Dáil Éireann - Volume 512 - 01 December, 1999

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

99. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the recent suggestion by the General Secretary of INTO that up to 500 more remedial teachers might be needed to improve the reading and writing skills of pupils; the steps, if any, he is taking to provide additional remedial teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25368/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The primary focus in education will always be the prevention of literacy and numeracy difficulties and the helping children within the class. Primary teachers are trained in relation to a variety of reading problems, including those which are accompanied by perceptual difficulties. The majority of pupils with remedial needs are helped within the scope of the normal teaching service. This has been clearly established as the most effective and important approach.

However it is acknowledged that remedial teachers constitute the main additional resource for addressing the problem of underachieving in primary schools. Remedial teachers are a particularly important resource in catering for children with less serious learning difficulties by directly [253] teaching individuals or small groups or, crucially, acting as a leader in the class and school approach to helping every child achieve high literacy and numeracy standards.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently introduced a major expansion of the remedial teaching service to first and second level schools. My priority was to ensure that all schools which were without a remedial teaching service would have access to one with effect from September 1999. This has resulted in a remedial service being available to all schools with a pupil teacher ratio of 10:1 or above. Schools with a pupil teacher ratio of below 10:1 are free to make a case for such support to my Department. The Deputy will appreciate that this represents a huge ongoing investment in remedial services. As a result of this development there are now 1,463 remedial teachers in the primary system and a further 560 whole time equivalent remedial posts at second level.

A comprehensive study of the remedial education service has been carried out over the past two years. This study highlighted the need for a much sharper focus on ensuring that the service is targeted on those who need it most. Arising from this study, I have published a comprehensive review of the remedial service which outlines very significant areas which need to be addressed to improve its impact in our schools. We must make sure that we are using the remedial service properly and in a whole school context. We cannot have a situation where we fail to address underlying problems by simply calling for the ongoing expansion of the number of remedial posts in the system. This is not to suggest that there are not schools with insufficient coverage, but if we believe that more resources is the answer to everything to do with remedial provision we will never address the remedial problems in our schools.