Parliamentary Question for Minister for Education (Ruairi Quinn TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER 26/05/2014
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received policy advice from the National Council for Special Education on the reclassification of Down’s syndrome as a low-incidence disability; if he will provide details of all interactions between his Department and the NCSE on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I wish to advise the Deputy that a key function of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) as set out under Section 20 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004, is to provide the Minister for Education and Skills with expert, independent, evidence-informed policy advice on special education for children and adults. My Department requested that the NCSE consider the issue of whether Down Syndrome should be reclassified as a low incidence disability in all instances, regardless of assessed cognitive ability, in the context of its preparation of comprehensive advice on how the educational system supports children with special educational needs in schools.
The NCSE report on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools has now been published and is available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie. The report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.
The NCSE has recommended that in the short-term, pupils with Down syndrome who are in the Mild General Learning Disability (Mild GLD) category should continue to be supported by schools’ Learning Support allocation in the same way as other pupils with a Mild GLD. The NCSE policy advice did not recommend that an exception should be made for children with Down syndrome who are in the Mild GLD range, over other children who are in the mild range and who also may have other co-morbid conditions.
However, the NCSE report states that it is confident that the introduction of a new allocation model will overcome the difficulty posed by all children with mild general learning disabilities, including children with Down syndrome, who have additional difficulties and who can be supported according to their level of need and in line with their learning plan process. In the meantime, schools are reminded that they can differentiate the level of learning support granted to ensure that available resources are used to support children in line with their needs.