Thursday 18 January 2018

Fury over cuts to special-needs pupils

Over 40,000 hit by 'savage' measureStudents to get just 75pc of entitled time

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

CUTS in teaching support for over 40,000 pupils with special-educational needs have been attacked as "savage" and "unacceptable" in a storm of angry protest.

School leaders warn that if those who need extra support don't get it, all the pupils in the classroom will suffer.

From September, pupils with conditions such as autism, Asperger's or severe emotional and behavioural difficulties will receive only 75pc of the extra time to which they are entitled.

It means that a child who has a recommendation from an educational psychologist for five hours' resource teaching a week, will receive only three hours and 45 minutes, down from four hours and 15 minutes this year.

It is a 10pc cut on last year and is the third consecutive year that cuts have hit, as resources are stretched to cover growing numbers of children with a special-need diagnosis.

While resource teacher levels are capped at 5,265, there will be a rise of 4,100 in the number of pupils needing support – up from 38,400 currently, to 42,500 in 2013/14.

Resource teachers provide learning support and may also help children with social skills. There is also a cap of 10,575 on Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), who help children with special needs with tasks such as toileting and feeding.

Announcing the allocations for the 2013/14 school year, National Council for Special Education (NCSE) chief executive Teresa Griffin said at a time of real cuts in almost every area, they were being asked to do more with the same, rather than the same with less.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Gerry Breslin said it was disingenuous to claim no cuts had been made to the level of staffing when the demand for supports had increased by 10pc.

"The consequences will be dramatic not just for the student with special educational needs but for every other student in his or her classroom," he said.

Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan described the cuts as "savage".

And Down Syndrome Ireland education officer Patricia Griffin, said the cuts were "utterly unacceptable".

Irish Independent

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