I wish to advise the Deputy that the Visiting Teacher Service for children with Visual and Hearing Impairment provides assistance for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and children who are blind or visually impaired.
In May 2013 the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) brought forward policy advice which recommended that the service should be reviewed. Accordingly, an independent review of this service is currently being conducted in line with the NCSE recommendations.
The review is being conducted by two independent reviewers who are tasked with reviewing the role and function of the Visiting Teacher Service in accordance with the Terms of Reference of the Review, with a view to making recommendations for consideration to my Department.
The reviewers have met and consulted with members of the Visiting Teacher service and with a broad range of individuals as well as statutory and non-statutory organisations who are involved in the education of children who are blind or visually impaired and children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Parents, children, teachers and other interested parties have also had the opportunity to contribute to the review by making a submission and/ or by answering a questionnaire, which was available on my Department's website www.education.ie until 31 January 2013.
At the recommendation of the reviewers my officials have allowed a brief extension to the timeframe for the delivery of this Report. The purpose of the extension was to facilitate the widest possible consultation. I understand the review is now at an advanced stage and should be concluded by the end of April 2014. I will consider the question of publication when I have received the report.