Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (108, 109, 110, 111, 112)

John Bruton

Question:

105 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm the initiatives his Department are implementing in opening a school to assist children who have autism in the Dublin south area, as the Department has yet to sanction permission for the school to be built; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2577/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I am most anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders receive education appropriate to their needs.

My Department is actively considering applications from CABAS, Dublin and Saplings, Kildare, for autistic provision in South County Dublin. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, in this regard. A response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

106 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science , further to Parliamentary Question No. 117 of 27 November 2003, if further progress has been made on the proposals for the Drogheda CABAS School; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2586/04]

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Dan Boyle

Question:

110 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will guarantee support at current levels, with current expertise, whilst retaining the ongoing programme and ethos of CABAS schools. [2612/04]

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David Stanton

Question:

111 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the Drogheda CABAS school which is at pilot status up to 2004; if he will ensure the future of the facilities and the method of education at the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2658/04]

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I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 110 and 111 together.

I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department intends to take a measured approach to considering the future of the three CABAS facilities in Dublin, Cork and Drogheda. My approach will be to ensure continuity of provision for the pupils in question. My Department appreciates the concerns of parents for greater certainty and in this regard, I wish to confirm that my Department is prepared to continue to provide funding for three CABAS facilities for the next school year 2004-05.

I hope this clarification will ease parents' concerns. My Department will, in due course, consider the reports of the inspectorate on autism specific provisions and any issues arising therefrom will be raised directly with the relevant managements.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

107 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when resource teaching hours will be sanctioned for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2594/04]

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Special education resource, SER, applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by the school referred to by the Deputy, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.