I remind members and witnesses to turn off their mobile phones or to switch them to flight mode. Mobiles phones interfere with the sound system and make it difficult for the parliamentary reporters to report the meeting. Television coverage and web streaming will also be adversely affected.
We have reached the sixth item on our agenda which is engagement with stakeholders on the delivery of services for students with Down's syndrome. The purpose of this part of the meeting is to have an engagement in respect of the delivery of services for students with Down's syndrome. On behalf of the committee, I wish to welcome Ms Fidelma Brady, national education officer with Down Syndrome Ireland, Ms Moira Leydon, assistant general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI, who has been before this committee on a number of occasions, Mr. Colm Kelly, from the Teachers Union of Ireland, TUI, Ms Maeve McCafferty, from the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, and Mr. Eddie Ward, principal officer with the Department of Education and Skills, who has also been with us before.
The committee is eager to examine the challenges and opportunities for students with Down's syndrome as they access educational services. We have spoken about this topic often in the past. Research has shown that the vast majority of children with Down's syndrome enrol in their mainstream local primary school and are progressing to mainstream post-primary education, if there is a place locally providing that opportunity.
However, quite often we find there are not doing that. All students and teachers need our support. The success of inclusive education in Ireland is testament to the professionalism and commitment shown by teachers and school staff to students with special educational needs. Special needs assistants, SNAs, also play an important role. One of the main reasons for this meeting is to discuss individualised education plans and inequality of access to an extended school year, which is the July provision, for students with Down's syndrome. We look forward to examining all those issues in key detail.
The format of the meeting is that I will invite all the witnesses to make a brief opening statement of a maximum of three minutes, which will be followed by an engagement with members of the committee. I will take a series of questions or comments from members before I go back to witnesses. We are joined by Senator John Dolan who is not a member of the committee but who has a keen interest in this area. Once we have had the opportunity to hear questions and observations from the members of the committee, I will bring in the Senator.
Before we begin, I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by myself as Chairman of the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I advise them also that any opening statements they make to the committee will be published on the committee's website following the meeting.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
Without any further ado, I call Ms Fidelma Brady to make her opening statement on behalf of Down Syndrome Ireland.