Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Questions (492)

Thomas Pringle


492. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education if there are grants available for low-income families to purchase technology to assist a child who is at leaving certificate level who suffers with dyslexia to access online education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11932/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department provides for a range of supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs, including pupils with dyslexia, in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, they will have access to an appropriate education.

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 the provision of special educational needs supports to schools. The NCSE operates within the Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All primary and post primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with special educational needs, including pupils with dyslexia. In September 2017 the Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools and all schools received revised special education teacher allocations for the 2019/20 school year.

As part of the €210m investment programme underpinning the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools, my Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation.

This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the requirements of their own student cohort and to meet those requirements. In the context of the current public health crisis this funding can be focussed on assisting schools to address ICT needs including devices, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning. This can include the purchase of ICT devices including laptops, which can be shared with students who do not have access to devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of remote learning.

This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the needs of their learners and to meet those requirements.

The continuity of learning guidance circulated to schools last year advised Principals of the responsibility to ensure that learners receive appropriate support to engage adequately with learning remains with the school in which they are enrolled. Regular and ongoing communication between school and home will be essential to support engagement with learning and continuous connection with classmates and school community. Additional supports will be provided for these learners from within the staffing resources of the school. Schools will have discretion to manage and redistribute their support resources in order to best meet the learning needs of their pupils and students.