Schools 'failing' their Down Syndrome pupils
The Children's Ombudsman has sharply criticised the Department of Education over its approach to children with Down Syndrome.
The department's actions had "adversely affected" the capacity of children with the condition to engage to the fullest possible extent in mainstream primary schooling, according to a new report.
Ombudsman Emily Logan said there was "a potential for loss of opportunity given the lack of adequate consideration given to the cluster of needs for such children".
At issue is the department's decision not to grant children with Down Syndrome an automatic entitlement to extra teaching resources.
The ombudsman's criticism comes in a report arising from a complaint by the mothers of two children with Down Syndrome attending mainstream primary schools. One of the children is Ellen Black (9), from Kiltimagh, Co Mayo. Her mother, Angela, said that soon after her daughter started school in 2007, she became aware that children with Down Syndrome were being treated differently from other disability groups.
Both mothers said that the system did not take account of the multiplicity of special needs that arose for children with Down Syndrome.
Under department rules, a child with Down Syndrome may get some resource teaching time from a block allocation given to schools to cover pupils with a mild learning disability. However, a child with Down Syndrome does not get an individual allocation unless he or she qualifies by reason of some other special need, such as a visual impairment.
The ombudsman said it wasn't that the system expressly singled out children with Down Syndrome "but fails to do so as their needs befit".