Written answers

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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377. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the assistance or resources available to a child (details supplied); if resources are available to assist the child in the junior certificate cycle with such a request; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62466/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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My Department provides for a range of supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs, including pupils with dyscalculia, in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for the provision of special educational needs supports to schools.  The NCSE operates within the Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All primary and post primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with special educational needs, including pupils with dyscalculia.  In September 2017 the Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools and all schools received a revised allocations for the 2019/20 school year.

The new model differs significantly from the old Resource Allocation Model, in that Special Education Teacher allocation is now frontloaded into schools to support children with special educational needs.  Rather than having to make individual application to the NCSE for additional supports schools can now respond to individual needs in a flexible way and pupils do not have to have a psychological assessment, or a diagnosis of a disability, in order to access Special Education Teaching.  This means that those with highest level of need can access the highest level of support within the school in a timely manner.

It is a matter for schools to monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with the Department's guidance.  The teaching time afforded to each individual pupil is decided and managed by schools, taking into account each child's individual learning needs.

Guidelines for schools on the organisation, deployment and use of their special education teachers have been published on the Department’s website, at www.gov.ie/en/publication/56c43-supporting-pupils-and-students-with-special-educational-needs-guidelines-for-schools/

Schools are supported in this regard by the National Educational Psychological Services.

Funding is available to schools under the assistive technology scheme for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers and/or software to assist children with special educational needs. In order to qualify for equipment under the scheme, a child must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the child to access the curriculum.  It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs.  Equipment may only be provided where medical and/or other professional reports outline that the degree of communicative disability is such that this equipment is essential to allow the pupil to access education and set out how the equipment will provide for this.  An assessment indicating that equipment would achieve improvement in performance is not sufficient since this could be true in the case of any child.

Schools apply to the NCSE, through their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) for such support.  SENOs make recommendations to the Department where assistive technology is required, in accordance with the criteria set out in the Department's Circular 0010/2013.  All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child’s special educational needs, using the contact details available at ncse.ie/seno-contact-information.

Resources provided to schools also include additional training for teachers who support children with special educational needs, through the Special Education Support Service (SESS). 

The Special Education Support Service (SESS) is part of the NCSE’s Support Service, along with the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI). 

The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for teachers and continuing professional development for teachers with additional training needs. The Support Service continues to update current CPD courses and design new CPD courses in response to the needs of teachers.

Schools can apply for CPD courses directly to the NCSE on their online application process at www.sess.ie/ncsesupport.

The Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education.  Should a parent be dissatisfied with the manner in which supports have been provided to support their child's education they should raise this matter directly with their school Principal or the Board of Management of the school.  Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's present or future educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.


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