I propose to take Questions Nos. 574 to 576, inclusive, together.
The Department of Education and Science provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for students with special educational needs transferring from primary level. The supports in question include remedial and resource teacher allocations, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.
The Department of Education and Science supports the education of students with autistic spectrum disorders in various second level schools throughout the country. The precise model of provision made available will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some students are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and-or special needs assistant support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil-teacher ratios. Students attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible.
The Deputy will be aware that with effect from 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has taken over key functions from the Department of Education and Science regarding special educational provision. The NCSE was formally established as an independent statutory body on 1 October 2005 under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2005. The council acts under the broad policy direction of the Department of Education and Science but has the resources and the remit to play the leading role in the delivery of education services to children with disabilities or special needs. It is the function of the NCSE to provide a range of services at local and national level so that the educational needs of children with disabilities or special needs are identified and appropriate provision put in place. The NCSE co-ordinates with the health services, schools and other relevant bodies regarding the provision of education and related support services to children with disabilities or special needs.
The responsibilities of the NCSE include the following: deciding on applications for additional teaching support in respect of children with disabilities or special educational needs at second level; deciding on applications for special needs assistant, SNA, hours; processing applications for school placement in respect of children with disabilities or special educational needs.
Under the new arrangements, the council, through the local special educational needs organiser, SENO, will process the relevant application for resources and inform the school of the outcome. In the case of decisions on additional teaching and SNA support, the SENO will outline the process to the school and parents, where appropriate, and at the end of the process will outline the basis on which the decision was made.
I am confident the advent of the NCSE will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require, when and where they require it.