Thursday 22 February 2018

Government rows back on cuts to special needs education

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE Government has rowed back on cuts for pupils with special educational needs.

Extra teaching support for pupils with complex disabilities, such as autism, will be maintained at current levels, following a Cabinet decision today.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced that 500 resource teaching posts, originally being held in reserve to meet additional demand that arose during the 2013/14 school year, will be allocated in September.

It means that children with an entitlement to a resource teacher will continue to receive four hours 15 minutes per week, instead of having it cut to three hours 45 minutes, as announced last week.

A 12pc increase in demand for resource teachers – from 38,400 pupils this year to 42,500  in 2013/15 - led to the plan to cut in allocations to individual pupils.

There was a storm of protest and Mr Quinn brought the matter to Cabinet today.

The estimated additional cost to the annual €1.3bn spend on special needs is €20m, which Mr Quinn will be seeking to find in next year’s budget on top of other savings of €44m.

Today he denied that the move was an U-turn, but said he secured Cabinet agreement to release 500 additional teaching posts to schools in September to cope with the “alarming rise” in the demand

“These posts were set aside to meet the late demand expected to arise over the remainder of the next school year. This is a once-off measure that will have Budgetary implications which I have alerted my colleagues to today.”

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