Thursday 19 September 2019

Secondary teachers 'don't have enough training or planning time' to give SEN students support they deserve

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Secondary teachers say they don’t have enough training or planning time to give students with special educational needs (SEN) the support they deserve.

Up to 25pc of second-level students are deemed to have a special educational need, and  vast majority are in mainstream classes.

But the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) says only 22pc of its members have received the necessary training.

The finding comes from a survey of ASTI members against the background of controversy over the bedding down of a new way of allocating extra teaching resources to schools to cater for SEN students.

Other findings include:

  • 65p of teachers  had not participate in training for SEN students  in recent years,  and the most frequently cite reason for this was workload.
  • 61pc of those who had not participated in training are willing to do so, while 85pc would like further training
  • 50pc of mainstream teachers said the training was not adequate
  • 68pc said smaller classes would be better for SEN students.

The union says that it is embracing the new inclusion model but is concerned about the level of resources to back it up.

A key feature of the new model is to support SEN students within the mainstream classroom as much as possible rather than their withdrawal for one-to-one or small group tuition.  T

The ASTI has advised its members not to engage in what union presIdent Breda Lynch described as the “bureaucratic paperwork” associated with the new system.

ASTI assistant general secretary Moira Leyden said they had been ”flooded with emails” from members since September as a result of the changes.

Ms Lynch said the findings showed that the best way to assist teachers in the delivery of education to SEN students was smaller classes and access to training.

She said they confirmed that teachers’ commitment to inclusive education was being significantly undermined by a lack of support at national level.

“The survey demonstrates that the vast majority of teachers have received no training in special needs education in recent years. It is also evident that schools lack consistent administrative structures to co-ordinate planning for SEN students.”

She said Education Minister Joe McHugh had acknowledged the negative impact of initiative overload on schools and teachers.

“This initiative overload includes an overly-bureaucratic SEN model which is not backed by appropriate training and supports for teachers. This must change if the government is serious about inclusive education and equality of opportunity for all of our young people.”

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