Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (257)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

257. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grants or financial supports available for the family of a child (details supplied) that wish to help them achieve their potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The policy of my Department is to ensure that all children, including children who are exceptionally able, can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs and significant resources are committed for this purpose.

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

The Education Act, 1998 requires Boards of Management of each school to publish the policy of the school relating to participation by students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able. The measures schools take in this regard are required to be stated in the school plan. It is the duty of the Board of Management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students.

Schools at both primary and second level use strategies such as curriculum differentiation, curriculum enrichment and acceleration to facilitate the development of pupils who are exceptionally able.

The revised primary curriculum recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child and caters for pupil diversity, including meeting the needs of exceptionally able pupils. Syllabi and curricula for second-level schools have been designed in such a way to enable teachers cater for the wide range of pupil ability. Content is outlined in the curricula at both levels and process is also heavily emphasised. Enabling children to learn how to learn is stressed and facilitated. The development of language skills, investigatory and problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking skills and working individually, and as a member of a group, are all encouraged at both levels.

The use of information and communication technologies and the use of class and school libraries are of benefit for all pupils, and they have a special importance for pupils who are exceptionally able.

The role of the Special Education Support Service (SESS) which is under the control of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in relation to special educational provision. The service co-ordinates, develops and delivers a range of professional development initiatives and support structures for school personnel working with students with special educational needs including children who are exceptionally able in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, special schools and special classes.

The aim of the service, is to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, with particular reference to special educational provision. In this regard, the SESS aims to provide a quality service that is inclusive, promotes collaboration and co-operation and provides for equality of access.

The SESS provides online support through it’s website which is available at: https://www.sess.ie/, and through courses that appear on the Events Calendar which is available at:

https://www.sess.ie/professional-development/calendar/events-calendar

The SESS aims to provide direct support to schools and individual teachers in as flexible a way as possible. Support can be applied for through the SESS online application which can be accessed at:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfO2VyPAZx5T_N0_6AFaeASyTLOrDjj-Mv621OWpCFBduU4XQ/viewform

Professional groups or individual teachers can identify their own professional development needs in relation to the teaching of students with special educational needs and apply accordingly. The SESS may be in a position to offer telephone advice, a school visit from a member of the team, or an in-service course for the staff.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), in collaboration with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment (CCEA), produced guidelines entitled "Exceptionally Able Students – Draft Guidelines for Teachers" which issued to all Primary and Post Primary schools in November 2007. The NCCA/CCEA guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. The guidelines provide advice to schools on identification of gifted children, set out profiles of students, and whole school and classroom strategies and case studies which demonstrate how schools can best meet the needs of such students. The general strategies include differentiated teaching, acceleration and enrichment approaches in the context of participation in mainstream schools.

A new model was introduced in 2017 for allocating special education teachers to primary and post primary schools is set out in Circular 0013/2017 which can be accessed at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0013_2017.pdf.

This new model will give greater autonomy to schools to allocate resources to the pupils who most need these resources, regardless of their diagnosis.

No school will receive an allocation for the support of current pupils with complex needs which is less than the allocation they had received to support pupils with low incidence special educational needs in the preceding year. This means that schools can continue to support students in line with their needs.

It is a matter for individual schools to use their professional judgment to identify pupils who will receive this support and to use the resources available to the school to intervene at the appropriate level with such pupils. Schools should monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with my 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.

At present my Department has no plans to grant aid individual pupils attending DCU’s programme for gifted/talented youths.