Dáil Éireann - Volume 587 - 15 June, 2004
Written Answers. - School Staffing.
Mr. Gregory Mr. Gregory
276. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received a petition from the parents at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7 detailing the urgent requirement for special needs resource teachers; and if he will give the matter immediate attention and allocate a special needs resource teacher. [17495/04]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Mr. N. Dempsey: My Department has no record of receiving a petition. Applications for special education resources were submitted. More than 5,000 SER applications were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 and are being considered. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All of them 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. The applications will be 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 nationwide census of SER provision.
The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. My Department will complete the process as quickly as possible and my officials will respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 that was issued in September 2003. The circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.
Teacher resources for applicant schools will be based on a new weighted system of allocation that I announced recently. It is part of an additional allocation of 350 teaching posts and will involve two 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 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 for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, including the applications from the school in question, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year.
Dáil Éireann 587 Written Answers. School Staffing.