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Special Educational Needs.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 27 April 2004

Tuesday, 27 April 2004

Ceisteanna (336, 337)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

395 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry which has been sought since September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11640/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Carey

Ceist:

404 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the application for a classroom assistant at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11681/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 395 and 404 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of one shared learning support post — based — and one shared resource teaching post — based.

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

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