The Deputy has clarified that she is referring to private pre-schools which are attended by children using their home tuition grant. The Home Tuition Scheme provides a grant to parents to facilitate the provision of education at home for children who, for specified reasons, are unable to attend school or for whom a school placement is not available. It is generally the case that home tuition is provided at the child's home. However, some parents of young children with autism who are eligible for home tuition requested that my Department accommodate the tuition being provided in a group setting offered by a private provider. My Department has facilitated arrangements with a small number of private preschool providers, subject to specific terms and conditions. As home tuition takes place outside the usual school structure it is important that tutors are qualified to provide an educational programme. Accordingly it is a condition of the scheme that tutors are fully qualified teachers registered with the Teaching Council. My Department's inspectorate previously reviewed the education being provided by one of the private preschool providers in question which involved engagement with the primary teachers they employed. Further inspections are currently being arranged for the private pre-schools with whom arrangements have been recently agreed.
The Deputy will be aware that my Department's preferred approach is that, where possible, children are educated in school settings where they may have access to individualised education programmes, fully-qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants, the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports and establishing special classes, including early intervention classes for children with autism, as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.