Tuesday 21 November 2017

New system for allocating extra teachers for children with special educational needs unveiled

(Stock pic)
(Stock pic)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A new system for allocating extra teachers to schools for children with special educational needs was unveiled today.

It will eliminate the need for parents of children with the most complex needs to pay for a diagnosis to support an application for additional classroom resources.

Additional teaching support for pupils with high incidence learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, will be based on the social and educational profile of the school. Currently, this allocation is a proportion of the overall number of teachers in a school.

The profiles will be based on results from standardised tests conducted in second, fourth and sixth classes in primary schools and, at second-level, the Junior Cert, as well as data on the socio-economic backgrounds of a school’s  pupils, such as the numbers availing of an exam fee waiver.

The profiles will also include a weighting for pupils with the most complex needs, who will be identified through a new scheme being devised in consultation with the school psychologists, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the National Council for Special  Education (NCSE).

While that is being  prepared any children in that category will hold their current allocation, or, if awaiting an assessment, will be awarded a support.

The current system was seen as unfair to pupils from less well-off backgrounds whose parents could not afford to pay for a professional assessment to support their application.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said it would be a fairer and better way to allocate resources and the key goal was to have better outcomes for children with special educational needs.

The new model arises from a review by the NCSE, followed by a pilot scheme in 47 schools in the 2015/16 year.

Currently there are more than 12,000 special education teachers and further 900 posts will come on stream next September.

The minister said that no school would receive an allocation of resources less than the allocation they received in the current school year.

NCSE chairman Eamon Stack said should would be given guidance on how to use the resources being made available and details of an appeals process will be issued in coming weeks.

National Parents Council (primary) chief executive Áine Lynch welcomed the announcement and said the changes would set a more level playing field.

Meanwhile the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) was more cautious and said while there were a number of positive aspects “the jury is out on the new model.”

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