Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 25 May, 2004

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

  182. Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a resource teacher will be sanctioned to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15472/04]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: My Department received an application for resource teaching support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy on 1 March 2004.

Applications for special educational resources, SER, received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are currently being considered. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving [470] children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department’s inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted during the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements: making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs; and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower-prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment; reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils; and, give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are currently being developed in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those received after 31 August last will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. It is intended, also, that applicant schools will be notified of the outcome in their case within this timeframe.