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TDs will be asked to vote on reversing special needs teaching cuts

A Fianna Fáil motion, to be voted upon on next Wednesday, asks for increased teaching staff to meet the workload.

Fianna Fáil's education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, and party leader Micheál Martin.
Fianna Fáil's education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, and party leader Micheál Martin.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TDS WILL be asked to vote next week on whether the government should employ increased numbers of Special Needs Assistants and resource teachers to cope with the increased number of students in need of their services.

The motion, tabled by Fianna Fáil, follows confirmation from the National Council of Special Education that the number of SNAs and resource teachers is to remain unchanged for the 2013-14 academic year.

That move will mean an overall reduction in the hours provided to each child, given the number of children who will need their services.

Resource hours will fall by around 25 per cent across the board, with the ultimate effect for each school depending on the number of children needing resource teaching.

In some schools, however, the number of resource teaching hours will fall by around 40 per cent.

Fianna Fáil’s motion, which will be debated next Tuesday and Wednesday before a vote on Wednesday night, says the cuts would affect the “children with the greatest need in the education system” and “undermine the principle of inclusive schools”.

It also argues that the cuts would reinforce the segregation of children with learning difficulties and weaken their mainstreaming, while also negatively affecting the national literacy and numeracy strategy.

The motion also calls on the government to lift the cap on teaching resources and Special Needs Assistants.

“Such reductions are in direct contradiction to the Government’s approach of matching the expected increase in pupil numbers in mainstream classes this September with new teachers,” the motion states, noting that 450 additional mainstream teachers are being recruited this summer to maintain the existing pupil-teacher ratios.

The vote on the motion will come hours after the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation holds a demonstration outside Leinster House to oppose the cuts.

The usual routine of Dáil business means TDs are unlikely to get a chance to vote on Fianna Fáil’s motion as it currently stands – and will instead be asked to vote on a counter-motion which endorses the government’s plan of action.

However, TDs would have to vote on replacing the original FF motion with the government’s alternative – something which not all TDs may be prepared to do, given that the counter-motion is unlikely to reverse the effective cut in overall teaching numbers.

Read: Tánaiste insists: We’re not cutting the budget for special needs teaching

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Gavan Reilly

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