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Child and disability advocacy groups call for urgent passage of law on school places

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(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Four leading advocacy groups have called for the urgent passage of proposed new legislation to speed up the process of compelling schools to open places for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Today’s Cabinet meeting is set to approve the draft law and a special sitting of the Dáil is expected on Friday to get the bill through its first stage.

It comes against the backdrop of a crisis over provision for students needing a place in primary and post primary schools next September, with about 100 places still required in Dublin alone.

The proposed change in the law will mean the Department of Education will have the power and responsibility to ensure every child has an appropriate school place.

It will also hold the department to account in effectively planning, sanctioning, and resourcing school places where they are most needed

It will put an obligation on all schools to engage with providing appropriate special class places where they are required.

Where a school is not forthcoming and has the capacity, it will allow the minister for education to act more swiftly in compelling a school to open a special class.

It will also enable the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to instruct a school to enrol a child with special educational needs.

While the minister currently has powers to direct a school to open a special class, it has taken between four and 18 months for that process to work.

The change will reduce that period to between six and eight weeks.

The autism charity, AsIAm, Inclusion Ireland, National Parents Council Primary and Special Classes and Schools Ireland have welcomed the Government’s move on emergency legislation.

A spokesperson for the group said "For too long we have had a back and forth between schools and the Department on who is responsible for ensuring every child has access to a school place which meets their needs in the locality.

“This legislation is absolutely critical to ensure that no child is left behind in the coming academic year, however in many respects it is sad that it is required.”

The group said this summer “must be the last in which families face major uncertainty about their child's educational future.

"This legislation will be one element of achieving that but it must be accompanied by a rights-based approach to resourcing schools properly and the development of an inclusive school culture.”

The group called for planning well in advance of a child commencing primary or post primary school to ensure that proper supports can be put in place in providing a high quality, inclusive education experience for the child.

“We are urging the Oireachtas to pass the legislation without any delay so that every child has the same chance to go to school this coming September, “ the spokesperson said.


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