I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 and 265 together.
The Deputy has clarified with my office that he is referring to my Departments Home Tuition Grant Scheme.
Home Tuition is provided as an interim measure until a school placement becomes available.
The scheme also makes provision for early educational intervention for children with Autism aged from 2.5 - 5 years who meet the scheme’s criteria.
In the 2017/18 school year 808 children between 2.5 - 5 years accessed Home Tuition.
All children must be enrolled in the primary school system, whether through placement in mainstream classes, in special classes or in special schools in the September prior to their sixth birthday.
In circumstances, where there is no school placement available for a child with Special Educational Needs, the Department can provide Home Tuition grant funding towards the provision of 20 hours home tuition per week as an interim measure until the NCSE confirms that a placement is available.
Applications can be made at any point of the school year, based on when the child receives a diagnosis and recommendation for a specialised placement.
In the 2017/18 school year 64 children over the age of 6 accessed Home Tuition.
It is not the case that the Home Tuition Grant Scheme mandates one-on-one provision. The Department has no preference from an educational perspective for one-on-one provision.
Subject to conditions, Parents are free to use the grant to engage tutors to deliver tuition in their home or pre-school providers to deliver tuition in a group / pre-school setting. Such arrangements are essentially between the parents and the relevant provider.
There are many reasons why parents might prefer grouped arrangements rather than home based provision. These include the social benefits that arise for children working in an environment with other children. My Department advises all parents of the option to enter into a group arrangement
Private pre-school providers or home tutors do not provide services on behalf of the Department and the Department has no contractual relationship with such providers.
The annual circular which outlines the terms and conditions of the Home Tuition Grant Scheme will shortly be available on my Department’s website for the 2019/2020 school year.