Dáil Éireann - Volume 489 - 22 April, 1998

Written Answers. - Special Education Training.

215. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the special training, if any, available to student teachers or serving teachers at primary level who wish to pursue a career in special education; if so, where this training is available; the number of places available in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9658/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The colleges of education provide training modules for student teachers in the area of special education in varying ways. The modules provided are general in nature and are not intended as a specific preparation for a career in special education. It has been the policy up to now that, as a rule, teachers who opt for special education should do so subsequent to their basic training and only after experience in the mainstream classroom.

As I announced recently, I intend to appoint a representative group in the near future to conduct a major review of pre-service education. The terms of reference for that group will include the consideration of course content. I will be asking the group to report within six months.

Training in the special education area is provided for serving teachers in a number of ways, viz. a diploma course in special education is provided in St. Patrick's College of Education. There are 25 teachers on this course in the academic year 1997-98. It is expected that there will be a similar number of participants in 1998-99. The course is open to teachers who have satisfactorily completed their probationary period and have at least three years' teaching service, of which at least one year must have been in the area of special education. An induction course for teachers new to the area of severe and profound disabilities will be held in the autumn. Expected attendance is 35. Funding will be provided for summer courses this year for teachers of children with autism and for teachers of children with severe [1683] and profound disabilities. Expected attendance is 80. Various other courses are provided through education centres in response to identified local needs. A range of courses on specific areas are approved and funded on the basis of proposals from teachers, schools and other interested parties. Funding is provided for various other initiatives, including distance education postgraduate courses for teachers of partially sighted and blind children University of Birmingham; and for a course for principals of schools where units for children with severe and profound disabilities are located.

The staffing in the Special Education Department in St. Patrick's College of Education has recently been increased. This will further enhance the provision by the college of in-career development courses for teachers in Special Education.

[1684] Information relating to the number of places on training courses is indicated above in each case where the information is available.