Dáil Éireann - Volume 658 - 03 July, 2008

Written Answers. - Youthreach Programme.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will roll-out the special education needs initiative to all Youthreach centres in County Kerry, which are recognised centres of education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26506/08]

  Deputy Seán Haughey: Youthreach is designed to offer two years integrated education, training and work experience for young people aged 15 — 20 who have left school early without achieving qualifications. The programme, which is managed by VECs at local level, is available in 100 centres nationally and caters for almost 3,700 learners.

In 2007 my Department introduced the Special Education Needs Initiative (SENI) to address special educational needs and provide the necessary supports for learners in Youthreach centres. The SENI was introduced to 25 groups of 25 learners across 20 Youthreach centres.

The SENI involves a general allocation model similar to that introduced in the primary sector in September 2005. It is team based and caters mainly for students with high incidence needs. The SENI provides for the allocation of increased staffing hours (from 4,200 to 5,700 hours per group per year) to deal with the special needs and disabilities of all the students.

Additional training was provided to staff in the centres to enable the introduction, on a centre team basis, of a range of professional practices to support students with special educational needs/disabilities. This training followed on from the national introductory training programme introduced into all centres in 2006. In addition, the 20 centres have access to a password protected internet site containing guidelines, tailored training programmes and other materials.

During 2007, an evaluation was carried out of the SENI to determine its suitability and effectiveness for the learners. The findings of this evaluation were generally positive and found the new initiative to be meeting the needs of learners. The evaluation recommended full integration of the SENI into each centre. My Department is currently examining the possibility of rolling out the SENI to other Youthreach centres, subject to the availability of funding.