Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 09 February, 2000

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

233. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of class assistants permitted for a class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3650/00]

[319] Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): In November 1998 a major initiative for integrated education for children with special needs was launched. This initiative provided the first ever automatic supports for many children with disabilities. 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 extend right across the entire spectrum of special needs and deliver extra teaching and child care services to special needs children, whether in groups or in individual isolated settings.

The key measures in the initiative include the introduction of a formalised system of special teaching support for all children attending school on a fully integrated basis who have been assessed as having special educational needs and the introduction of a formalised system of child care support for all children with special needs, including those in special schools, special classes and ordinary schools, who have been assessed as requiring such support.

The level of response in each case has regard to the number of children and the severity of the disabilities involved. Where a group of special needs children attend an ordinary school or adjacent schools, the support may take the form of full-time resource or child care posts or both. Where individual or small groups of children are involved, the support may take the form of part-time teaching hours or part-time child care support or both. The level of support has regard to the number of children and their particular assessed needs.

Already, as a result of this development, my Department has allocated an additional 642 special needs assistants to support children with special needs in the primary system.

Significant steps have already been taken to implement the levels of child care support as set out in the report of the special education review committee, which was published in 1993. It is my intention to continue this process and to ensure that the level of child care support recommended in that report is fully implemented this year.

I assure the Deputy of my commitment to ensuring each child with special needs will receive the support he or she requires, including child care support, to fully participate in the educational system and reach his or her potential.