For Oral Answer on : 17/10/2023
Question Number(s): 30 Question Reference(s): 40385/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education the way her Department is supporting the creation of teaching qualifications for teachers of special education; her further plans, if any, in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government.
Providing inclusive education to children with special educational needs is a fundamental principle of my Department’s education and training system. This principle is put into practice through the policies of my Department and the Teaching Council and the supports provided to schools, for example through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
Inclusive education (including Special Education) was a mandatory element of initial teacher education (ITE) programmes which were extended and reconceptualised under Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers (Teaching Council, 2011). Within further updated standards which the Teaching Council adopted in 2020, known as Céim Standards for Initial Teacher Education, inclusive education is further strengthened as one of seven core elements which must underpin all aspects of programmes of ITE.
Inclusive education, as defined in Céim, refers to any aspect of teachers’ learning which aims to
- Improve their capacity to address and respond to the diversity of learners’ needs – which specifically includes the needs of children with autism;
- Remove barriers to education through the accommodation and provision of appropriate structures and arrangements
- Enable each learner to achieve the maximum benefit from his/her attendance at school.
By including these as core elements, the Council has taken a high-level approach to ensuring that they inform every aspect of programme design.
As part of the review and accreditation process, all programmes of initial teacher education will have to provide evidence of how the core elements are explored and examined with student teachers during the course of their programme.
All new and existing ITE programmes have been realigned with Céim for first year student teachers as of September 2022. All other ITE programmes are undergoing the accreditation process under the new standards, due to be complete by the end of this year.
In March of this year, I also launched a Policy Statement on Initial Teacher Education, which looks to build on the work carried out to enhance inclusive education under Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education. I have asked the Teaching Council to provide a report on how the core element of inclusive education has been included in initial teacher education, which will be provided in Q2 2024.
This will allow us to progress other actions agreed as part of my Policy Statement on Initial Teacher Education.
In addition to the focus on inclusive education through initial teacher education for all primary and post-primary teachers, my Department also provides a range of professional learning supports through the National Council for Special Education and dedicated post-graduate programmes for teachers working with students with special educational needs.
On an annual basis, my Department provides funding for two distinct categories of post-graduate programmes for Special Education Teachers:
- The Post-Graduate Diploma Programme of Continuing Professional Development for Special Education Teachers.
- Graduate Certificate in the Education of Pupils on the Autism Spectrum.
Their overarching purpose is to provide opportunities to teachers working in special education to gain additional specialist qualifications to support their work. The aim of the programmes is to provide substantial theoretical and practical continuing professional development for teachers working with students with special educational needs, contributing to the school’s overall capacity to meet the needs of pupils with special education needs, including autism.
In 2022, circa €726k was provided for these programmes to provide for over 300 places.
These programmes have been in place for over a decade, meaning thousands of teachers have availed of them. Prioritising investment in the broad range of supports for SEN in schools, including consideration of expansion of the postgraduate programmes, is a matter that is kept under constant review.