Special Educational Needs Data

Questions (168, 169)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

168. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in need of special educational and or ASD support in County Wexford, particularly in north County Wexford; and the numbers availing of special educational support and on waiting lists for same, respectively. [4779/18]

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Kathleen Funchion

Question:

169. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated figures of future need in north County Wexford based on the number of persons at pre-schooling stage who have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum or as having other special needs. [4780/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

Ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government. In 2018, almost 1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

During the worst years of the recession we not only protected supports for children with special educational needs but grew them. 

This funding includes provision for over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs, and approximately 1,300 special classes, with 169 new Special Classes opened to date for the 2017/18 school year. This compares to 548 special classes in 2011.

My Department's policy aims to ensure that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post-primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.

Other children may have such complex needs that the recommendation in their professional reports state that they are best placed in a special school. 

With regard to County Wexford, the most recent figures available to me indicate that 1,908 students with special educational needs were accessing supports in County Wexford during the 2016/17 school year, comprising 1,545 in mainstream classes, 125 in special classes and 238 students in special schools.  

The number of ASD special classes in County Wexford has more than doubled from 17 in 2011 to 41 in 2017/18 school year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of Special Needs Organisers (SENOs), for fulfilling the functions of the NCSE Council within a designated area in relation to the identification of and delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with disabilities, including the establishment of special classes.

The NCSE, in looking to open special classes, must take into account the present and future potential need for such classes, taking particular account of the educational needs of the children concerned. The NCSE will also take account of location and sustainability in looking to establish special classes in certain areas. 

The NCSE has informed my Department that they will continue to monitor demand and review the requirement for special class places in the Wexford area. 

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children who require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities.

Parents/guardians of children with special needs who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) as soon as possible for information on available places. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

Ministerial Advisers Data

Questions (170)

Shane Cassells

Question:

170. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills the names of advisers he has appointed to his office since becoming Minister; the responsibilities of each; the previous employment of each; the salaries of each; and if he plans to make further additional appointments. [4866/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of the Guidelines on Ministerial Appointments as published by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform I have appointed two Special Advisers, Patrick Cluskey and Sarah O'Neill at my Department. Mr. Cluskey's duties are to advise me on policy matters while Ms O'Neill is responsible for media and communications.

Prior to his appointment as Special Adviser Mr. Cluskey was my Parliamentary Adviser. Ms O'Neill in turn served as my Parliamentary Adviser when Mr. Cluskey vacated this position to take up his appointment as Special Adviser.

In accordance with the terms of the Ethics in Public Office Acts a copy of their respective contracts of employment containing details of their salary together with a statement of their qualifications have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I do not intend to make any additional appointments at this level.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Youth Strategy

Questions (171)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

171. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a directive will issue to schools regarding the facilitation of transgender pupils in the education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4925/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department recognises that schools should be safe and supportive environments for all students. In order to support schools in developing a positive whole-school approach the Department has produced a range of guidance documents and has also supported the provision of guidance by civil society organisations. 

 “Being LGBT in School – A Resource for Post-Primary Schools to Prevent Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying and Support LGBT Students”, which was developed by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) with the support of the Department, provides guidance in relation to supporting LGBT students in schools. The resource, which is available on the Department’s website, includes a section that addresses the specific support needs of students who identify as transgender. The non-governmental organisation, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) provided advice and support to ensure that this information is both practical and respectful to the needs of young people who are transgender.

Other relevant documents include the Wellbeing in Post Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (2013) and the Wellbeing in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion (2015), which aim to provide support to schools in promoting well-being and positive mental health among students. In addition, revised Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools, which were issued to schools in 2013, contain specific references to homophobic and transphobic bullying.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) also has a range of resources available, including guidance for teachers and schools in supporting LGBT students.

School Admissions

Questions (172)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

172. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that under the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 SENOs will be allowed to exercise their new authority immediately, specifically before the end of the 2017-18 academic year to ensure students have an appropriate place for September 2018. [4943/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 was published in July 2016. The Bill which passed Committee Stage on 28 June 2017 is an important piece of legislation which strives to create a new more parent-friendly, equitable and consistent approach to how school admissions policy operates for the almost 4,000 primary and post-primary schools in this country.

The Bill provides that where a school has places available it must admit all applicants. There Bill also provides for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to designate a school for a child who has no school place for reasons related to the child’s special educational needs.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill is scheduled for enactment in the coming term.

Officials in my Department are currently working with the Office of the Attorney General on a number of important amendments to the Bill and it will proceed to Report stage once these amendments have been finalised.

