Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 30 September, 2003
Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
489. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is a facility now, or planned in the future, to allow persons who wish to teach students with special needs to do their training part-time and or by correspondence course due to the shortage of special needs teachers. [19981/03]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): It is the policy of my Department that all teachers working with children with special needs will have relevant training. In this regard, the existing full-time pre-service teacher training courses – primary – in the colleges of education contain appropriate elements to assist the student teachers in recognising and dealing with children with special needs.
At second level, there are inputs to both the higher diploma in education and the three education degree programmes in the University of Limerick, as part of a general alertness orientation programme, on a variety of learning difficulties which pupils may have.
There has been a major increase in the past number of years in the level of additional teaching resources made available by my Department  to schools in order to assist them in catering for children with special educational needs. This positive intervention has provided very significant additional educational support from highly qualified teachers in schools across the country. These additional appointments do however bring with them the need for additional training in the special needs area and this is being addressed on an ongoing basis. There is a range of programmes in place and additional programmes are being planned.
Since 1994, a national programme of training for learning support teachers has been in place. At present, six centres – two universities and four colleges of education – provide postgraduate courses for teachers at primary and post-primary levels. In 2000, guidelines for learning support teachers were issued to schools and a major training programme based on the guidelines is well under way. Learning support teachers, resource teachers and whole school staff are included in this training programme.
In the current academic year, diploma courses in special educational needs are being provided for teachers at St. Patrick's College Drumcondra, St. Angela's College Sligo, Mary Immaculate College Limerick, Church of Ireland College of Education Rathmines and at NUI, Belfield. An induction programme for newly appointed resource teachers in primary schools is also under way in the current school year. This programme of training is delivered by the colleges of education.
My Department has recently established a special education support service with a view to supporting teachers working with children with special educational needs. In addition to the above, my Department provides funding for a wide range of shorter courses for teachers in the special needs area. These are mainly provided through the network of education centres, through teachers' organisations and through the programme of summer courses for primary teachers. In this regard, four e-learning courses were provided on a pilot basis during July and August of this year for teachers in the areas of autism, dyslexia, inclusion and ADHD. The courses were delivered online and 900 teachers availed of them.
Dáil Éireann 571 Written Answers. Special Educational Needs.