Disability groups excluded from special needs planning
on 16/09/2013 00:00:00
Inclusion Ireland said it will raise their exclusion from the NCSE working group, which Education Minister Ruairi Quinn promised in June would include advocacy groups, at a meeting tomorrow.
The 14-member group was set up to devise a new way to allocate resource teachers to schools, based on their student profile but reducing the time children with disabilities should wait for supports.
Despite the minister's commitment, advocacy groups have instead been restricted to a two-hour collective meeting with the working group of which they had expected to be members.
"We understood from the minister we were to be closely involved, so it is a concern that advocacy groups have been excluded. We will be asking why groups like ourselves and Special Needs Parents Association have been left out," said Inclusion Ireland chief executive Paddy Connolly.
"In terms of the application of any revised allocation model that emerges, it's short-sighted to have insufficient engagement with advocacy groups, and we will be looking to have ourselves and others represented properly," he said.
The NCSE was unable to say last week why advocacy organisations were not included on the working group. Asked if it had any input into the decision, the Department of Education told the Irish Examiner the questions were more appropriate for the NCSE.
The system is under pressure to cope with rising numbers eligible for support in school, with resource teachers supplied for pupils with physical disabilities, visual or hearing impairment, autism, Down's syndrome, emotional or behavioural difficulties and other issues.
A cap of 5,265 resource teachers that the NCSE can sanction means these pupils' schools are only given 85% of the one-to-one teaching hours available up to 2011. It was set to fall to 75% this month but public pressure forced Mr Quinn to reverse the cut in June, in a move that could cost over €20m a year if the allocation system remains unchanged.
The working group, chaired by NCSE chairman Eamon Stack, has already met representative bodies, teachers, parents, principals, NCSE officers, school management organisations, school inspectors, NEPS and the HSE.
The minister had expected its interim report, with the outline of proposed changes, this month but it is not now due until October.