Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (229)

Gerry Adams


229. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he has put in place to tackle educational disadvantage for deaf children. [12874/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I can confirm that there are currently 11 special classes for pupils with hearing impairment attached to mainstream primary schools, 5 special class at post-primary level and 3 special schools. An enhanced capitation grant is provided to the special schools and special classes for hearing impaired pupils.

Pupils in special classes and special schools for hearing impaired children are supported by enhanced pupil teacher ratios of 7:1. Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support is also provided in these schools and classes, as required.

In line with my Department's policy that children with special educational needs (SEN) access appropriate education intervention in mainstream settings where possible, many deaf/ hard of hearing pupils are integrated into mainstream classes at primary and post-primary level with the assistance, as necessary, of resource teaching and special needs assistant support.

Grant-aid is also provided to schools towards the provision of special equipment for pupils who are hard of hearing, such as sound field systems and radio aids.

My Department also provides funding for a weekly home tuition service whereby tutors visit the homes of deaf and hard of hearing pre-school children and school-going pupils to provide training in Irish Sign Language (ISL) for these children, their siblings and parents.

In addition, the Visiting Teacher Service for Children and Young People with a Hearing Impairment is provided by my Department from the time of referral through to third level education. The Visiting Teacher service provides advice and support to ensure that the needs of children and young people with hearing impairment are met. This service is available at pre-school, primary and post-primary levels. Specifically, the service works in partnership with parents of pre-school children with hearing impairment, visiting their homes and/or meeting them in groups to inform, advise and offer guidance in matters pertaining to their education and overall development and in helping their children to derive maximum benefit from the educational opportunities available.

My Department, through the Higher Education Authority (HEA), has established and funds a Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College, Dublin which provides diploma courses for ISL/English interpreters, deaf tutors and in deaf studies. The course modules deal with issues such as sign linguistics, bilingualism and socio-linguistics of sign language. The course is delivered in seminar sessions/group work and the award of the diploma is based on continued assessment and a project and course design.

Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published Policy Advice on the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland, which makes a number of recommendations for the improvement of educational provision for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.

This policy advice is available on the NCSE's website www.ncse.ie. My Department has established a working group which will consider and implement the recommendations of this report in accordance with available resources.