Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ceisteanna (199)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

199. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills if assistance is available for a student (details supplied) in County Kildare. [13071/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government.

My Department's policy aims to ensure that all children with Special Educational Needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

All state-funded primary and post primary schools have been allocated additional resources to provide for children with special educational needs enrolled in school.

In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. 

SENO responsibility includes planning and coordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs. Each SENO works in an assigned local area with parents, schools, teachers, psychologists, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in that area for children with special educational needs. In dealing with parents of children with special educational needs, SENOs will keep parents informed of what resourcing decisions are being made on their child’s behalf. The SENO will also discuss any concerns that parents have about the present or future educational needs of their child. Contact details for all SENOs is available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.

All students with learning difficulties have access to additional teaching support in school. It is a matter for schools to monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with the Department's guidance. The teaching time afforded to each individual pupil is decided and managed by schools, taking into account each child's individual learning needs.

On 1 September 2017, the new Special Education Teaching allocation model was introduced, which provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on a school’s educational profile. This allocation allows schools to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who require such support in their schools and for schools to deploy resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.

The new allocation model gives greater flexibility to schools in relation to the manner in which they use their resources. Schools may deploy special education teachers in a variety of ways in order to effectively meet pupils’ needs, for example, in-class support, small groups, team teaching or withdrawal.

The SNA scheme is designed to provide recognised schools with additional adult support staff to cater for the care needs of pupils with disabilities in an educational context, where the nature of these care needs have been outlined in professional reports as being so significant that a pupil will require adult assistance in order to be able to attend school and to participate in education and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.

The criteria by which SNA support is allocated to pupils is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014. In considering applications for SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

My Department provides funding to schools towards the cost of assistive technology for pupils with special educational needs in Primary, Post Primary and Special schools for personal computers and specialist software for educational purposes under the Assistive Technology scheme, as set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013. This Circular states that equipment is provided under the scheme for children with more complex disabilities who require essential specialist equipment to access the school curriculum, which they do not already have, or which cannot be provided for them through the school's existing provisions.

Other supports available to schools include:

- the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) delivers a consultative, tiered service delivery model to schools, in line with international best practice for the effective and efficient delivery of educational psychological services that best meet the needs of all pupils/students in schools. This service delivery model allows NEPS psychologists to support schools to provide an effective continuum of support to meet the needs of pupils/students.

- NCSE's Support Service has brought under its control the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI). The Support Service provides advice and support to schools on the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, providing in-school support for support teachers, continuing professional development for teachers, and support to schools on the management of challenging behaviour. It will also enhance the multi-disciplinary capacity of the education system through providing access to expert knowledge in areas such as autism, speech and language therapy and challenging behaviour.

- Special school transport arrangements.

- Enhanced capitation grants for special schools and special classes attached to mainstream primary and post primary schools.

- Modification of school buildings.

Post primary school students with special needs may have special arrangements made for them while sitting State examinations such as the Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate. Candidates with disabilities can apply through their school for reasonable accommodation during examinations. Further details of supports are available from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) Reasonable Accommodations Section.

My Department is not aware of specific concerns relating to provision for the student to whom the Deputy has referred. I am also advised that the student has not come to the specific attention of the NCSE.

Details of supports provided by the NCSE to all schools is available on a county basis on its website at www.ncse.ie.