Last week I attended a meeting with parent and teacher representatives from Castleknock Educate Together National School, Castleknock National School and St. Brigid’s National School, regarding potential threats to special education resources. I have written to the Minister for Education seeking a guarantee that the rollout of new procedures for the allocation of such resources for students with special educational needs will not lead to current services being undermined.
The current system for the allocation of teaching resources for children with special needs is not working, as it is heavily dependent on parents having to pay privately to obtain a diagnosis of special educational need. While this needs to change, the new model for allocation of special education teachers, which is based on broad categories such as the schools “socio-demographic catchment area” and its standardised test results, will undermine the resources already allocated in many schools in Dublin 15.
The new allocation rules are set out in a document produced by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) – Delivery for Students with Special Educational Needs. This is currently being piloted in a number of schools across the country. However, there is major uncertainty as to when the Government will determine whether to implement the new system or not. While the NCSE document speaks of a two or three year transition phase, the implication seems to be that after this, schools that have built up special educational teaching resources over the years, could lose these if they did not fit with the new guidelines. In many local schools in Dublin 15, this could result in the undermining of existing one-on-one or small class teaching that is provided to pupils with moderate special educational needs.
I’ve written to the Minister for Education on this issue. It is absolutely vital that the Minister clarifies what results are being obtained from the schools where the new rules are being piloted. Further, the Minister needs to reassure parents that existing special educational resources will not be undermined. While many schools currently have insufficient special educational teaching hours, the solution to this cannot be to take these resources away from other schools. Further investment in the education system can address the needs of all children with specific educational needs.