Special-needs teaching support to be cut by 10pc
Parents and unions expressed their anger last night after the Department of Education announced a 10pc cut in teaching support for children with special needs.
From the beginning of the next academic year in September, schools will receive just 90pc of the teaching hours they need to meet the needs of students who require special needs assistance.
This means that a school which this year had 25 hours will have to teach the same children in 22.5 hours.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) condemned the move and said it was another example of cuts being imposed on the most needy pupils.
General secretary Sheila Nunan said schools that had been most inclusive of all children would be worst affected.
However, she said ultimately all children would be affected by the decision. "Inclusion in primary schools needs adequate resourcing," she said.
A spokesperson for the Special Needs Parents Association said it was totally opposed to the cuts. "We have already taken substantial cuts when it comes to special needs," Cathy Shevlin said.
"I understand that money needs to be found, but at the same time these children need all the support they can get, and at the minute resources are being pulled on a weekly basis."
A spokesperson for the ASTI, Ireland's main second level teaching union, said it was seeking a meeting with the department.
"We are not aware of an actual cut to date. However, we are concerned that there could be the possibility of cuts at some stage," said the spokesperson.
Ms Nunan said Irish classes at primary level were among the most overcrowded in Europe and special needs children would be lost without resource teachers. Many families would be hit on the double because both home and school supports to their children were being cut.
She said the decision would place schools in the very difficult position of having to explain to parents of children with special needs why schools will not be able to provide the level of support recommended by psychologists, psychiatrists and speech therapists.
The Department of Education said: "The number of resource teachers which will be allocated for the new academic year 2011/12 will be 9,950. This is an increase of 350 posts on the number of resource teachers allocated in 2010.
"It has been decided to allocate 90pc of the school's identified resource teacher needs in the first instance. . . If the demand through late or emergency applications is less than 10pc of posts, as is expected, then the Department will revisit the initial allocation and increase the numbers."