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(Ireland) 'At least several hundred autistic children' with no school place this Sept

May 26, 2022, RTE: Centres for autism education 'remain an option' – Madigan
Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan has said the creation of special education centres to cater for children with autism and other intellectual disabilities who cannot secure a school place remains an option. However, she said she would be open to changing the name….

"I should stress, this is not to replace a special class. This is not a placement and one of the reasons why we couldn't call them schools is because of that, because that then relinquishes the responsibility on local schools to provide these special class spaces."

The minister insisted that she will compel any school that does not have a legitimate reason to not open a special class to do so, and said she is liaising closely with the National Council for Special Education and the Department of Education on this issue.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission strongly criticised the plans and autism campaigners and school principals have reacted with shock to the decision.

Details of the plan - designed to address a severe shortage of school places in the capital - emerged last night and involve a network of five centres to be run by the Education and Training Boards.

This was described as a "template", suggesting that it could be rolled out in other areas. The IHREC said the announcement of the plan without consultation is "fundamentally at odds with the word and the spirit of the UN Convention".

Under Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the State holds an obligation to ensure that: "Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability."…

Shock expressed at plan

Adam Harris of the charity AsIAm, said he is "truly shocked" by the plan which will mean "the segregation of autistic children from their peers".
Mr Harris said his organisation estimated that there were at least several hundred autistic children across the country who have been unable to find a suitable school place for this coming September.

AsIAm is currently surveying parents and hopes to have a definitive idea as to the extent of the school places shortage by tomorrow….

He said that for over 20 years they have been trying to work towards a model whereby every child who is able to learn in mainstream is included in a mainstream setting.

"We know year on year there has been a failure to appropriately plan for the provision of these places and that has caused an ongoing crisis for hundreds of families across the country, particularly in the Dublin region," he said….

On Twitter last night, Ms Madigan described the plan as a "supplementary measure to ensure that while children await a new special class placement in a mainstream school they can access a more sustained level of support in a setting with peers of their own age".

Ms Madigan said she wanted to stress that "this proposal is not a medium or long-term alternative to a special class placement in a school".

She said children could "access education on an interim basis in a new SEN Centre and be supported to move quickly to a special class placement in a mainstream school….

"I feel so sorry for these children. They are going to end up in a 'Mosney' for kids," one principal told RTÉ News, comparing the proposed centres to a form of the much criticised Direct Provision system for asylum seekers.

Mr Harris said he believed the plan may be unconstitutional….

Mr Smith contended the policy was "totally at odds" with what Minister Madigan announced last week, in which she committed to using special powers to increase numbers in schools….

Duncan Smith said the policy was 'totally at odds' with what was announced last week


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