The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan T.D., has today announced the establishment within the National Council for Special Education of a new Inclusion Support Service to assist schools in supporting children with special educational needs.
This service will include the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired(VTSVHI) which until now have been managed by the Department. This change is to take immediate effect and is consistent with recommendations of NCSE reports and with the review of the VTSVHI.
This change will mean that schools will receive a better and more integrated service from this new Inclusion Support Service. The Inclusion Support Service will build on the existing good work and support which NBSS, SESS and VTSVHI provide to children and their families as well as to teachers and schools and which will continue as normal as the new arrangements are put in place.
The Minister has today also announced that she is not proposing to change the way teachers are allocated to schools for children with Special Educational Needs for the coming school year.
The Minister said that in making this decision to retain the current model for allocating resource and learning support teachers for the coming year, she was guided by the advice of the NCSE Working Group that sufficient time should be allowed for further consultation to take place with the education stakeholders before the new model is implemented in schools.
The Minister further welcomed the fact that, through consultations which have already taken place, there was a broad welcome for the proposed new model from Parents, disability groups, schools and stakeholders. However, she also said that, while there has been significant consultation in relation to the proposed new model, there had not been sufficient time to address fully the concerns which have been raised for the September 2015 school year. In particular, the Minister noted that a robust mechanism for identifying children with complex special educational needs had yet to be finalised.
The Minister also said that she has asked her Department to review the roles, structures and optimal working arrangements for coordination between the expanded NCSE with its Inclusion Support Service and the National Educational Psychological Service. To this end submissions are sought from any interested stakeholders in relation to the issues by Friday, 13th of March.
Finally the Minister thanked the NCSE and its Chairperson, Mr Eamon Stack for their efforts in bringing proposals for the new model to her for consideration. Work will continue in the coming months to develop the proposed model and to address the range of concerns which were identified through the consultations which have taken place so far. The Minister said that she had asked her Department to design a pilot of the new model which schools could opt into on a voluntary basis. The Minister also said that continuing consultation with stakeholders will be a vital part of the ongoing work.