Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan


189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance, if any, available in respect of a person (detail supplied) in County Kildare who suffers from a disability and is in full-time second level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22320/98]

I am not aware of the case referred to by the Deputy. However, I understand that the person in question is seeking financial assistance towards the cost of education at a fee-paying second level school recognised by my Department.

All fee charging schools receive teacher allocations from my Department in accordance with the normal criteria governing such allocations. As teacher salaries represent the single most significant item of expenditure by a school, I would hope that the Department's salary grant would be seen as a significant contribution towards the education of pupils attending these schools.

The overall rationale governing spending in the education area is to make reasonable education provision for all eligible pupils including pupils with special needs. Generally, where it is considered that adequate provision exists within the free education scheme, my Department does not grant aid attendance at schools outside of the scheme.

It is open to the parents to have the child concerned enrolled in a school in the free education scheme. My Department can provide assistance in securing a suitable placement if desired. In addition, arrangements can be made to have the nature of any special needs assessed by my Department's psychological service with a view to making appropriate educational provision in the case.

John McGuinness


190 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether a serious error was made in assessing the ability of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny when an examination was carried out in 1990 by a psychologist appointed by his Department which failed to detect that he was dyslexic; if his Department will review the way his educational needs were met based on the psychologist's report and compare this to his real needs at the time as a dyslexic; his views on the damage done to his career due to the lack of understanding in the education provided; if his Department will agree to provide special funding or a second chance to re-skill this person in the area of gardening or an apprenticeship of this kind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22332/98]

The person referred to in the question was assessed by a psychologist from my Department's psychological service in mid-May 1991. The sole purpose of this assessment was to determine the person's eligibility for special arrangements in the then intermediate certificate examination. The assessment was carried out as a result of an application to the examinations branch of the Department for special arrangements for the particular candidate.

After carrying out the assessment a recommendation was made to examinations branch, by the psychologist concerned, in accordance with the procedures applying.

With regard to the purpose of the assessment, it is not accepted that an error was made either in the assessment or in implementing the appropriate procedures. It is considered that the recommendation made by the psychologist was in accordance with the criteria for determining eligibility for special arrangements in the public certificate examinations in respect of candidates having specific learning disabilities.
No other request was received by the psychological service of my Department, in respect of the student referred to, prior to the application for consideration under the special arrangements in State examinations scheme as it applied at the time.
Subsequently, one of the student's parents made contact by telephone with the psychologist concerned on a number of occasions in order to discuss the learning difficulties the student experienced. During the course of these discussions the psychologist advised that the parent should seek help from a local branch of a voluntary organisation which provided assistance to those having particular learning difficulties.
It is my understanding, as well, that the post-primary school attended by the student, during the period of the junior cycle, made arrangements to provide additional tuition in order to help with the learning difficulties experienced. The student ceased to attend school after taking the intermediate certificate examination. In the course of further correspondence with the Department, the parents were advised to seek assistance from the local adult education organiser. I consider that appropriate efforts were made to meet the problems as they presented. My Department reviewed and inquired into the responses made in this particular case over a year ago as a result of continuing correspondence about the matter and considered then that appropriate steps had been taken. My Department will, however, communicate further and directly with the young person concerned, in order to offer to arrange for vocational guidance.