I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils and young persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
In line with my Department's policy that children with special educational needs access appropriate education intervention in mainstream settings where possible, many Deaf or 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 (SNA) support. In addition, there are 2 Special schools in Dublin for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing who require a Special School placement. An enhanced capitation grant is provided to these schools as well as enhanced pupil teacher ratios and SNA support, where required. 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 an Irish Sign language (ISL) 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 ISL for these children, their siblings and parents. 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 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. The service is available at pre-school, primary and post-primary levels.
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, bi-lingualism 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.
I wish to advise the Deputy that people with disabilities, including those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, are eligible to access FÁS mainstream services. FÁS provides 2,110 specialist vocational training places for people with disabilities who do not avail of the mainstream options through Specialist Training Providers (STPs). Learners on Specialist Training programmes have the opportunity to participate in training ranging from FETAC level 3 to level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). All training programmes delivered through these interventions address both the generic and vocational skills requirements of participating learners.
Specialist training offers additional supports to learners which include individualised training and progression plans, literacy and numeracy support, longer training duration, adapted equipment, transport arrangements, enhanced programme content and enhanced trainer/learner ratio. Finally, the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) scheme also provides a third level admissions scheme for school leavers who have a disability or specific learning difficulty, including Deafness. Students who are considered to be DARE eligible may secure a college place on a reduced points basis. Details of the DARE scheme are available at www. accesscollege.ie. Additional supports for young adults with special educational needs are also provided by Disability Officers in third level colleges.
I understand that the Deputy has submitted this question also to the Departments of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation and Social Protection who will advise further in this regard