The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD have today announced further details on the implementation of the first phase of the Irish Sign Language (ISL) scheme which provides ISL in-school support for students who are Deaf and whose primary means of communication is ISL.

The new scheme was originally announced on 2 March 2022 and will now be implemented on a phased basis. The new and enhanced scheme of support is being introduced initially to support those students attending a mainstream school whose primary means of communication is ISL and who meet two specific criteria which are as follows;

  • The first is that the child has absent, hypoplastic or poorly functioning bilateral auditory nerves.
  • The second is medical confirmation that hearing aids and/ or cochlear implants are not a viable option to help hearing due to what medical professionals refer to as the anatomical structure of the cochlea

This first phase of the scheme will allow for resources to be targeted towards supporting pupils and families where specific intensive support is required in order to access the curriculum and to allow for learning and improvement of the scheme going forward. As part of the expansion of the NCSE that was announced in Budget 2023, 40 dedicated new staff are being allocated for this first phase of the ISL scheme.

Minister Foley said:

Today’s announcement builds on our commitment earlier this year to provide dedicated specialist ISL supports under a new ISL scheme.

It is important to note that the new scheme is in addition to the existing provision that is in place, in the form of the role of a special needs assistant with ISL competency to support students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and whose primary language is ISL.

The Department’s priority and commitment is to ensure that competent skilled resources are available to support all of our pupils whose primary language is ISL in accessing the school curriculum and further enhancing whole school community knowledge to ensure an inclusive environment for all Deaf pupils and students at primary and post-primary. We will continue to work to achieving this.

Minister Madigan said:

Inclusion is an important part of my brief as Minister for Special Education and Inclusion. The new scheme will provide enhanced supports to pupils whose primary language is ISL and will support further an inclusive education experience and support students in achieving the best possible outcomes.

I am pleased to be in a position to announce implementation of this first phase of this critical scheme for a cohort of students who require this intensive support. I want to assure families that the approach to the first phase is being taken to ensure resources are focused in on supporting pupils and families where specific intensive support is required in order to access the curriculum.

We will continue to engage with stakeholders throughout this phase and look at what we can improve on as we build towards full implementation of the scheme.”

Under the scheme, two new posts are being created, an ISL – Specialist Classroom Support (referred to as ISL – SCS) and an Advisor Deaf/Hard of Hearing (ISL) (referred to as ISL Advisor).

The role of the ISL – Specialist Classroom Support is to consistently convey the spirit and content of the communication occurring in the classroom and enhance active engagement with learning and participation in school life by the student.

The focus of the new Advisor Deaf/Hard of Hearing, (ISL) role will be to build capacity in ISL across the school community including teachers, SNAs, other school staff and students.

Circular issued to schools today outlining further detail on the implementation of the scheme are available here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/dd76d-enhancement-to-irish-sign-language-isl-scheme-provision/

https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/5bfe7-enhancement-to-irish-sign-language-isl-scheme-provision-post-primary/

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