Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (58)

Alan Farrell

Question:

58. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline his long-term plan for special needs education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32163/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the level of resources devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained at €1.3 billion this year. This includes provision for 10,575 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and nearly 10,000 Learning Support and Resource Teachers. These resources have been protected despite the ongoing severe financial position. The ongoing commitment of my Government to protecting front-line supports for children with special educational needs is an acknowledgment of the important role played by SNAs and resource teachers in ensuring that children with special needs can progress and develop and be included in mainstream school settings. The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. The NCSE have now published their policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which is available on the website www.ncse.ie. In preparing this policy advice the NCSE consulted widely with parents of children with special educational needs, representative bodies and the education partners.The NCSE Report is clear that there are many aspects of the current system which parents and schools are very happy with. However, the NCSE also considers that there are concerns in relation to some aspects of our current system, under the headings of Enrolment, Assessments, and the Supports for children with Special Educational Needs and their allocation. The Report makes 28 detailed recommendations which the NCSE feels would help to address these issues. The recommendations in the Report are both interesting and significant. They deserve in-depth and detailed examination and exploration. Accordingly, I have asked my Department to carefully review the recommendations and report back to me on them. The report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category. I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools.In the interim, I wish to ensure that children will not be disadvantaged while we move towards a new model which will ensure greater fairness and quality of education for children with special educational needs. That is why I have made the decision to maintain the existing allocation levels this year.