Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Ceisteanna (34, 35)

John Gormley

Ceist:

126 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of children with special needs attending non-fee paying schools in designated disadvantaged areas compared with those attending non-fee paying schools in other areas on a school basis. [32731/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled by officials of my Department for the 2004-05 school year and will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 123.

David Stanton

Ceist:

128 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the OECD country background report for Ireland, Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, which indicates that Ireland has a problem with the training of classroom teachers and learning support assistants for the needs of pupils disabilities; her further views on whether this contributes to reluctance on the part of some schools to accept special needs students; the action she intends to take to remedy the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32738/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

There is no doubt that given the increasing number of children with special needs now availing of the opportunity of a mainstream second level education, there is a need to ensure sufficient training supports are in place to enable teachers to provide them with the best service possible. To this end, my Department has put in place a strategy to meet the needs of teachers working with pupils with special educational needs and to ensure that they get the training and ongoing support and advice that they need.

In terms of initial teacher education and development, pre-service primary teacher training courses in the colleges of education have been updated to ensure that they contain appropriate elements to assist the student teachers in recognising and dealing with children with special educational needs. At post-primary level, the higher diploma in education and education degree programmes include elements on the learning difficulties of pupils as part of a general alertness orientation programme. There has also been a major expansion of the range of postgraduate professional training programmes covering the special education area.

For serving teachers, the provision of in-service training on the area of dealing with special education needs students has been greatly enhanced by the establishment in 2003 and recent expansion of the special education support service, SESS. The SESS is charged with consolidating and co-ordinating in-service provision at local level for personnel working with children with special educational needs.

It also explores various models of in-service and support for teachers in the classroom and is working co-operatively with colleges of education and other agencies to maximise the effects of training and support across the spectrum. Support is also provided to other staff working in schools with special educational needs pupils.

The nature of special education and the changing needs of school personnel working in a variety of settings require the availability of flexible models of provision. The SESS is specifically designed to support teachers and schools in a flexible way to meet their educational and developmental needs, including the provision of e-learning and the existence of a wide geographical spread of trainers who work on a full-time and, especially, part-time basis. The training available to schools involves direct support to individual teachers, groups of teachers or whole school staffs; the provision of expertise on particular aspects of special needs; accessing appropriate training on request; and empowering schools to identify their own training needs and to provide ongoing support.

With these measures now in place, many of the recommendations in the OECD report, Teachers Matter, in relation to the area of special needs education are actually being met at this point.

I am satisfied that with the major improvements that I have just outlined, there is now a comprehensive system of training and other supports in place to ensure that the extra teachers that we have put into schools to assist children with special needs are getting the help they need to give each child the best service possible.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 119.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 123.