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Written Answers. - Integrating Disabled Children.

Thursday, 28 March 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 463 No. 5

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 15. Ms O'Donnell Information on Liz O'Donnell Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  asked the Minister for Education Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  the progress, if any, that has been made in integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools; the number of children accommodated in schools other than special schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6676/96]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach The extent to which children with disabilities can be integrated into mainstream schools is governed by the particular needs of the individual children concerned. In some cases, full integration can be achieved with extra support. In other cases, the needs of a child may be such that placement in a special dedicated school or class is the appropriate response.

Since my appointment as Minister for Education, I have attached a high priority to improving the quality and level of support services available to all children with special educational needs, including those who are integrated in mainstream schools.

I am satisfied that substantial progress has been achieved in this area. Measures which I have introduced include:

The appointment of an additional 241 remedial teachers at primary level and 98 such teachers at second-level bringing the totals now in place nationwide to 1,188 and 350 respectively.

The appointment of an additional 29 resource teachers in ordinary primary schools and 56 such teachers to second-level schools, bringing the totals now in place to 36 and 130 respectively.

The remedial and resource teachers are a key support service for pupils with special needs who have been integrated into ordinary schools. In addition, children with specific disabilities such as hearing or visual impairment or Down's Syndrome also have access to the visiting teacher service. My Department may also allow extra teaching hours to cater for such children attending second-level schools.

My Department does not keep precise records of the number of children with special needs who are integrated into ordinary primary schools at any [1392] given time. A survey conducted in 1992 on behalf of the special education review committee indicated that there were approximately 8,000 pupils with specific disabilities in ordinary classes in primary schools. The number of students with special needs attending post-primary schools is in the region of 1,500.

The measures set out in the White Paper in relation to special needs pupils are intended to refine and develop the current range of responses. A key objective will be to ensure that all children with special educational needs will have access to the necessary range of support services and in their own areas. This includes support for children with special needs in mainstream schools.

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