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 Header Item School Accommodation Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace] It will save a lot of money in the long term and is such a good investment for the country. Money has probably never been as cheap in our lifetime as the 1.7% rate at which the State can borrow. It is fantastic, except that the State is not allowed to borrow at 1.7% to invest in as serious a matter as infrastructure because of the EU rules. The truth is that, although we are not getting this information from freedom of information requests, PPPs spread over a 25 year period are costing up to 15%. Is this not something worth challenging the EU on? Investment in infrastructure is a winner all round and money has never been as cheap. It has never made so much sense to invest in infrastructure, if we could do it through a normal scheme rather than pushing it into the arms of the PPPs.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We will invest €2.8 billion by way of public funding In the school building capital programme for the next six years and a very small percentage by way of PPP after that. The Deputy is telling the story of how successful we have been in terms of restoring the economy in that we have got our borrowing rates down that low and we have restored the economy to health.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister is misinterpreting me.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  We are taking in a considerable amount more than we expected in terms of taxation of various kinds. The Government believes we should be investing in public infrastructure, particularly in schools but also in other areas of public infrastructure. As the economy recovers, there will be more public money to invest. We are funding the schools primarily through public investment, which is as it should be.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 8. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she is aware of the multiple extra costs placed on the parents of children with dyslexia in seeking to ensure their children have access to the same standard of education as other children; that, notwithstanding the State supports in place, additional costs include a diagnosis every two to three years, membership of the Dyslexia Association and room hire and teacher remuneration to provide extra out-of-hours instruction; if she will propose new measures to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43872/15]

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I understand there is some funding under the general allocation model to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, which provides workshops and special classes for children that are privately funded. It costs about €750 per year per child for those classes, and the bulk of that is the cost of renting classrooms from schools that are publicly funded.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan All mainstream schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, either under the general allocation model at primary school level or though high incidence and learning support allocations for post-primary schools.

  Schools have access to psychological assessments through the National Educational Psychological Service or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments.

  Funding is provided to schools for the purchase of specialised equipment and an information pack on dyslexia is available to schools. Provision for continuing professional development for teachers with additional training needs in the area of dyslexia is made through the Special Education Support Service.

  Funding is provided to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland which supports its information service and workshops and programmes for some children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

  Membership fees are a matter between the organisation and its membership.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I know all that. Let me describe one situation. In north Kildare for the past 15 years an excellent workshop has been run by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. The principal in the school was very supportive and the classroom was rented at a nominal rate because the heating and security was provided for other things that were happening. A new principal came in and, instead of it being €500 a year, it became €5,000 a year to rent the classroom. This is a publicly funded school that increased the cost for children with dyslexia.

It is not just a question of support regarding dyslexia, where there is a benefit to the children, but also a question of self-esteem and all that goes with that. Parents already have expenses such as, for example, often having to get a diagnosis themselves. This is not a dancing class we are talking about or some sort of added extra. It is an educational support in a publicly funded school and the issue needs to be addressed. The schools themselves need to see some sort of value in this and not have a situation where almost a commercial rate is sought when an educational support is being provided. That is the point I am trying to make.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Deputy is talking about a situation she is very well aware of in a particular school. In general, schools should, where they can, provide facilities at a cost that is not too prohibitive and they should certainly consider the kind of organisation to which they are providing the use of the school. However, I do not know the individual circumstances of the particular school.

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland does excellent work in general, although I am not aware of its specific work in County Kildare. Our role in the Department of Education and Skills is to ensure children with dyslexia have the supports they need in the school system but we also support the Dyslexia Association of Ireland to some extent in terms of the very good work it does as a voluntary organisation. I will try to get more information with regard to the individual case the Deputy raises. In general, our job is to ensure children with special learning needs, such as dyslexia or otherwise, are appropriately supported in the school setting.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I am sure there is a more general point to this. When the Dyslexia Association of Ireland sought to replace that classroom, it had a job doing it but, in the end, it got somewhere for €2,500 a year. If the Minister is talking to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland about this, I ask her to get some sort of understanding about such situations in general and not specifically in regard to this school, which I am just using as an example. I am appalled that there would not be an instinctive response from educators that this is an educational plus and is not some sort of an added extra. There should be some sort of tiered arrangement. I would have thought the Department would have a role in terms of giving some sort of guidance to schools about that type of approach. This is an educational advantage in regard to dyslexia but also in terms of the children's self-esteem.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I would be happy to meet the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, although, to the best of my knowledge, I have not had a request for a meeting. I am not clear from what the Deputy has said whether the classroom is used during or after school hours.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy After.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In general, we would encourage schools to ensure school premises are used for different kinds of appropriate uses, and I certainly think this is appropriate. I would be happy to find out more about exactly what the issue is and to see if we can help to resolve it.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I completely concur with Deputy Murphy on this issue. In Cork city, the annual fee for the workshops is €800 and, as it is €750 in north Kildare, I imagine that is an average price throughout the State. One of the reasons the price is so high is that schools are charging astronomical fees to cater for children with dyslexia, many of whom would be pupils of those very schools. This is something the Minister should take up with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland in order to see exactly what the position is State-wide.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The primary focus from the Department's perspective is to ensure we provide in-school supports for children with learning needs, and that would be my main driving force in terms of working on the new model. In addition, the issue of diagnosis should not be an obstacle to getting the supports children need. I would be happy to look at this issue. The Deputies have pointed to two different parts of the country and I would not like to think there is a prohibitive cost to what parents perceive to be supports they need.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 9. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will address concerns regarding the new system of allocation of resource and learning supports that is being piloted in 2015; and if she will address the long waiting times for special needs assessment by the National Educational Psychological Service. [43884/15]

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The National Council for Special Education identified that the current model for allocating resource teachers to schools is potentially inequitable because access to professional assessments is not always readily available to those who cannot afford to access them privately.


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