Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 22 April, 1999

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

128. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children with special needs requiring educational care; the proposals, if any, he has to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10655/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): My Department does not have details of the total number of pupils with special needs within the overall education system. The report of the special education review committee, published in 1993, estimated that approximately 8,000 pupils with special educational needs attend [1207] mainstream primary schools on an integrated basis. It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 pupils with special needs enrolled in special schools or in special classes attached to mainstream primary schools.

The lack of adequate statistical data relating to special needs children within the education system and the development of mechanisms to address this deficit is one of the issues currently being considered by a special steering group which has been established in my Department to review overall provision in the special needs area.

I recently announced a major development in special education services under which all special needs children in the primary system are now entitled to an automatic response to those needs. The response may take the form of additional teacher or child care support, or both, depending on the needs of the particular child. My Department will shortly be issuing circulars and information notes to advise schools on the procedures to be followed, including the supporting data required, in seeking special support under this initiative. The data required will include particulars of the individual special needs children involved; their ages; and the nature of their special needs.

The data submitted by schools is expected to provide a comprehensive picture of the level of special needs within the primary system. If, following receipt of this data, it is considered that further survey data is required, the necessary arrangements will be made.

129. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers who have availed of the new provision of his Department's circular 19/98 governing the employment of teachers in special education schools and special classes attached to mainstream national schools since the change in policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10590/99]

130. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans, if any, he has to broaden the qualification for the employment of teachers in special education schools and special classes attached to mainstream national schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10591/99]

131. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that circular 19/98 restricts access to Irish schools by teachers from the United Kingdom due to the change in teaching procedures for children with special education needs in the United Kingdom; the plans, if any, he has to change this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10592/99]

[1208] Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 130 and 131 together.

To date 15 teachers have been granted restricted recognition by my Department under the provisions of Circular 19/98.

Restricted recognition is applicable to teachers who have qualified teaching status in another country, who possess the qualifications or experience outlined in paragraph 2 of Circular 19/98 and who wish to teach in this country in special schools or classes in which Irish is not a curricular requirement.

Since the circular was introduced in May 1998 I have broadened the criteria under which teachers are eligible for restricted recognition. In addition to the criteria outlined in paragraph 2 of the circular, restricted recognition will now also be granted to teachers who have received provisional recognition under Circular 19/96, recognition in national schools of EU qualified teachers, and who have satisfactorily completed one year's teaching experience in a special school or special class. Similarly a person with qualified teaching status from another country who successfully completes a relevant post-graduate qualification in this State, will also be granted restricted recognition.

In assessing applications for restricted recognition, submitted by teachers from the United Kingdom and other countries on the basis of the teaching experience they have gained in such countries, my Department must have regard to the relevance of that teaching experience to the needs of children in special schools and classes in this country. Experience or skills gained by such teachers in a mainstream setting in other countries would not normally be equivalent to the type of experience or skills required for teachers in special schools or classes in this country.