Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Nora Owen

Question:

627 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Education and Science the resources he has given and will give to the special autism unit operating in a national school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [7674/01]

Two special classes for pupils with autism were established in the school in question in September 2000. In order to facilitate this development, two teaching posts and two special needs assistant posts were allocated by my Department in June 2000. Each of the classes in question operates at a maximum pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 and each class has special needs assistant support. A special rate of capitation funding of £447 per annum is paid in respect of each pupil attending the classes in question. The pupils are also entitled to a range of therapeutic support services provided by the relevant health authorities.

An initial start-up equipment grant of £1,000 was issued to the school in July 2000 and in December 2000 my Department's building unit issued a once-off grant of £10,000 to support the special classes. A further grant of £1,660 issued recently under the IT 2000 initiative in respect of computer equipment for the school.

I have recently announced a new range of measures to enhance the quality and range of special education services for children with autism. These measures include a doubling of the level of special needs assistant cover in all special classes catering for children with autism and the extension of the education programmes in such classes through the month of July. In keeping with this development, my Department has recently sanctioned two additional special needs assistants for the two classes in question. My Department is also finalising arrangements to extend the programme for the children in question through the month of July.
I recently met with the parents of some of the children attending the special classes for autism at the school in question. The parents have sought the support of my Department on a range of issues relating to services for their children. I have undertaken to address these issues and my Department will be in contact with the school authorities in relation to these matters.