Dáil Éireann - Volume 535 - 02 May, 2001
Written Answers - Special Educational Needs.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
257. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to improve facilities for children with special needs in mainstream education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12566/01]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The Government has presided over an unprecedented level of improvement in education services for children with special needs, particularly children attending mainstream education.
Arising from a Government decision in October 1998, all children with special needs in primary schools now have an automatic entitlement to a response to their needs.
As a result of this development, the number of resource teachers supporting special needs children in integrated settings in primary schools has increased from 104 in October 1998, to more than 945 full-time resource teacher equivalents at present. The number of special needs assistants supporting children with special needs in primary schools has increased from less than 300 to more than 1,750 over the same period. Additional resource teachers and special needs assistant support are being allocated on an ongoing basis in response to identified needs.
Children with special needs in mainstream second level schools are catered for in ordinary classes with the support of the resource teacher and special needs assistant services. There are 273 resource teachers and 135 special needs assistants in the second level system at present.
In addition, my Department makes funding available for the purchase of computer and other specialised equipment for children with special needs in mainstream schools and in special facilities. In the current year, the level of funding available in this area has been increased from £987,000 to £2,730,000.
It is my intention to continue to build on the above developments so as to ensure that all children with special needs receive the support they require when and where they require it. A key development in this regard is the recent report of the planning group established in my Department to make recommendations on the arrangements which should be put in place to ensure the most effective provision of a high quality co-ordinated service at all levels of education for students with disabilities.
 I am satisfied that the recommendations brought forward by the planning group provide a valuable blueprint for the development of a more effective special education service. It is my intention to seek Government approval to proceed with these measures at an early date.
Dáil Éireann 535 Written Answers Special Educational Needs.