Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 26 September, 2007

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004 applies to Youthreach centres; if the National Council for Special Education has specific responsibility for determining the needs of students with special education needs in such centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20382/07]

  Deputy Seán Haughey:To cater for the special educational needs of Youthreach learners, the majority of whom are early leavers from post-primary schools, my Department has resourced Youthreach to address special education needs since 2006. In 2006 general continuous professional development training in relation to special educational needs was provided to all staff. Based on the findings of this programme, my Department has funded since early 2007 a pilot initiative to support the special educational needs of learners in Youthreach. It is operating in 20 centres this year.

The purpose of the initiative is;

To allow for a measured systematic development of professional practice in special education needs support in centres and

To introduce the practices of profiling and assessment into each centre, development of individual learning plans for each student, establishment of a mentoring support system and engagement in inter-agency work as required for each student.

The initiative has taken a whole centre approach and the needs of all learners are identified using a profiling model.

This pilot initiative is currently being evaluated to determine best practice. Based on the results of the evaluation my Department will decide on [494] the most appropriate way to cater for Youthreach learners, having regard to available funding.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act applies to all children including those attending Youthreach Centres. The commencement of the various sections of the act is under examination in the context of the Implementation Report drawn up by the National Council for Special Education which outlined the steps the Council consider should be taken to facilitate the implementation of the EPSEN Act, on a phased basis leading up to 2010.