Dáil Éireann - Volume 603 - 14 June, 2005
Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.
Ms McManus Ms McManus
97. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will address the serious concerns regarding the impact the introduction of the weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support will have on resource teachers and resource hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19666/05]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin:As the Deputy is aware, a new scheme for allocating resource teachers to schools to cater for the needs of children with high-incidence special needs and learning support needs was announced last month. The reason for the new scheme is simple. Children with special needs such as dyslexia or mild learning difficulties are found in almost every school. It makes sense then that every school should have a number of resource teaching hours based on the number of pupils in the school.
This is a major improvement on the previous system, under which children with high incidence special needs required a psychological assessment before they were given resource teaching hours by the Department. This was a time-consuming process that often led to delays in children getting the support they needed. Resource teachers will now be in place in the school from the start of the school year so that children who need their assistance can get it straight away.
Under the new arrangement disadvantaged schools, boys schools and mixed schools get extra resources as research shows that pupils in these schools are more likely to have learning difficulties.
To ensure that every school has enough resource teaching hours to meet the needs of its pupils, an extra 660 resource teaching posts are being put in place for next September. A total of 340 of these are permanent posts and 320 are temporary posts being provided to ensure that children who had been given an individual allocation of resource teaching hours by my Department will keep these in situations where the general allocation to the school would not be sufficient to allow the school to provide these hours from within its general allocation.
The provision of these temporary posts will ensure that no child who has been allocated a specific number of hours with a resource teacher by my Department will lose these under these new arrangements. In fact, the reality is that the majority of schools are gaining resource teaching hours under the new scheme.
 Addressing the concerns of small and rural schools was, as the Deputy will be aware, the reason I initiated a review of the original general allocation model which had been announced last year, to come into effect in the 2005-06 school year. Following this review, a special improved ratio for small schools has been introduced to ensure that they are given resource teaching hours on a more favourable basis.
I would like to stress that despite misleading claims to the contrary, the new scheme does not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with a resource teacher to any child who needs such support. Rather, it ensures that each school has enough resources to ensure that each child gets a level of support appropriate to their individual needs.
The school can then use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school to ensure that all their needs are met. Research shows that some children with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups. Often it is best for resource teachers to work with children in the classroom rather than taking them away to a separate room, as the children then have to catch up work done by the rest of the class in their absence. The point is that the type of response needed depends on the child. While the new scheme will not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with the resource teacher to children that need it, it is important to note that one-to-one teaching is not the best option for every child.
I am grateful to the Minister for Finance for providing me with the resources to ensure that the new system could be put in place.
As of next September there will be over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.
The Government, and I as Minister for Education and Science, is deeply committed to improving services for children with special needs. I believe that, in addition to the massive increase in resource teachers in recent years, the introduction of this new general allocation scheme will ensure a faster and more flexible response for children with special needs.
Dáil Éireann 603 Written Answers. Special Educational Needs.