Dáil Éireann - Volume 548 - 14 February, 2002
Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.
Ms Fitzgerald Ms Fitzgerald
235. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason deaf people are not allowed to train as teachers in Drumcondra; his views on whether the lack of Irish teaching in deaf schools adds to this discrimination; and the action he will take to address this situation. [5198/02]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): At present, the courses run in the State that allow for appointment to a permanent post in a primary school are the three year bachelor of education degree and the full-time 18 month graduate diploma in primary teaching. Both of these courses are run in the colleges of education, which specialise in the training of primary teachers.
The bachelor of education, B.Ed, degree programme offered at the colleges of education is designed to equip teachers to teach the full range of subjects in the Irish primary school curriculum. Teachers who have obtained a B.Ed degree from these colleges are permitted to teach in all national schools where they are required to complete a successful probationary period leading to full recognition as a primary teacher.
During the bachelor of education programme, students must develop competencies in the full range of subjects to be taught in national schools, including Irish, and the award of the B.Ed degree signifies that the teacher involved is competent to teach all subjects on the curriculum. Consequently, the study of Irish is a core component in  the B.Ed programme, and students entering colleges of education are required to have a minimum competence in this subject in their leaving certificate examination.
Deaf children in general have enormous difficulty in acquiring a first language. As English is the preferred medium for the vast majority of deaf children, it is felt that the greatest emphasis should be placed in acquiring oral and written competence in English. Because of the difficulties some children have in acquiring a first language, English, exemption is given from the study of Irish to certain categories of children with special educational needs, including deaf children.
Where children who are exempted from the study of Irish wish to pursue Irish, it is open to them to request their schools to provide instruction in Irish. My Department will provide support in such circumstances.
Significant and complex issues arise in relation to access to the teaching profession by people with disabilities. I have made arrangements to establish a working group to examine and review the present arrangements in consultation with relevant interests, and having regard to best international practice in this area. I have asked the group to expedite its work and report to me at an early date.
Dáil Éireann 548 Written Answers. Special Educational Needs.