Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Questions (107)

Pat Deering


107. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the change in special education investment since 2011; the impact this has had; the number of children with special educational needs participating in mainstream schools; the number progressing through the education system to third level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40875/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

This Government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

Department of Education and Skills funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training. The funding includes:

- The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. NCSE’s Support Service has brought under its control the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI). The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for support teachers, continuing professional development for teachers, and support to schools on the management of challenging behavior. It will also enhance the multi-disciplinary capacity of the education system through providing access to expert knowledge in areas such as autism, speech and language therapy and challenging behaviour.

- National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) delivers a consultative, tiered service delivery model to schools, in line with international best practice for the effective and efficient delivery of educational psychological services that best meet the needs of all pupils/students in schools. This service delivery model allows NEPS psychologists to support schools to provide an effective continuum of support to meet the needs of pupils/students.

- Over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts under the Special Education Teaching allocation model, introduced in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs. The number of students receiving additional special education teaching support in mainstream education increased from 138,493 in 2011 to approximately 166,000 in 2017.

- 15,000 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) available from September 2018, providing additional adult support staff to schools to cater for the additional care needs of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. An additional 800 SNA posts has been made available for September 2018 with up to a further 140 SNA posts available from September to December 2018. Approximately 36,000 students have access to SNA support in schools in 201718 school year, compared to 22,200 in 2011/12.

- Over 7,900 students in 124 special schools with 1,490 teachers, increased from 6,848 students with 1,141 teachers in 2011.

- Approximately 1,456 special classes in place with 155 new Special Classes opened in September 2018 in mainstream primary and post primary schools. This compares to 548 special classes in 2011.

- Assistive technology/specialized equipment. Under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in Circular 0010/2013, the Department of Education and Skills provides funding to schools towards the cost of computers and specialist equipment, which are required for educational purposes, for use by students with special educational needs. Equipment is provided under this scheme for children with more complex disabilities who, in order to access the school curriculum, require essential specialist equipment which they do not already have, or which cannot be provided for them through the school’s existing provisions.

- Special School transport arrangements. The purpose of the scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability

- Enhanced capitation grants for special schools and special classes attached to mainstream primary and post primary schools, based on disability categories, are paid to special and mainstream schools with special classes to assist them with the extra costs associated with setting up small classes. Class running costs are usually established by dividing the costs overs the number of students and the number of students in a special class is much lower than in a mainstream class.

- Modification of school buildings.

- Special Arrangements for State Examinations facilitates access to the certificate examinations by candidates who would have difficulty in accessing the examination or communicating what they know to an examiner because of a physical, visual, hearing and/or learning difficulty. 17,661 students benefitted from this scheme in 2017, increased from 14,287 in 2011.

- Specialised Training for people with disabilities is funded by the National Training Fund The target group for STPs comprises unemployed people with disabilities, in receipt of a disability payment or in possession of a letter from their doctor, who are aged over 16, and are deemed by DEASP and ETB’s to require the additional supports that STPs provide.

- Adult Education – once off projects for disability in education.

- The Fund for Students with Disabilities supports students to participate fully in their academic programmes and aims to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by reason of a disability. Eligible full-time students can receive assistance from PLC level to doctoral level, and the Fund is not means-tested. A claim under the Fund is made on behalf of an eligible student by their college following an assessment of need. The Fund typically provides three types of assistance, including assistive technology equipment and software, personal and academic support, and transport.

The HEA do not collect data on the progression of students with special educational needs to higher education but collect data on entrants with disabilities, and in addition, collate data on the number of students in higher education supported by the Fund for Students with Disabilities. The number of students with a disability entering higher education has doubled from 2011, rising from 2,166 to 4,417 in 2016/17.

The continued increase in investment by this Government to support students with special educational needs across the education system would indicate that it is having a positive impact on their retention and participation in school and their progression to third level and further education and training.