Joe Behan - Independent Councillor - Wicklow County Council

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Changes to Special Education Resources

Archive Statements > 2017 - January-March

Changes to Resources for Special Education Needs Could Be Damaging
20th February 2017

Changes to the way Resource teachers will be allocated from next September are potentially damaging and the positive spin coming from the Government should be treated with extreme caution. Indeed, one serious flaw in the proposals should be opposed by parents, teachers and public representatives.

While there may be some simplification in the application procedures, the reality is that the Department of Education has succeeded in placing a cap on the resources which will be available to individual children and schools in the future. By this I mean that, up to now, if a child had a diagnosed condition they were entitled to support for their entire time in primary and secondary school. In the future, the school will be allocated a set number of resource teaching hours and if a new child enters the school after junior infants or is diagnosed later with a special needs condition the school will have to share the resource teaching hours among more pupils as there is no guarantee that the child will get an individual entitlement to resource teaching.

This means that school principals will effectively become gate keepers for the Department of Education in having to divide up resources between more and more children and will have to "play God" in deciding who gets the resources and who doesn't.

This significant flaw has already been flagged by the INTO and should be seen for what it is; a blatant attempt to reduce resources in the long run. It is the end of what is called a demand led system which will be replaced by a system of allocation which limits the rights of each individual pupil to her/his entitlement to resource teaching.

The Department has, for years, been looking for a way to avoid providing extra resource teachers when the demand increased. The first measure they used 5 years ago was to take away 15% of the resource teaching hours from every pupil who needed it. This 15% has never been restored and has now been effectively forgotten about. Now they have devised a system which sounds wonderful (if you listen to government propaganda) but which in fact will result eventually in pupils with special educational needs having their entitlements reduced. This will result in a significant impact on their learning.

It is a matter of concern that there has been so little debate about this regressive aspect of the new policy and I believe parents, teachers and politicians should fight to ensure that the State is not allowed to escape its obligations to primary and secondary students who have special educational needs.

Cllr. Joe Behan

Serving the people of County Wicklow since 1985 |

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