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Intellectually disabled pupils put on short days for two years

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Education Minister Joe McHugh

Education Minister Joe McHugh

Education Minister Joe McHugh

Eight children with an intellectual disability have been told by their school they will be on short days for the next two years it has emerged, amid ongoing efforts to tackle the practice of reduced timetables for some pupils.

Oireachtas Education Committee chair and Kildare South TD Fiona O'Loughlin told Education Minister Joe McHugh about the cases, saying: "That is every one of the 167 days of the school year - it is not good enough."

She said the children had no school for six months before getting second-level places in her area last November, when they were put on a reduced timetable. This year they were told they would be on short days for the next two years.

Mr McHugh was appearing before the committee in the face of the controversy over schools effectively "suspending" certain pupils by putting them on shorter days, often because of behavioural issues.

Anecdotal evidence suggests reduced timetables were disproportionately affecting children with disabilities, those with emotional and behavioural difficulties or those from a different cultural background such as the Traveller or Roma communities.

There are no official statistics on the extent of the practice, but a recent survey showed one in four children with a disability - rising to one in three for those with autism - were on reduced timetables.

While a short day is a common way of implementing a reduced timetable, it may also be a short week.

Mr McHugh has published draft guidelines on reduced timetables.

He said he hoped final guidelines would be implemented in the current school year.

Irish Independent