*(Ireland)25% of Irish children are SPED

July 22, 2017, Irish Times, Dublin: Why is the cost of special education soaring? In the period since 2004, spending on special needs education has grown by 260 per cent. There are approximately 47,000 students in receipt of resource teaching (5.2 per cent of the school population) and an estimated 32,500 in receipt of care by special needs assistants (3.6 per cent of school population). This has increased from 3.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively in 2011. So what exactly is driving these dramatic increases? Firstly, the school population has changed. More and more children with special needs – who once might have been in special schools, residential care or simply left at home – are in the mainstream education system. This is because education policy has shifted from segregating children to integrating them within regular schools with supports or in special classes. Most research links greater inclusion to better outcomes. Secondly, the wider school population is growing... Thirdly, more children are qualifying for special needs assistants and special educational needs supports, and in particular, the increasing number of pupils presenting with an autism diagnosis. ... It is now estimated that about 25 per cent of school-going children in Ireland have some form of physical, learning and emotional or behavioural difficulty. While the rise in numbers may sound alarming, these prevalence rates align with other jurisdictions such as the UK and the Netherlands where the equivalent figure is 26 per cent. Nonetheless, there is concern within Government at the rising cost of special needs education and whether resources are being spent in the right way. There is evidence, for example, of children being unnecessarily labelled with emotional and behavioural conditions simply to secure additional educational resources, a practice known as “dollars for diagnosis” in the US.