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Saturday 17 March 2018

Parents protest outside Dail over cuts in special needs education

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

OUTRAGED parents and teachers have gathered outside the Dail to protest over ongoing cuts in education for children with special needs.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has come under fire over the shortage of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in schools, which parents say are being more and more stretched due to a cap on the number that can be recruited.

The protesters said they are determined to take their fight to the government over the cuts which will have "serious consequences" for a huge number of children.

And while they welcomed yesterday's announcement to reverse the cut in the number of resource teaching hours, they said any reduction in the number of SNAs are "wholly unacceptable."

"My son is going into mainstream education in September and we're still unsure what his hours are at the moment," explained Marie O'Toole from Sallins, Co Kildare.

"I'm concerned that the SNAs won't be in place and whether he'll get the resource hours he needs.

"He has had a lot of medical issues so he's a bit behind compared to your average Down Syndrome child. Minister Quinn needs to take our concerns seriously and listen to what we have to say."

The number of allocations for SNAs has not changed, remaining at 10,575, in spite of 2000 additional children requiring special needs cover from September.

This has led to concerns that individual children will not receive the education to meet their needs, with parents calling for the immediate removal of of the cap on SNA posts.

The group expressed anger and outrage at the decision which they claimed was made to placate the ECB and IMF and was putting the needs of bankers ahead of the most vulnerable group of children in the country.

They said their children would not be able to cope in a mainstream classroom and their only option would be to try to educate their child at home or to travel long distances to a special school.

Mr Quinn said €1.3bn will be spent in support of children with special needs assistance this year.

SNA teachers help children with special needs with tasks such as toileting and feeding.

The demonstration outside Leinster House was part of a series of protests organised in cities and towns across the country this evening.

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