Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 13 November, 1996

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

135. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education whether adequate provision is currently being made to cater for children of low academic ability or with special educational or with special care needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21262/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): One of the key principles underlying the curriculum [1068] for all schools, both primary and second level, is that it should respond to the needs of all pupils including those of low academic ability.

In most instances, the classroom teacher is in a position to assist pupils with low academic ability. For other pupils with more defined needs, a wide range of special educational services is provided including special schools, special classes, remedial teachers and resource teachers.

The report of the Special Education Review Committee, which was published in 1993, set down a comprehensive range of measures for the future development of special education services. The recommendations of this Committee, which I have accepted in principle, are being implemented by my Department on a phased basis and as resources permit.

Significant progress has already been made in this regard, including: a very substantial increase in special capitation rates payable to pupils attending special schools and classes; a one unit improvement in the pupil teacher ratio for special schools and classes in the 1996-97 school year; the upgrading of specialised equipment required in special schools and classes; a pilot scheme for the provision of escorts and safety harnesses on certain school transport services to assist pupils with special needs; the counting of pupils enrolled in special classes in ordinary national scools as part of the general enrolment for staffing purposes; the recruitment of additional psychologists; the appointment of additional remedial and resource teachers, bringing the total number of posts in the primary sector to 1,188 and 46 respectively; and the appointment of additional child care assistants to special schools and special classes bringing the total number of such posts to 232.

I am satisfied that the measures which I have outlined have contributed to a significant improvement in the level of service available to pupils with special needs. It is my intention to continue this process.