I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 283 together.
I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils and young persons with special educational needs, including children with Down syndrome and those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure that children can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. I wish to clarify that Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are allocated to primary, post-primary and special schools to assist schools in addressing additional care needs so as to facilitate inclusion of students with special educational needs. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocates a quantum of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the care needs of all of the qualifying children enrolled in the school, and on the basis of the assessed care needs of the children, rather than solely by reference to a pupil's disability categorisation.
The criteria by which SNA support is allocated to pupils is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014. The Circular explains that schools should ensure that SNAs who work with Deaf and hard of hearing children are equipped with the skills necessary to support the particular needs of these pupils, including capacity to use Sign Language where required. The Circular also explains that, where existing SNA staff are required to be trained to provide Sign Language or specialist training (Braille, Lámh, Sign Language, Augumentive/Alternative Interventions) to assist in the provision of support for children with a specific sensory impairment, schools should ensure that the most senior SNA staff in the school are the staff that are trained in order to avoid a situation where staff trained in specialist skills may leave the school due to a reduction in the overall level of SNA support allocated to a school in future years.
Not all children with Down syndrome may require SNA support, or support from an SNA trained in sign language. However for those children with Down syndrome who have a hearing impairment to the extent that they require support form an SNA trained in sign language, this can be provided for in accordance with the terms of my Departments Circular 0030/2014.