Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (407)

Brendan Howlin


548 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if officials of her Department have been in touch with school authorities in relation to their application for the appointment of additional learning support and resource teaching for a school (details supplied) in County Wexford which is necessary to keep pace with the growing numbers at the school; if disadvantaged status will be granted to this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25388/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My officials have received correspondence from the school in question concerning the level of learning support and resource teaching at the school. My Department advised the school of its teaching allocation under the weighted system in June 2004 and will be in further contact with the school shortly. I can confirm that the school has the services of a full-time shared resource teacher and shared learning support teacher.

The school has submitted six applications for special educational needs, SEN, supports for individual pupils. Four of the applications are for pupils that fall within high-incidence disability categories and should be catered for within the current resources available in the school. A further five hours' resource teaching support and five hours' special needs assistant support have been sanctioned for the remaining two pupils who fall in the lower incidence disability categories. This sanction has been conveyed to the school.

Under my Department's weighted system of allocation, the appropriate level of special needs teaching support is determined by the schools' enrolment figures and based on the following criteria: in the most disadvantaged schools, as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher-incidence special needs; in all boys' schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls' schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls' schools, including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

The revised system has been developed in consultation with representative interests. It is a genuine effort to improve the special education resource allocation process. The differentiation under the general weighted allocation reflects the experience of needs both within this country and internationally. Pupils with lower incidence special needs will continue to receive individual allocations of special educational needs resources as appropriate.

I will continue to work for improvements in the provision of education services for children with special educational needs and in this context will monitor the implementation of the new system to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. The points raised in correspondence from the school will be considered in this context. With regard to the issue of disadvantaged status for the school, my Department is finalising a review of educational disadvantage schemes with a view to building on what has been achieved to date, adopting a more systematic, targeted and integrated approach and strengthening the capacity of the system to meet the educational needs of disadvantaged children and young people.