Dáil Éireann - Volume 496 - 10 November, 1998

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

451. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals, if any, he has to increase investment to adequately facilitate people with a disability and travellers to participate in mainstream education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22863/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The Deputy will be aware that I have recently announced a major initiative in respect of education services for children with special needs. The measures involved are aimed at ensuring that all children with a special educational need, irrespective of their location or disability, will receive the support they require to participate fully in the education system.

The measures will deliver extra teaching and childcare services to all special needs children, whether in groups or in individual isolated settings. Under the arrangements, there will be a formalised system of special teaching support for all children attending schools on a fully integrated basis who have been assessed as having special [787] educational needs. A formalised system of childcare support will be introduced for all children with special needs, including those in special schools, special classes and ordinary schools, who have been assessed as requiring such support.

I am satisfied that these measures will provide children with special needs attending mainstream schools with an automatic access to special teaching support and, if necessary, the childcare support that they require to enable them to reach their potential within the educational system.

Under existing arrangements, my Department allocates resource teacher for traveller posts at primary level on the basis that traveller children are taught in an integrated setting, either within the classroom with the resource teacher working in partnership with the classroom teacher or withdrawn in groups for intensive tuition according to their ages and perceived needs by the resource teacher for travellers.

My Department has allocated a total of 363 resource teacher for traveller posts to cater for the educational needs of approximately 4,300 traveller children integrated into mainstream education. In addition, my Department provides grant aid towards tuition and transport costs for a total of 55 pre-schools for traveller children. There are also a total of 20 visiting teachers working with the families of the traveller community. One of the primary functions of the visiting teacher service is to identify suitable educational facilities for traveller children and to encourage participation in mainstream education. My Department has also allocated resources to second-level schools where traveller children are enrolled.

I intend to keep the needs of all children with disabilities and children of the travelling community under ongoing review as part of my commitment to ensuring that my goal of full participation by the children in question is realised.