Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Tom Hayes

Question:

38 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide teacher training in the special needs module to deal with autism for all teachers who qualified before 1998. [21732/02]

It is the policy of my Department that all teachers working with children with special educational needs, including those with autism, will have relevant training. In this regard my Department does not distinguish between teachers who graduated before 1998 and those who graduated after that date.

There has been a major increase in recent years in the level of additional teaching resources made available by my Department to assist schools in catering for children with special educational needs, including children with autism. These additional appointments, however, bring with them the need for additional training in the special needs area and this is being addressed on an ongoing basis.

Particular emphasis has been placed on meeting, in a variety of ways, the training needs of teachers with responsibility for children with autism. My Department has provided a wide range of short intensive courses for teachers in this area, including a very successful e-learning summer course on autism which was available throughout the months of July and August 2002. In addition, a specially selected autism training team is, as a matter of priority, continuing its in-service programme in the current year for resource teachers in primary schools. Furthermore, my Department, in conjunction with the University of Birmingham and St. Patrick's College of Education, also currently provides a professional development course on autism for teachers dealing with this area of disability. A total of 75 teachers have already benefited from this valuable training.
As well as availing of many other opportunities to enhance the knowledge and skills of relevant teachers in the area of autism, my Department has funded one of the colleges of education to enable it to research and develop an appropriate training model for the delivery of in-career development for whole school staffs. This work, which will be carried out in collaboration with other colleges of education, recognises the importance of whole school intervention for children with special educational needs and, in this context, will be of particular benefit to children with autism.