Following the HSE Look Back Review of Paediatric Audiology Services in Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, officials from my Department and the HSE met in September 2018 to discuss special educational supports for the affected children.
It was agreed that where the affected children had special educational needs due to a hearing impairment, special educational needs supports could be provided in line with the various schemes operated by both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
My Department agreed to review the special educational supports provided to the affected children and to ensure that they are in receipt of supports in line with Department schemes, and that supports provided are based on children’s individual needs.
The HSE sought consent from parents/guardians to share affected children’s details with my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). To date, the details of nine children have been provided to my Department.
As a matter of priority, my Department in conjunction with the NCSE, completed its review of the special educational supports in place for each of the nine children and has now ensured that they are in receipt of appropriate special educational needs supports in line with the terms of various schemes.
Supports available include Special Education Teaching support in schools; funding for Assistive Technology such as Soundfield and FM systems; and guidance from the NCSE’s Visiting Teacher service on classroom adaptation and school staff training.
All children are in receipt of special educational needs teaching support under the new model introduced in 2017 and revised in 2019. The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on that school’s educational profile, to allow schools to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who require such support in their schools. Schools deploy additional teaching resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.
The Visiting Teachers Service has assessed the educational needs of all nine children and made recommendations to their schools. In accordance with the Visiting Teachers’ Service Referral Process and Procedures, children with mild or unilateral hearing loss are placed on the “On Request” caseload and children with moderate-profound hearing loss are placed on the “Active” caseload of the Visiting Teacher.
The Visiting Teachers have assessed the acoustic conditions in the schools and made recommendations to schools to put in place appropriate measures to cater for the children’s needs. Schools may utilise existing funding streams from the Department such as the Minor Works Grant or Grants for furniture and equipment for special education needs, to provide equipment, if these are recommended.
All nine children have received assistive technology, in accordance with the criteria of the scheme.
With regard to teacher training, the NCSE can provide direct support to the schools and individual teachers in as flexible a way as possible. Schools can apply for support through the NCSE’s online application system, which is accessible via the NCSE website.
The NCSE offers telephone advice, school visits from a member of the team, in-service courses for individual teachers, or whole-school training. Whole-school training will ensure that all teachers are equipped to cater for the children’s educational needs, as they progress through school.
Schools have been instructed to continue to engage with their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) and Visiting Teacher with regard to the special education needs of the children identified by the HSE review. Parents/guardians may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on the NCSE's website.
My Department has made direct contact with both the schools and parents/guardians and a representative of my Department also met with a group of affected parents/guardians in November 2018 and March 2019. The HSE, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and NCSE were also represented at those meetings.
Where applications for new or additional supports are made to either my Department or the NCSE in respect of the 9 children already identified, these will be considered as a matter of priority, in line with the terms of the various schemes.
My Department will also continue to work with the HSE and where details of other affected children are supplied by the HSE, educational supports will urgently be reviewed, in conjunction with the NCSE.