The number of special needs assistants (SNAs) working in Irish schools has increased by over 40% since 2011, the Department of Education has said.
From Friday (May 18th), schools nationwide will know how many additional SNAs are to be allocated to them for the new school year starting in September. Funding for these posts was announced last December.
Hundreds of extra posts are expected to be allocated and this will bring the total number of SNA posts to 15,000 - an increase of 42% since 2011.
SNAs assist teachers to support students with special educational needs who also have other care needs. For example, a child may need assistance with mobility, going to the toilet, eating or taking medication.
According to the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, the Government wants to ensure that children with special needs ‘can be supported to fully participate in schools and fulfill their potential'.
Meanwhile, the Departments of Education, Health, and Children and Youth Affairs have also launched a new project, which aims to provide speech and language and occupational therapy services in primary schools and pre-schools.
Some 150 schools and pre-schools have been chosen to take part in phase one of the project during the 2018/19 school year.
This project has been developed in conjunction with the HSE. As part of it, 19 speech and language therapists and 12 occupational therapists are to be recruited by the HSE to work with the phase one schools, along with two national coordinators who will manage the project.
Phase one will focus on a number of areas, including early intervention, tailored supports, developing better links between educational and therapy supports, and maximising the participation of parents in their children's communication development.
"Parents tell us consistently that they would like to see greater levels of cooperation and integration between different services. This model will bring together therapists and educational professionals, who have until now often operated separately.
"It will allow them to work together to plan, collaborate, and share their professional knowledge and expertise. The project will allow therapists to use their time more efficiently to support greater numbers of pupils in school environments, where there are often large concentrations of need," explained Minister Bruton.
He noted that the development of speech and language capabilities ‘is clearly linked to children's capacity to develop literacy skills and thus to access the curriculum'.
"That is why we seek to address these issues at the earliest possible point and intervene early. We wish to see therapists and teachers working together to achieve better outcomes for children," he added.
The 150 schools taking part in phase one are located in west Dublin, Kildare and west Wicklow. They include all types and sizes and schools in order to reflect the overall education system.