Written Answers. - Education Facilities and Services.

Chris Flood

Question:

112 Mr. Flood asked the Minister for Education the educational facilities and services available to meet the needs of visually impaired and blind children at primary school level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9368/97]

Chris Flood

Question:

113 Mr. Flood asked the Minister for Education the educational facilities and services available to meet the needs of visually impaired and blind children at second level school stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9369/97]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 113 together.

A range of special support services is available to meet the educational needs of visually impaired and blind children at primary and second level.

The precise nature of the response will depend on the severity of the disability and the needs of the particular children. In some cases, the children will be capable of attending ordinary primary or second level schools with the support, where necessary, of remedial teachers, resource teachers, visiting teachers or additional tuition hours.

Where the nature of the disability is more serious, placement in a special school dedicated to the needs of such children may be the most appropriate response. There are two such schools at present. St. Joseph's Special School, Drumcondra, caters for boys at primary level. St. Mary's Special School, Merrion, caters for girls of primary and post-primary age. Boys of post-primary age are catered for at Pobal Scoil Rosmini, Drumcondra. My Department makes special grant support available at both primary and post-primary level to facilitate the purchase of special equipment such as computers and braillers to assist children with visual impairment.
Since my appointment as Minister for Education I have reduced the pupil teacher ratio in special schools and classes for children with visual impairment from 10:1 to 9:1. I have also substantially increased the special rate of capitation funding payable in respect of such children. Prior to my appointment, the special capitation rate for visually impaired children was £132 per child. It now stands at £307 for children under 12 years and £372 for children of 12 years or over.
I am satisfied that since my appointment as Minister for Education I have achieved substantial improvement across the entire spectrum of special needs, including provision for children with visual impairment. I would be anxious to continue this process.