Minister urged to fast-track supports for Down syndrome students
PARENTS are "still hopeful" the Government will fast track new learning supports to end the "educational discrimination" of children with Down syndrome by September 2015.
Last week Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan met with families and representatives from Down Syndrome Ireland to discuss the issue of assigning school resource hours to children affected by the disorder. Senator Fidelma Healy Eames also raised the issue with the minister during a Senate debate on Friday.
Down Syndrome Ireland chief executive Pat Clarke told the Sunday Independent: "In light of all the information she received, we would be hopeful that whatever interim measures can be put in place, will be put in place by next September."
The meeting was organised after the minister's recent decision not to implement a new method of delivering resources, based on level of need rather than disability category, for the 2015/16 school year.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said the decision was made to allow for "further consultation". She said: "The minister is aware some parents and organisations representing children with Down syndrome continue to have concerns that the existing system does not give them certainty as resource hours are distributed by schools." As it stands, children diagnosed with "mild" Down syndrome are excluded from extra hours of teaching supports that are granted to other pupils with learning difficulties. The situation affects between 30-40 children a year.
Mr Clarke said: "There is no point in waiting for another year to implement a system when a minor adjustment, costing less than €1m, would enable them to rectify a discriminatory practice in relation to children with Down syndrome at this point".