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Cuts in teaching support for special needs children "utterly unacceptable"

The levels of resource teacher and special needs assistants have been maintained at 2012/2013 levels.

IN 2014, THE levels of resource teachers and special needs assistants will be same as last year – but schools with a child with multiple disabilities will be allocated less teaching support.

The move has been condemned by Down Syndrome Ireland this evening.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) announced today that the levels of resource teacher and special needs assistant (SNA) posts have been maintained at 2012/2013 levels.

A school with a child with multiple disabilities in September 2012 would have been allocated 4 hours and 15 minutes additional teaching hours each week. This year, the same school will be allocated 3 hours and 45 minutes additional teaching support per week.

Condemned

Education Officer for Down Syndrome Ireland, Patricia Griffin, has strongly condemned today’s NCSE cuts, describing them as “utterly unacceptable”.

Griffin said given the increase in numbers of children who have special needs, the announcement represented “a serious cutback in resource support”. She said this will have long-term adverse implications for children who have Down syndrome.

“A 25 per cent cutback in resource hours is a huge policy failure that will impact on literacy levels all over the country, not to mention integration of children with special needs. These cuts are utterly unacceptable,” she said.

She added that the Minister for Education “is reneging on his promises to ring fence all services for people with intellectual disabilities”.

Though staff numbers are not being reduced, pupil numbers have increased by approximately 10 per cent, so in real terms, resources have been cut by a further 10 per cent, following a 15 per cent cut last year. The Government is refusing to honour its commitment to adequately support children with special educational needs in mainstream education. We are appalled by this announcement. Once again the most vulnerable people in our society are suffering.

The NCSE It said that 5,265 resource teacher posts and 10,575 SNA posts are available  in the 2013/14 school year. The positions are allocated to schools to support students with special educational needs.

It was also announced that 3,750 primary and post primary schools will have additional resource teacher and SNA posts in place in September 2013, while 42,500 students with special educational needs will receive additional teaching support and 22,000 students will have access to SNA support.

The Government will maintain a €1.3bn investment in special education in 2013.

Students

The NCSE also said that policy advice is being developed on educating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. It has allocated 4,773 resource teaching and 10,494 SNA posts for the 2013/2014 school year to assist 3,750 schools to educate and care for students with special educational needs.

Additional posts will be allocated to schools during the next school year to provide support for newly assessed or enrolling students.

According to the NCSE, posts remain available to respond to urgent applications that may arise during the coming school year.

It said that over 42,500 students will receive additional teaching supports against approximately 38,400 last year, and that the number of available teaching posts has been maintained so the basis for allocating resource teaching hours to schools has been adjusted in line with available resources.

NCSE Chief Executive, Teresa Griffin said:

I would encourage schools to continue to maximise their use of additional teaching hours through careful planning, team teaching and/or the withdrawal of students to work in small groups in order to minimise the impact of this adjustment on individual students.

The NCSE is to begin work on developing proposals for a new allocation model for teaching supports. It said these are to ensure that all available posts are allocated to schools in line with their educational profile of need, rather than on the basis of the number of students attending or the number of class teachers.

Read: Almost 60 per cent of special needs assistants assaulted – survey>

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