Sunday 17 November 2019

Ten-year campaign for extra classroom support for children with Down syndrome scores victory

Jan O'Sullivan,TD,the Minister for Education and Skills at Leinster house
Jan O'Sullivan,TD,the Minister for Education and Skills at Leinster house

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

A 10-year campaign for extra classroom support for children with Down syndrome has scored a victory with an allocation of 2.5 resource teacher hours per week for each qualifying child.

An estimated 500 to 1,000 children in mainstream schools will benefit from the move announced by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, after agreement at Government.

Up until now, children with Down syndrome only qualified for resource teaching hours if they had another condition which met the criteria set down for the provision of extra teaching support.

Ms O’Sullivan said the supports were being provided now in recognition of the fact that children with Down Syndrome experienced a cluster of difficulties relating to this syndrome, in addition to general learning difficulties, including speech and language developmental delays.

She said the needs of children with Down Syndrome were sufficient to warrant an interim allocation, until a new system for providing resources to schools for children with special needs was introduced.

The new system was due to be implemented in September 2015, but has been delayed while work continues on the deciding the best model for allocating resource teaching hours. 

Ms O‘Sullivan said was “very clear to me that we have more work to do to alleviate the burden on parents, but I hope the allocation will go some way towards allowing their children to reach their full potential.”

The announcement was welcomed by Down syndrome Ireland, which said it brought to an end a 10-year battle “that families have endured and fought so desperately to highlight and change.

“The unjust situation brought unnecessary stress, pressure and trauma on families and the decision goes some way to alleviating that”.

But Down syndrome Ireland said it did not go far enough and that it would continue to lobby “for a proper plan to be put in place to right the wrongs of recent years for all people with disabilities”.

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