Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (251)

James Browne


251. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school supports for children with dyspraxia here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20914/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides for a range of services and supports to ensure that children of school going age with Special Educational Needs, including children with Dyspraxia, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. These supports include additional teaching and care support, enhanced capitation, specialist school transport arrangements, assistive technology and/or specialist equipment, adaptations for school buildings where necessary and additional training for teachers of children with special educational needs.

The functions of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) include planning and coordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports as required. The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.

The NCSE’s SENO responsibility includes planning and coordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, including supporting children and parents in identifying school placement options and resource 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.

From 21st March 2017, the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behavioural Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for Children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Children who are Blind/Visually Impaired (VTHVI) transferred from my Department to the NCSE and joined with the services already being provided by NCSE’s SENOs and administrative staff to form a new NCSE Support Service. This new service aims to develop schools’ capacity to include students with special educational needs and to promote a continuum of educational provision which is inclusive and responsive.

Children with Dyspraxia may be entitled to additional teaching provision in school, under the new model for allocating special education teachers, which was introduced since September 2017. Under this model, schools are provided with an allocation for special educational support teaching to support all students who need such support.

Schools now have greater discretion as to how they can deploy resources, to take account of the actual learning needs students have, as opposed to being guided by a particular diagnosis of disability.

My Department recently published guidelines for schools as to how they should utilise and deploy their resources under the new allocation model. These guidelines are available at http://www.education.ie/en/The-Department/Announcements/Guidelines-for-Schools-Supporting-Children-with-Special-Educational-needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.html

The guidelines will support schools in how they identify students, including students with Dyspraxia/DCD for additional teaching support, and decide how much support to provide, taking into account the extent and severity of their needs.

Where students have additional care needs, which are so significant that they require additional adult support in order to attend school and access the curriculum, they may be supported by Special Needs Assistants.

SNA support is provided specifically to assist recognised primary, post primary and special schools to cater for the care needs of students 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 student will require adult assistance in order to be able to attend school and to participate in education, in accordance with the criteria set out in my Departments Circular 30/2014.

In circumstances where students with Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) have care needs to the extent that the school considers SNA support is required for them to attend and access the curriculum, the school may apply to the NCSE for SNA support.

Funding is also provided to schools towards the cost of assistive technology, for children with special educational needs which is essential for educational purposes, to assist children with special educational needs in Primary, Post Primary and Special schools, in accordance with the criteria set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.

The NCSE provides for support for additional training needs in the area of Dyspraxia for teachers through the Special Education Support Service (SESS) which manages, co-ordinates and develops a range of supports in response to identified teacher training needs. The SESS provides Continuing Professional Development (CPD) support for teachers of pupils with Dyspraxia through an Inclusive Learning Resource Teachers course as well as an online resource facility and an online book borrowing facility.

All primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on the Department's website. Where a NEPS psychologist is not assigned to a school, authorities therein may access psychological assessments through SCPA. Under this scheme schools can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

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.

At third level, the National Office for Equity of Access to Third Level Education, within the Higher Education Authority (HEA), administers a number of access measures including the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD), the purpose of which is to assist students with disabilities. A range of supports are available at third level colleges to support students who have disabilities or special educational needs. Details of the additional support and services that are available for students with medical conditions/disabilities at third level colleges will be provided by the Disability Officers at each college.

The supports which will be provided for students with special educational needs, including Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), will take account of the needs that each pupil has and the type of college or course that they are attending.

Students with disabilities or severe medical conditions should contact the Disability Office before the beginning of the academic year to find out what disability supports will be available to them and will need to discuss with the Disability/Access Officer in the college/university details of their needs based requirement in college.