My Department allocates significant resources to ensure that pupils with special educational needs, including deaf and hard of hearing pupils, can participate fully in education. The policy of my Department is that children with special educational needs, including deaf and hard of hearing children, should be included in mainstream placements with additional supports provided. All schools and all school places are therefore available for children with special educational needs. In circumstances where children with special educational needs require more specialised interventions, special school or special class places are also available.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the allocation of resources to schools for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.
Depending on the needs of the child, deaf and hard of hearing pupils may receive additional teaching support in schools, either from a school's general allocation of Learning Support/Resource Teaching, or from an allocation of additional Resource Teacher hours to the schools from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). Pupils who have care needs may receive access to Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support in schools. Many deaf and hard of hearing children have access to such SNA support. 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.
Other supports include provision for Assistive Technology which can ensure that educational materials can be provided in accessible formats, such as radio aids or sound field systems for deaf and hard of hearing pupils. My Department also provides funding for a weekly home 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 Language (ISL) for these children, their siblings and parents. In addition, the Visiting Teacher service provides a service to deaf and hard of hearing children from pre-school to third level, while the Special Education Support Service (SESS) expanded its team with specialist expertise in deaf education in January 2013.