Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (227)

Gino Kenny

Question:

227. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to recent closures of speech and language units in Longford and Athlone despite no decrease in demand for the services; his plans to close more speech and language units nationally; his views on the lack of services available to those that cannot avail of the already limited speech and language units; and his further plans to mitigate same. [29339/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The opening and retention of a Speech and Language class is contingent upon the Health Service Executive (HSE) being in a position to provide Speech and Language therapy to the students in the class. The availability and provision of speech and language therapy is the responsibility of the HSE.

63 Specific Speech and Language Disorder special classes in mainstream primary schools will be provided for the 2019/20 school year. This compares to 60 such special classes in 2011/12. In the period 2011 to 2019, the number of SSLD special classes has ranged from 60 - 65, depending on need.

My Department provides an extensive range of supports for pupils with Specific Speech and Language Disorder (SSLD).  This includes provision for the establishment of special classes for pupils with SSLD in primary schools.

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 applications to establish special classes for SSLD. Applications meeting the criteria for establishment are approved by the NCSE.

The NCSE continues to monitor and review the requirement for special class places in particular areas and has capacity to establish such new classes or retain current classes where necessary, subject to the willingness of schools to open/retain classes. The NCSE welcomes expressions of interest from schools in opening special classes to meet the demand for special class provision. In deciding on the location of a special class SENOs take into account both the present and the future potential need for special class provision, and they must also be satisfied that the special class is sustainable and appropriately located.  SENOs liaise with relevant professionals in their area to arrive at an informed decision.

As the Deputy's question refers to speech and Language special classes in 2 particular areas, I have arranged for the NCSE to reply directly to the Deputy on this.