100. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans to extend the July provision scheme to allow more children to qualify, including children with a particular diagnosis (details supplied), in view of the commitment in the programme for partnership Government to examine the adequacy of special education access and funding provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18264/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

This funding includes provision for over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs, and approximately 1,300 special classes, with 169 new Special Classes opened to date for the 2017/18 school year.

In relation to the provision of education and of additional teaching support for pupils with Down syndrome, from September 2017 a new model for allocating special education teachers has been introduced for all mainstream primary and post primary schools.

Under the new model, children can receive additional teaching support based on their learning needs, rather than on a diagnosis of disability. Research indicates that this is a better way to allocate support because a category of disability on its own tells us little about the level or type of support that a child needs in school.

Children who have Down syndrome can receive as much additional teaching support as required in school, taking account of school based assessments of their learning needs.

Full details of the new allocation model are set out in DES Circulars 0013 and 0014 2017.

The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016.

In developing this policy advice, the NCSE reviewed my Department’s July Provision Grant Scheme. The NCSE consulted widely with parents, professionals and other stakeholders and interested parties while also conducting research.

The Policy advice, which is available on the NCSE’s website, recommends that relevant stakeholders should discuss the development of a national day activity scheme that provides a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs for one month of the summer holidays.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the National Council for Special Education, the National Educational Psychological Service, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered. The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.

My Department officials are engaging with officials in the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Health and other relevant stakeholders in regard to implementing the recommendations, including those in relation to July Provision.

While that work is underway, there are no plans to extend the existing July Provision Grant Scheme to all children with Special Education Needs and indeed this was not a recommendation of the NCSE in their policy advice.