I wish to advise the Deputy that the qualification requirements for teachers taking up special education teacher posts are set out in my Departments Circulars 0013 2017 for primary schools and 0014 2017 for post primary schools.
These Circulars also advise schools that in addition to the qualification requirements noted in the Circulars, the acquired professional development and expertise of teachers, including where teachers have attained recognised qualifications in special education, should be taken into account by the principal when allocating teaching responsibilities, in order to ensure that pupils with the greatest needs are supported by teachers who have the relevant expertise, and who can provide continuity of support.
As it is a matter for school Boards of Management to recruit appropriately qualified teachers, data regarding the qualifications of individual teachers is not reported to my Department. My Department therefore does not have details of the number of additional teachers allocated under the special education model that have additional qualifications in special educational needs.
In relation to the provision of a national training programme to ensure that all teachers receive training in special educational needs, I wish to advise that the Teaching Council is the statutory body with responsibility for professional standards and regulation of the teaching profession.
Under Section 38 of the Teaching Council Act, all initial teacher education programmes are subject to review and accreditation by the Teaching Council, in accordance with the Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers (published in 2011 and revised in March 2017). In accordance with these Criteria and Guidelines, inclusive education is a mandatory component for all students in ITE.
The learning outcomes of ITE programmes also reflect the need for the teacher to be able to conduct a systematic, holistic assessment of learner needs; to apply knowledge of the individual potential of students, their disposition towards learning and their backgrounds, identities and learning styles to their teaching; to set clear, challenging and achievable expectations for pupils; to evaluate learner progress; to act as an advocate for students, referring students for educational support as required and participating in the provision of that support, amongst other relevant outcomes.
The Teaching Council is currently carrying out a review of the impact of the current programmes, with a view to amending the Criteria and Guidelines before the next round of accreditation commences in 2020.
A recently published report from the National Council for Special Education on Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion: Phase 1 and 2 (NCSE Research Report No. 26), found that there is in general much good practice related to inclusive education in ITE, particularly in relation to the fostering of positive attitudes to inclusion, while also noting that there is scope for further alignment between theory and practice, in particular between student placement and the university experience. These findings will be considered by the Teaching Council in the course of its work.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Support Service also provides for:
- Continual Professional Development (CPD) and support for teachers in the area of special educational needs (SEN) to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in relation to Special Education Needs (SEN) provision
- providing support and expertise to partner schools on issues related to behaviour
- supporting the introduction of the new model of resource teaching allocation to schools and to develop capacity to meet the needs of students with SEN
As CPD for teachers in the area of special educational needs is provided to schools by the NCSE support services, I have referred the part of the Deputy's question regarding the number of post-primary teachers that have participated in training and CPD on special educational needs since the introduction of the special education teacher allocation model in post-primary schools in September 2017, to the NCSE for direct reply to the Deputy regarding this matter.