Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Questions (90)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

90. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans regarding the training of undergraduate level teaching staff for persons with Down's syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15530/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware of this Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. My Department allocates significant resources to ensure that pupils with special educational needs, including pupils with Down's syndrome, can participate fully in education. Supports are provided for schools in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to individualised education programmes, fully-qualified professional teachers, Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, the appropriate school curriculum with the option, where possible and appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. In relation to initial teacher education, while special education has long been a feature of initial teacher education (ITE) programmes, the Teaching Council, the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the registration of teachers, requires the reconceptualised and extended Bachelor of Education programmes which commenced in 2012, to address a number of specific elements including differentiation, inclusive education including special education and literacy and numeracy. The learning outcomes of these programmes indicate that the graduate teacher should be able to conduct a systematic, holistic assessment of learner needs, to apply knowledge of the individual potential of students, their disposition towards learning and their backgrounds, identities and learning styles to their teaching, to set clear, challenging and achievable expectations for pupils, to evaluate learner progress, to act as an advocate for students, referring students for educational support as required and participating in the provision of that support, amongst other relevant outcomes. Student teachers may also have access to additional elective courses with content focussing on special education. All primary teachers are qualified to teach in any primary or special school classroom. Teachers have access, through the Special Education Support Service, to continuing professional development. My Department also funds a number of Post-Graduate Programmes for teachers involved in Learning Support and Special Education. These programmes are specifically designed to assist all schools and educational services in meeting the needs of students requiring learning support and the teaching of students with special educational needs. Since 2007, some 2,000 teachers have completed these programmes. I am satisfied that current arrangements are adequate to ensure that teachers receive the necessary initial education and have access to quality continuous professional development programmes during their career so that they are in a position to meet the needs of students.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 87.