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Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 248. Mr. Spring Information on Dick Spring Zoom on Dick Spring  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods  if his attention has been drawn to the necessity to educate more speech therapists in view of the number which are required to fill the present vacancies in order to provide adequate and necessary services for children with special needs. [10429/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods The Department of Health and Children commissioned a report from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates on current and future supply and demand conditions in the labour market for physiotherapists, occupational therapists and [892] speech and language therapists. The Report was launched in July 2001 and it concluded that a major expansion in the numbers of therapy professionals was essential over the next fifteen years. In relation to speech and language therapy training places, the report recommended an annual increase of 75 training places over the previous level of 25 training places. I have recently sanctioned an increase of 75 in the number of places for the education and training of such speech and language professionals so that those most in need will have access to the therapists who will help them get the education they deserve. As an interim measure my Department and the Higher Education Authority agreed to increase the annual intake to the speech and language therapy course at the University of Dublin, Trinity College to 29 from the 2000-01 academic year.

An inter-agency working group has been established comprising representatives of my Department, the Department of Health and Children and the Higher Education Authority to pursue the issues arising from the report. The Higher Education Authority invited institutions to submit proposals for the expansion of existing courses and/or the introduction of new courses, including graduate entry programmes for the three disciplines. The proposals received are currently being considered.

 249. Mr. Spring Information on Dick Spring Zoom on Dick Spring  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods  if his Department will provide education services or facilities for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who is not receiving formal education at present. [10430/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael Woods Zoom on Michael Woods I am aware of the child referred to by the Deputy. Enrolment in second level schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of individual schools and my Department does not interfere in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking second level places in that area. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

The national educational psychological service – NEPS – is available to all post primary schools recognised by my Department. NEPS can advise on the management of any difficulties which pupils might experience and which may present problems in a school setting. Where appropriate it can also advise on any educational supports which might be required to ensure that a pupil's time in school is as productive and positive as possible.

In order to progress this case further a questionnaire issued to the child's mother which has helped identify his educational needs and pro[893] vides my Department with her written permission to contact schools and NEPS on behalf of her child. The advice of my Department's Inspectorate is being sought in this case, and every effort is being made to find a suitable school placement. The advice of the national educational psychologist service was sought in this case and on their recommendation my Department sanctioned 10 hours per week home tuition for this child.


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