Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (89)

Finian McGrath

Question:

175 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the process for the urgent need of 4,000 special needs assistants will be accelerated in order to assist children with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6393/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the balance of 4,000 applications for special education resources, SER, received from schools between 15 February 2003 and 31 August 2003.

SER applications received in my Department in that period 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 before or soon after 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.