Quinn in U-turn on cutbacks for special needs help
PROPOSED cuts in extra teaching support for pupils with special educational needs are not going ahead in September, following a U-turn by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
The Cabinet has agreed to maintain resource teaching time for pupils with complex disabilities, such as autism, at current levels.
It will be done by bringing forward to September the allocation of 500 reserve resource teaching posts intended to meet demand that arises during the school year.
It means that children with an entitlement to a resource teacher will continue to receive four hours and 15 minutes per week, instead of having it cut to three hours and 45 minutes, as announced last week.
The annual €1.3bn spend on special needs education will rise by €21m, which Mr Quinn now has to find in next year's budget on top of other savings of €44m.
Mr Quinn's move followed a storm of protest from school managers, teacher unions, parents, groups representing children with disabilities, and from backbenchers and members of the opposition.
It came hours before a Dail debate on a Fianna Fail motion condemning the cut.
A 12pc increase in demand for resource teachers – from 38,400 pupils this year to 42,500 in 2013/15 – led to the decision to cut allocations to individual pupils, announced by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) last week.
Mr Quinn, who denied that yesterday's move was a U-turn, said he secured Cabinet agreement to release 500 additional teaching posts to schools in September to cope with the "alarming rise" in the demand.
"These posts were set aside to meet the late demand expected to arise over the remainder of the next school year. This is a once-off measure."
Mr Quinn expressed "grave concern" about the scale of the surge in demand for resource teachers this year, with an unprecedented 12pc rise in applications for support, compared with a 1.3pc increase in student numbers.
He said if increases of that scale were to continue, it would make the current system unsustainable.
A working group has been set up to develop a new model for allocating resource teachers in schools and it will provide preliminary advice to Mr Quinn in September.