Campaigns and activities
Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004
The Act acknowledges that persons with special educational needs have the same right to education as their peers. The legislation aims to ensure that children with special educational needs will leave school with the skills necessary to participate in society and to live independent lives.
The Act states that access to education should be ‘inclusive' unless there are specific reasons why a specialised placement is required for a child.
An educational plan is a key element in the child's progress through the education system. The plan is to be prepared by a team including the parents, the teacher, the child and other professionals. Reviews are to occur annually and amendments made to the plan where appropriate.
Where special educational needs are identified, an education plan is to be drawn up for the child and schools will be entitled to additional resources and supports to assist in the implementation of the plan. The plan is to be reviewed regularly and the parents and special educational needs organisers are to receive reports about the child's progress. In 2009, however, the Irish Government have decided to defer the further implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004. Some parts of the Act have been implemented. The main elements of the Act – the assessment of educational need and the individual education plans – are being deferred until an unknown date.
Visiting Teacher Service
The visiting teacher service provided by the Department of Education & Science offers support to children with vision impairment attending mainstream primary, secondary and third level educational settings.
Each visiting teacher is responsible for a particular region and is allocated a caseload of pupils. The nature and frequency of visits will depend on a range of factors, including the age of the child, severity of vision impairment, educational placement and individual learning needs.
Such a service may include:
Resource Teacher Service
In school, children with sight loss can avail of additional teaching support from a resource teacher, or from a visiting teacher and a resource teacher combined. A resource teacher aims to assess a child needs and progress and will set specific learning goals for the child. The resource teacher provides direct teaching to the pupil, advice to class teachers on appropriate adaptations to the national curriculum and adaptations to teaching and learning strategies.
Special Needs Assistant
A primary or second level school with a pupil with sight loss can appoint a special needs assistant. A special needs assistant can:
Not all pupils with sight loss will require the support of a special needs assistant. The pupil's level of vision and their own managing skills and abilities will determine whether the assistance of a special needs assistant is needed. A professional who has assessed the child's needs is in the best position to advise on whether a special needs assistant is required and on the amount of support needed (full-time or for a specific number of hours). The appointment of a special needs assistant should also be discussed with the schools board of management.
National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
NEPS provides a regionalised educational psychological service to pupils in primary and post primary school throughout Ireland. This service is supported by the Department of Education and Science.
NCBI Community Resource Worker
NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) community resource workers are a resource for a child with sight loss and his or her family and also to other services and professionals working with the child. A community resource worker can visit a pupil in school to offer support and practical advice and to provide awareness training for staff working with the child.
Third level education supports
Most colleges/universities have a disability support service within the college to provide support for students with disabilities while they are attending college.
A third level disability support service can often provide assistance with:
The disability support services within third level institutions are committed to ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the wide range of experiences that college life has to offer. They encourage students to disclose their disability and make contact with their service so that they can assist students by meeting their specific requirements.
Ireland has one specialised school for children with vision impairments, ChildVision, National Education Centre for Blind Children www.childvision.ie it offers children with vision impairment access to the national curriculum at both primary and second level.
In the school, all aspects of the Primary Curriculum are taught. A special curriculum for pupils with a visual impairment is also taught; this includes: Braille literacy, Word Processing, a listening skills programme, a vision training programme and Orientation and Mobility. The school caters for children within the Primary school age (0-12 years).
Pobalscoil Rosmini - Secondary School, Drumcondra, Dublin.
Pobalscoil is adjacent to Childvision campus. Visually impaired and sighted students are educated together. The school offers a wide range of academic and practical subjects for Junior Certificate, Transition Year, Leaving Certificate Applied and Leaving Certificate. Staff includes six dedicated teachers for the visually impaired. The school caters for children within the Secondary school age (12-18 years).
NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) rehabilitation training course
offers people with sight loss the chance to build confidence, gain new skills and independence before moving on to further training or education. For more than 10 years, NCBI training centre has run a foundation course for people with sight loss, offering a range of modules, including daily living and kitchen skills, job seeking advice, computer training, personal development, recreational activities, braille and mobility training. This course is available to people with sight loss aged 16 to 65 years.
For many who participate in the course, it is an opportunity not only to learn new skills, but also to build confidence and increase independence while earning a FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) accreditation.
St Josephs Centre for the Visually Impaired also offers vocational training that is aimed at young people aged 16 and over, who have a vision impairment and additional needs. It is a 3 year programme.
Vocational training offers a progression route to further training, supported employment, independent living or open employment. Courses include: personal planning, music, sports studies, swimming, art, drama, meal preparation and cooking, horse riding, stable management, work experience and work sampling.
This vocational training programme is modular and certified by ASDAN (UK) and FETAC Level 3.
NCBI offers additional supports to people of all ages to enable them to participate in all mainstream educational and workplace settings. These additional supports can include:
The Special Education Support Service (SESS) was established in September 2003 to consolidate, co-ordinate, develop and deliver a range of professional development initiatives and support structures for school personnel working with students with special educational needs in a variety of educational settings.
NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) Services
4. Provision of accessible text books and other educational material
All schools may receive grants for specialist equipment and/or assistive technology for pupils with special educational needs.
NCBI offers a wide range of Braille, audio and large print books, newspapers and magazines to its library members throughout the country, free of charge through the postal system. Every year, our library produces an audio recording of textbooks from the primary and second level curriculum. For college students, NCBI can obtain an audio copy of the person's college textbooks through interlibrary loans. We also produce DAISY educational books for children aged 2-17 years. The National Braille Production Centre operates from St. Josephs Centre for the Visually Impaired. It was established to meet the needs of children with a vision impairment attending either mainstream or special education, to provide educational materials in a format that suits their requirements. It produces that Braille and large print version of educational text books.
The visiting teacher will match a pupil at primary and secondary with the assistive technology that best suits their needs at school. NCBI Assistive Technology Service can advise and demonstrate a range of technology and give the opportunity for pupils to try out the technology hands-on. Once the pupil gets their assistive technology, it will be set up to ensure the pupil gets maximum benefit. The pupil will be provided with training and support with using this equipment. The disability support service within a person's perspective third level institution sometimes offers a technology assessment or information on specific technology they may require for their course. NCBI's technology assessment service can also support the person in identifying what equipment best suits their college needs. NCBI's Assistive Technology Service offers advice on a range of magnification and speech software to make information accessible. People with sight loss can test out the equipment to make sure that it works for them and NCBI will then install it for them at home, in the workplace, college or school. NCBI can also provide follow-up support and training in either groups or individual classes.