Schools Facilities

Questions (173)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

173. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school (detailed supplied) and the enrolment limitations for students in the 2018-19 academic year due to the lack of learning support rooms; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties this is causing parents who wish their children to be educated under the educate together ethos with little alternative in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4944/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school concerned is located in a former primary school building that was secured as part of Government policy on school divesting.

The property is subject to a ten-year lease between the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) and the Minister for Education and Skills.

As the Deputy is aware, the school has submitted an application to my Department for additional accommodation to facilitate expansion. 

However, the lease requires the consent of ERST to place this accommodation on the school site. In this regard, my Department is currently engaging with ERST to secure this consent and  expects a response from ERST shortly.

Department officials have also been liaising with the school principal recently and have advised him that the accommodation will be approved as soon as this consent is granted.

Schools Facilities

Questions (174)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

174. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason no provision has been made to provide children with a classroom for special education teaching at a school (details supplied) in view of the fact that as of September 2018 no space will be available in the current block. [4948/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school concerned is located in a former primary school building that was secured as part of Government policy on school divesting.

The property is subject to a ten-year lease between the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) and the Minister for Education and Skills.

As the Deputy is aware, the school has submitted an application to my Department for additional accommodation to facilitate expansion.

However, the lease requires the consent of ERST to place this accommodation on the school site. In this regard, my Department is currently engaging with ERST to secure this consent and  expects a response from ERST shortly.

Department officials have also been liaising with the school principal recently and have advised him that the accommodation will be approved as soon as this consent is granted.

Schools Facilities

Questions (175)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

175. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to upgrade the toilets, heating and windows at a school (details supplied). [4949/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In January 2017 the school to which the Deputy refers applied for funding under my Department’s Emergency Works Scheme for window, toilet and heating works.  However, this application was unsuccessful as the Emergency Works Scheme is strictly to deal with sudden and unforeseen emergencies in schools.  The works sought were upgrade works and these are appropriate to the Summer Works Scheme. 

More recently, my Department did provide funding under the Emergency Works Scheme to carry out Fire Safety Works and this project to carry out these works has been devolved for delivery to the school authority.

Teacher Recruitment

Questions (176, 179)

Joan Burton

Question:

176. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 198 of 5 December 2017, the progress he has made in reviewing proposals to incentivise persons to undertake the two-year professional masters in education, including financial incentives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4950/18]

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Joan Burton

Question:

179. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that reports indicating the number of applications for entry to a number of postgraduate courses for second level teaching has fallen in 2018; his plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4953/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 179 together.

Additional investment has allowed the successful recruitment of over 5,000 additional teachers in the past two years.  Since 2012-13, there are 8,900 more teachers in our schools. No other part of the public service has seen this sort of growth, which is testament to the Government’s commitment to education and its importance in fulfilling our national ambitions.

I have already announced a number of measures to increase the pool of teachers available to schools, in particular to fill short-term vacancies, including informing all teachers retiring in 2017 that in order to remain eligible for employment in a State-funded teaching post for a period of more than five consecutive days or to supervise the State examinations, a teacher must maintain his or her registration with the Teaching Council. I have also recently announced the temporary suspension of the limits for employment for a teacher on career break.

At post primary level certain initiatives have been taken to address some of the supply pressures in particular subject areas. These include, as part of the implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education, increasing from 2018/19 the number of places available on the existing Irish medium post primary initial teacher education programme in NUIG. The number of students admitted to St. Angela’s, Sligo to follow the Home Economics initial teacher education (ITE) programme has also increased from 85 to 101 in the current year, with further expansions in future years being considered.

 Other measures under consideration include:

- How to introduce subject quotas for post primary PME ITE programmes, targeted at areas of shortage

- Expansion of the undergraduate route to becoming a post primary teacher

- Development of innovative ways to meet areas of shortage including consideration of top up” or conversion courses to upskill existing teachers to teach in subject areas of shortage.

I will shortly be announcing the establishment of a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply. As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders.

I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing out of state qualifications, including further engagement with the Migrant Teacher Project and to engage more with graduate fairs, and final year students

Separately, I will be also be working with employers, school management bodies and higher education institutions to achieve progress in this space.

The Deputy may wish to note that the numbers of graduates from ITE programmes have remained broadly constant. Over 8,000 primary and 7,800 second level teachers have graduated in the last five years and in 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate. In addition, the number of applicants for primary school teaching (both undergraduate and postgraduate) and for second level teaching at undergraduate level have remained broadly constant. However, I acknowledge that there has been a fall in applications to the second level PME. I will be asking the Teacher Supply Steering Group how the post primary PME can be made more attractive and I will also consider whether we can use financial incentives to improve the uptake of certain courses.