Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Thursday, 31 May 2001

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 537 No. 4

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 183. Mr. N. Ahern Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods  if he will report on the services available to students in national schools who have dyslexia; the age at which or the number of years it should take to have a child assessed; the services which are provided thereafter; if an extra resource teacher is only made available when there are 12 students with dyslexia in the school; the plans he has to improve matters; if any schools in Ballymun have extra facilities and teachers due to dyslexic students; the further development plans he has in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16479/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods The educational needs of primary pupils with specific learning disability, dyslexia, are generally capable of being met within the mainstream school system with the assistance where appropriate of a remedial teacher. There are currently 1,480 remedial teachers in place in the primary sector.

Children of primary school age whose condition is of a more serious nature may attend their local primary school where they can be supported by the special resource teacher service. There are now 689 full time resource teachers allocated to support children with special needs, including those with specific learning disability.

For some children, the severity of their condition can be such that placement in a special school or in a special class attached to a mainstream school is the required response. There are four such special schools and 19 such special classes in place at present.

My Department is continuing to support the work carried out by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland to assist in providing support for the [1035] classes that they provide outside school hours. An allocation of £50,000 was made in both 1999 and 2000 to support their services. A similar level of funding will be made available in the current year. A further sum of £14,000 was also allocated in the last school year to assist CHILD, the Limerick based organisation established to provide care and help for individuals with learning difficulties.

In past years, psychological assessment of national school children, including those suspected of having dyslexia, has been the responsibility of psychologists employed by the health boards and by voluntary agencies under their aegis. The new NEPS agency came into existence on 1 September 1999 with the 42 psychologists already employed in the service. The recruitment of additional psychologists involved the organisation of a competition through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. Notwithstanding the time consuming nature of such competitions there are now 82 psychologists in NEPS and by the end of this school year there will be 100 psychologists in the service. I also intend to proceed with the recruitment of a further 28 psy[1036] chologists before the end of this calendar year. This will raise the staffing to 128 and greatly improve the service.

In those schools served by NEPS, an important part of the psychologist's work is to assist principals and teachers to develop procedures for identifying and prioritising those students who are most in need of help. I am aware of the difficulties experienced by schools in gaining access to psychological assessments in urgent cases, pending the appointment of the full quota of psychologists in NEPS. I have recently announced funding of IR£1.25 million for an important new initiative aimed at addressing those difficulties. NEPS will be communicating details of the new scheme to all schools in June.

Resource teaching posts are sanctioned to schools either on a full or part-time basis depending on the assessed level of need. My Department has sanctioned two resource teaching posts for the area referred to by the Deputy.

In October 2000, I established a task force on dyslexia to examine provision for children with dyslexia. I understand that this task force has now completed its deliberations and I look forward to receiving this report in the very near future.

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