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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
SHUTTERSTOCK/VYASELEVA ELENA
# Education
Parents, students and other stakeholders are being asked their views on Special Educational Needs
The Government has faced criticism about the difficulty in finding school and class places for children with additional needs.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 30th 2022, 9:48 AM

A PUBLIC CONSULTATION on the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 is being launched by the Government.

The consultation is part of a review of the Act, which provides for the education of children with special educational needs.

“The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that legislation on education for students with additional needs is up-to-date, fully operational, and reflective of the lived experiences of students and families,” Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan said. 

“This is about ensuring that the views of persons with disabilities are fully considered in policy making. The review will help us to understand what aspects of the law is working well and whether aspects of it should be amended. This is about listening,” the Minister said. 

“This is a critical piece of legislation which we know needs to be updated and we want to hear from as many different voices as possible. It is an important part of the review that the first hand experiences of current and former school students and their parents are recorded,” Madigan added. 

Criticism

The Government has long faced criticism from parents and advocates about the difficulty in finding school and class places for children with additional needs.

A report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) published in June found that the Department of Education is failing children with Special Educational Needs regarding the provision of suitable school places. 

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said in his report: “The OCO is of the view that any failure to include children with SEN within the mainstream school system, for any reason other than to facilitate their effective education, constitutes discrimination.”

Around 25% of the student population in Ireland is estimated to have special educational needs, leading the OCO to predict that the situation would “continue to worsen” unless steps are immediately taken to increase capacity.

Following the publication of the report, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government had accepted the findings

He said at the time that the Department of Education was considering whether there is a need to introduce new emergency legislation to assist in securing additional special education needs school places, adding that the department has engaged with the Office of the Attorney General to discuss this matter. 

When asked about the report published in June, Minister Madigan this morning told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “It’s absolutely imperative for me, as Minister for Special Education, that each child with additional needs gets an appropriate place and it’s absolutely critical.

“We’ve moved mountained in that regard. We’ve managed to obtain classes for all children this year. All children with additional needs this year have been catered for.”

Madigan added: “We’ve strategic initatives that we have put in place in terms of forward planning, and it’s the forward planning that was really lacking.”

Proposals to create emergency special school centres prompted further controversy in May that children with special educational needs would be separated from mainstream education.

Surveys

The Department of Education will run a series of online surveys for parents and students, as well as professionals who with with students with additional needs. 

The Department has stated it will be engaging with schools, parents’ groups, students’ organisations, providers of further and higher education and day services, as well as with school communities, education partners and professional bodies, to ensure that a wide cohort of people are aware of and have the opportunity to have their views heard.

The public consultation period will run into spring 2023. Further details can be found here

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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