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Ceisteanna – Questions. Priority Questions. - Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 25. Ms O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  the implications for teacher numbers and the pupil-teacher ratio of the decision announced in the budget to reduce public service numbers by 5,000 and to impose a freeze on future recruitment; the number of teaching positions which will be affected by these decisions; the way in which it will affect the promised appointment of extra resource teachers and special needs assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26865/02]

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey My Department is in consultation with the Department of Finance regarding the implementation of the decision to which the Deputy refers. It is not possible at this stage to quantify the implications, if any, of this decision for staffing allocations in the education system. However, it is my intention to ensure that priority continues to be given to support services for children with special educational needs.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I am concerned that the Minister cannot give an absolute assurance to the House. Will he give an assurance on the 788 resource teachers awaiting appointment and the additional teachers required to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio? Will he address other needs, such [1461]as the shortage of guidance teachers at second level?

A report from the Minister's Department suggested there is a greater level of special needs in Irish schools than other European countries. Is it a coincidence that the report was released at the same time as the Government announced cuts of 5,000 places in the public service and a cap on recruitment? Is the Minister aware of the concern in many schools which expected that special needs support and resource teachers would be provided for children identified as having special needs? The expectation was there but things now appear uncertain. Will the Minister clarify this before schools resume in the new year so that they can be certain of what will happen?

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey Schools can be certain of what will happen. Any child that is properly assessed as having special needs in accordance with the Government decision of 1998 will be allocated the required resource teacher or special needs assistance. There is no equivocation about this but I know it will not stop people from stoking up fears. The NEPS is reassessing the submissions that have been made for the 788 resource teachers. Resources are to be made available from 7 January. If the children involved are confirmed by NEPS as having special needs, their needs will be met.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Minister said children will be reassessed. Does this mean children who have been assessed as having special needs will have to be reassessed and maybe taken off the list of those requiring special support?

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey It means the national educational psychological service is examining the applications. Once that is completed and the assessments are confirmed, the special needs resources will be made available.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Will they be re-examined?

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey No, they will be examined by NEPS. Some of the applications were assessed outside of NEPS. We have changed the system of appointing special needs and resource teachers and NEPS is now in a position to examine the files. We have asked it to do that and confirm the applications.


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