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‘We listened’: Minister reverses special needs education cuts

A working group will be established to review the provision of special education and the NCSE will publish revised details of resource hours in the coming days.

Image: Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland

Updated 22.29

EDUCATION MINISTER RUAIRÍ Quinn said earlier today that he has reversed the recently-announced cuts to resources for special needs students.

The Labour TD made the announcement this afternoon and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is expected to publish revised details of the Resource Teaching allocations for schools in the coming days.

“Today I am also announcing measures to retain the level of resource teachers available to students with special educational needs at the 2012/13 levels,” he explained. “This is a good day for special education.”

Last week, the government announced that although it was maintaining the €1.3 billion funding but cutting the resource hours in schools by about 10 per cent.

During this morning’s Cabinet meeting, agreement was secured to release 500 additional teaching posts to schools in September to deal with the demand for extra resource hours.

The Minister warned the move will have budgetary implications come October. He said pupil:teacher ratios in classrooms and other options will now be “on the table”.

A working group – chaired by former Chief Inspector in the Department of Education and Skills Eamon Stack – will be established to develop a new model for allocating resource teachers in schools from 2013/2014. Parents and advocacy groups will be included in that panel, which will be expected to report back to government by September.

Quinn says he needs an explanation for the 12 per cent surge in demand for resource teacher support this year. The figure is significantly higher than the annual 1.3 per cent increase in the number of students attending school, he said, noting that if such a pattern were to continue the system would quickly become “unsustainable”.

The U-turn has been welcomed by the INTO, which was among the stakeholders lobbying the government in the past week.

Quinn said the decision to reverse the cuts as the coalition interacted and listened to interested parties, including concerned parents.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, the Minister acknowledged that there was a “double disadvantage” given the alleged use of private assessments by parents of children in wealthier areas of the country to ensure they receive the maximum possibility of resources.

The distribution of hours does reflect the assertion that disadvantaged schools receive less hours than those in wealthier areas.

Originally posted at 13.21 today

Related: Cuts in teaching support for special needs children “utterly unacceptable”

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