Dáil Éireann - Volume 633 - 20 March, 2007

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she proposes to take to establish a national forum for all parties involved in education and training of adults with special educational needs. [9490/07]

  Mr. Haughey: My Department’s policy is to seek to encourage and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities on programmes offered in the Further Education Sector by making available the supports required [1678] to enable them to access Further Education. While a forum has not been established, my Department hosted a conference on “Developing an Overall Strategic Approach to Disability in Further Education” in November 2006. The conference provided insight as to possible ways forward and will help inform the Department regarding future policy for persons with disabilities in Adult and Further Education.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is primarily for unemployed people but people with disabilities are also a target-group. Under VTOS, full-time courses of one or two years’ duration are provided to participants to enhance their employability.

The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) provides part-time Further Education programmes for adults to give them an opportunity to combine a return to learning with family, work and other responsibilities. People with disabilities are one of the target-groups of the programme. People with disabilities may also avail of adult literacy courses provided by the VECs around the country. A grant has also been provided to the Irish Deaf Society to train tutors to give literacy tuition.

A grant is awarded annually to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland as a contribution towards assessments.

An action research pilot project was developed in a number of Further Education Colleges in the Dublin area. This pilot project was and continues to be supported by two Disability Support Officers, support from the National Training and Development Institute and flexible additional funds for transport, equipment, interpreters, etc. This service identifies and offers supports to students and staff around the area of disability. The provision of awareness-raising sessions and participation in college open and recruitment days is also an integral element of the role of the Support Officers.

The Department is currently working with the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education and AHEAD to address special education needs of adults in further education. The Department has recently launched an initiative in Youthreach to determine the most appropriate way to deal with the particular needs of this cohort.

Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when learning support will be provided for a person (details supplied) in a County Tipperary school. [9498/07]

  Ms Hanafin: The Deputy will be aware that the general allocation system was implemented with effect from September 2005.

The new system means that rather than schools having to make individual applications to this Department for resources for pupils with high incidence special educational needs, that is, pupils [1679] with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, resources are provided in advance to the school.

The school in question has 22.5 hours under the general allocation system to provide for the educational needs of the pupils with high incidence special needs and those with learning support needs, such as the pupil in question. It is a matter for each school to determine the pupils with high incidence special education and learning support needs that will receive this support. The school can use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided among the pupils in the school, to ensure that all their needs are met. As the pupil in question is within the high incidence disability category this pupil’s needs should be catered for within the general allocation granted to the school.

My Department issued a comprehensive circular, SP ED 02/05 to schools which provides guidelines on the manner in which they should use the resources that have been allocated to them to best effect. It is intended that a review of the system will take place within three years of operation.