Dáil Éireann - Volume 643 - 11 December, 2007
Written Answers. - Language Support Services.
Deputy Joe McHugh Deputy Joe McHugh
Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans in place to cater for the growing number of non-English speaking students attending both primary and secondary schools here; her views on whether teachers and schools are well enough equipped to deal with the surge in the number of foreign students enrolling in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33977/07]
Deputy Mary Hanafin Deputy Mary Hanafin
Deputy Mary Hanafin: In May this year I approved the issue of Circular 53/2007 to the Management Authorities in primary and post primary schools outlining the resources available to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. I removed the limit of two Language Support Teachers per school and extended the provision of language support beyond two years, where a specific request is made. In fact, it is now possible for some schools with over 121 such pupils to have 6 language support teachers. There are now in the region of 1,900 language support teacher posts allocated to primary and post primary schools, compared with just 262 in 2001/2002.
These additional resources will assist schools in providing an inclusive school environment to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. Such an inclusive school environment reflects values and affirms linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity. In addition to the language resource teachers there is a significant amount of resources available including the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA) Guidelines — “Intercultural Education in the Primary School” and “Intercultural Education in the Post- Primary school”. The NCCA has also published “English as an Additional Language in Irish Primary Schools”. Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) has produced a resource book “Up and Away” for English language support in primary schools.
IILT in collaboration with the Southern Education and Library Board (in Armagh) yesterday  published a “Toolkit for diversity in the primary school — Together towards Inclusion”. This was a joint North South project. This toolkit will be provided to every primary school on the island. In addition, early in the new year a language assessment kit, prepared by IILT, will be provided to all primary schools. This will enable accurate initial and on-going assessment of the language proficiency of newcomer children.
Since 2001 my Department has funded Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) to provide Language Support Teachers with in-service training. I have just established an Integration Unit to ensure that education policies take account of the need to integrate immigrants and their children. This Unit will be assisted by the Department’s Steering Committee on the Educational Needs of Newcomers which identifies emerging issues, proposes solutions and arranges for the implementation of agreed solutions and policies. I have commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute to undertake a large scale study into how an increasing diversity of students impacts upon resource requirements and day to day teaching and learning in both primary and post-primary schools. The report from the research findings is due in autumn 2008.
In addition, in 2008 the Inspectorate will start to conduct an evaluation of the provision of English as an additional language in a number of schools and it plans to publish an analysis of its findings as a composite national report in 2009. These latter two reports along with the advice of the Integration Unit and the Department’s Steering Committee will provide me with evidence based data on whether we are meeting the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language, particularly in the context of the increased resources that have now been provided.
Dáil Éireann 643 Written Answers. Language Support Services.