Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 27 May, 2004
Written Answers - Special Educational Needs.
Ms Enright Ms Enright
118. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Offaly is receiving only two 15 minute sessions of resource teaching per week when they have been assessed as needing three hours per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15981/04]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Mr. N. Dempsey: I can confirm that my Department received an application for special educational resources for the pupil referred to by the Deputy on 1 March 2004. The position is that SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving 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. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nation-wide 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, which 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. The school currently has the services of one full-time resource teacher, one part-time resource teacher and a shared learning support teacher based in 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; 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 being developed at present 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 time frame.
Mr. J. O’Keeffe Mr. J. O’Keeffe
119. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is transferring from a primary school in which they have had the benefit of a special needs assistant will retain this assistant at post-primary school. [15982/04]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Mr. N. Dempsey: My Department allocates resource posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools to cater for students with special educational needs.
Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authorities or VECs. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil or pupils involved and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.
An application for special needs assistant support for the 2004-05 school year has been made by County Cork VEC in respect of the student in question. The application is currently under consideration in my Department and the school authority will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.
Dáil Éireann 586 Written Answers Special Educational Needs.