Friday 6 December 2019

Schools 'refusing to enrol special need pupils despite having capacity'

Education minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Education minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

Schools are refusing to enrol pupils with special needs despite having the capacity to take the child and having access to extra resources.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) said it is concerned that "a small number of parents are still experiencing refusals or soft barriers by certain schools" when it comes to enrolling their child.

In its progress report on the development of policy advice on special schools, which was published yesterday by Education Minister Joe McHugh, the council said parents are "justifiably angry" that the current system allows schools to resist such enrolments.

It called on the minister to enact as soon as possible a section of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 that prohibits schools from taking into account a pupil's academic ability when deciding whether or not to accept a child.

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"We question why certain local State-funded schools should be able to decide only to admit students of a certain ability, even though these schools can be resourced to accept all students," it said.

The NCSE is looking at the issue of moving towards the inclusion of all pupils in mainstream schools, however it said this requires "careful consideration".

It said "full inclusion" does not mean every child must spent all day, every day in a mainstream class.

Around 2pc of pupils are currently educated in separate specialist settings - whether a special school or a special class in a mainstream school.

"The NCSE accepts, based on our extensive consultations to date, that parents, teachers, principals, school management and other education partners find it difficult to conceptualise a school system which supports all students irrespective of ability in the same school.

"We are aware that if this policy advice recommends a move towards greater inclusion, this could potentially bring about significant changes in the education of students with the most complex needs.

Irish Independent

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