June 13, 2021, County Clare Echo: Clare principals refute Minister’s comments on process for securing special education support https://www.clareecho.ie/clare-principals-refute-ministers-comments-on-process-for-securing-special-education-support/
Clare principals have refuted comments from the Minister for Education regarding the success of applications for special education support. A survey of 500 schools by the National Principles Forum last month outlined that 70 percent of principals did not believe they would have sufficient special needs assistant (SNA) support for the 2021/22 school year. Schools in Clare are battling to split resources with a growing amount of students presenting with primary care needs. When asked by The Clare Echo if the amount of SNAs was planned to be increased to deal with the demand, Minister for Education, Norma Foley (FF) stated, “I want to be very clear about the area of special education, it is key priority of this Government. For the first time ever, one fifth of the entire budget of the Department of Education is expended on special education, €2.5bn [$3.8B U.S.] and that is as it should be, as I’ve said previously I come from a background in education, I know the importance of the early intervention and the work that can be done on the ground with children on a one to one. … Principal of Mountshannon NS, Joe O’Riordan believed the appeal system was not functioning. “The Minister and the Department are very good at soundbytes, ‘smoke and mirrors’ as Bertie Ahern said. It is an economic rather an education decision they are taking, it is going to have a detrimental impact throughout schools”. … Scoil Seanáin Naofa in Clonlara has 4.33 SNAs allocated to 16 students in need of their support, principal Donnchadh Kelleher outlined. “Over the last 24 months we’ve had a 100 percent increase in the number of pupils with primary care needs and would need access to an SNA, we’ve only seen a 23 percent increase in our resources. … He disagreed with the view of Minister Foley that the appeal process for securing SNA support had been successful. “We’ve been through two exceptional reviews looking for additional support, from our first review we got a very small increase, our second review we received no increase and are now in the process of a third review. Along the way we have appealed each decision, our difficulty with that would be the length of time it takes to get an outcome of a review, you could be waiting up to four or five months from our experience, you have the pupils in the school, you are trying to cater for their needs but you don’t have the resources”. According to the Corofin man, a failure to add additional SNAs to schools that require them would lead to less inclusive schools and place a greater burden on special education teaching resources….