, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Special Education and Inclusion have agreed to maintain the existing Special Education Teacher Allocations for schools for the 2021/22 school year, with re profiled allocations now due to be made from September 2022.
Additional allocations will continue to be made for new schools, schools which achieve developing status, or for exceptional circumstances arising in schools, in the interim. Schools who qualify for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria also qualify for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status. It is also acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the allocations for developing school status. These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations. A process is available where schools can seek a review of their allocations by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile. If a school wishes to make an exceptional needs review, they may do so at the following link: www.nsce.ie/for-schools