Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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279. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the impact of the decision by her Department to stop banking SET hours lost by the lack of substitute availability to cover SET absences; if she will acknowledge the negative impact identified by an organisation (details supplied) that this will have on the most vulnerable children in schools as provision of SETs was never restored to pre austerity levels as promised; if she will consider the significant difficulties this decision will place on classes divided up into bubbles and pods that cannot accommodate moving children between classes when a teacher is out, therefore necessitating the use of the SET in class; if her Department will review this decision with a view to a reversal of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49389/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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I wish to advise the Deputy that there is no facility to carryover hours from one school year to the next. Hours accumulated in any given school year must be utilised in the same school year.

Where hours were accumulated due to a school receiving a backdated increase to their Special Education Teaching hours, or due to a Special Education Teacher being used to cover substitution, as an emergency measure, schools were advised that any loss of special education teaching time should be made up at the first available opportunity by employing additional teaching resources to make up for the shortfall.

DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools set out the details of the model for allocating special education teachers to schools. DES Circulars 007 and 008 of 2019 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.

The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in the Primary and Post Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2021/22 school year.

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: ncse.ie/for-schools

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