June 21, 2022, Independent: State is ‘clearly failing’ schoolchildren with special needs, Ombudsman says https://m.independent.ie/irish-news/education/state-is-clearly-failing-schoolchildren-with-special-needs-ombudsman-says-41776871.html
Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon says the Department of Education is “clearly failing” children with special educational needs, regarding the provision of suitable school places.
He says there are particular black spots, such as Dublin and Cork, and the lack of provision in the education system constituted discrimination.
Dr Muldoon’s hard-hitting comments coincide with the launch of a report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), titled “Plan for Places: Forward Planning for the provision of school places for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)”.
The report criticises the department for not being proactive in ensuring there is adequate school capacity for children with SEN.
It comes as families around the country are still struggling to find suitable places for children with special needs for September. There are particular difficulties in accessing post-primary schools even though the demand is obvious as children have been in special primary school classes.
Dr Muldoon outlines the scale of the problem: • Every day 15,500 children have to travel outside their local school-catchment area; • Nearly 1,500 students who cannot get a school place are receiving home tuition, which “should only be used as it was intended – as a last-resort measure and temporarily”; • Around 4,000 children are waiting for a diagnostic assessment in order to qualify for a school place.
The report raises concern that parents still have to contact the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) about a school place for their children in order for Local School Planning Area (LSPA) capacity to be put in place.
With around 25pc of pupils estimated to have SEN – including 1.6pc, or one in every 65 students, who have autism – the OCO predicts the situation will worsen unless proactive steps are taken .
The report notes that the department has expanded spending in this area and has undertaken significant work to improve data collection in order to forecast need....
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon