Monday 23 September 2019

Anger at teachers' unions over advice on special needs

AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Second-level teacher unions have provoked fury after issuing advice to members to refuse to implement individual education plans for pupils with special needs.

The shock move, which will affect tens of thousands of students in post-primary schools, has caused outrage in AsIAm, the advocacy body for people with autism.

AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris described it as "grossly unethical" and called on unions to think again - or for teachers to ignore the advice.

The unions claim there is no legal obligation on teachers to do the work and that schools don't have the resources - although most have been using some form of tailored education planning for such pupils for many years.

About one in four of the 360,000 post-primary pupils have some type of special educational need (SEN).

Mr Harris said "for a teachers' trade union to suggest discrimination in the classroom against students with disabilities is truly shocking" and said he would not allow them be used as "a bargaining chip".

Planning

He was reacting to advice issued by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) "not to implement Individual Education plans (IEPs) or equivalents".

He said individual planning for children with SEN can make a difference to whether the child attends school.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) advised its members along the same lines.

The hard line move comes as Department of Education inspectors prepare to roll out a new model of inspection in special needs education in January. It is an opportunity for the unions to maximise pressure on the Government over issues around workload and school resources - but at the expense of the most vulnerable pupils.

Provision for IEPs was made in 2004 legislation, although the part giving effect to the IEPs has never been formally commenced. A department spokesperson said it was writing to both unions to stress planning for the education of a child with special needs is absolutely essential.

Irish Independent

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