Dáil Éireann - Volume 535 - 03 May, 2001

Written Answers - Special Educational Needs.

157. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans, strategies and guide[1134] lines which exist in vocational education committees for targeting and tackling the exclusion and isolation of disabled people; and the role he envisages for the vocational education committees in this area. [12634/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The Government is fully committed to ensuring that each child with disabilities attending all schools receives the support they require to fully participate in education and reach their potential.

The supports provided by my Department deliver extra teaching and child care services to special needs children, whether in groups or in individual settings. The level of support has regard to the number of children and their particular assessed needs. Where individuals 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.

To date, my Department has allocated more than 100 extra resource teachers and 27 extra [1135] special needs assistants to support children with special needs in the VEC sector. The process of allocating resources for such children is ongoing.

Other measures undertaken by my Department, which will have a significant effect on provision for children with special needs, include the provision of a remedial teaching service to all first and second level schools and the establishment of the National Educational Psychological Service.

Any post-primary school, which requires infrastructural modification to accommodate a pupil with a disability, may apply for capital funding to the building unit of my Department. Priority attention is accorded to these applications.

I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to ensuring that each child with a disability receives the support he or she may require to fully participate in education and reach their potential.

158. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding which is available through his Department to disabled persons' representative groups and individuals to enable them to develop and deliver courses to facilitate up-skilling and capacity building of people who need to use a personal assistant; and if he is well disposed to such representative groups and individuals. [12635/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I can assure the Deputy that I am fully supportive of the efforts of disabled people's representative groups and individuals involved in developing the capacity for independent living of people with disabilities.

The main focus of my Department's support for people with disabilities is on the delivery of school based services which are directed at enhancing the educational development of students with disabilities. Arising from a Government decision in October 1998, all children with special needs within the primary system now have an automatic entitlement to a response to their needs. As a result of this development, the number of resource teachers supporting children with special needs has increased from 104 to more than 945 full-time resource teacher equivalents. The number of special needs assistants supporting children with disabilities in the primary system has been increased from 299 to more than 1,750 over the same period.

Funding has also been provided to facilitate the appointment of an escort on every special school transport service in the country.

In addition to funding school based support services for students with disabilities, my Department has funded an initiative undertaken by the Offaly Centre for Independent Living to develop a comprehensive user-friendly handbook which will inform people with disabilities about all special education support services available in the Offaly area. A report from the Offaly Centre for Independent Living on the outcome of this pro[1136] ject is currently being considered in my Department.

My Department also supports the work of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland in providing classes for children with dyslexia outside of school hours. An annual funding allocation of £58,600 is made available to the association to support its work.