Jun 3, 2022, Irish Times: Emergency legislation could be used to fast-track special school places https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2022/06/03/emergency-legislation-could-be-used-to-fast-track-special-school-places/
The Government is seeking legal advice on whether emergency legislation could fast-track special education places for dozens of vulnerable children who have no school to take them next September.
Education authorities are aware of at least 80 children in the Dublin area with special needs who do not have a school place to meet their assessed needs.
Minister of State for special education Josepha Madigan confirmed earlier this week that the first step in a legal process — known as section 37A — to compel schools to open special classes has been completed.
However, campaigners say it could take 12-18 months for special class places to be delivered, and want emergency legislation to fast-track the process.
At a meeting with representative groups of people with disabilities on Friday, Department of Education officials confirmed that it was engaging with the Office of the Attorney General to seek legal advice on how best to streamline the process.
It is understood that controversial plans to create “special education centres” were not explored at the meeting.
The plan, which emerged last week, was fiercely criticised by campaigners and human rights groups who said it amounted to “segregated education” and would undermine attempts to create an inclusive education system.
Speaking after the meeting, Adam Harris, chief executive of autism charity AsIAm, described the gathering as “constructive”.
“In advance of the meeting we received correspondence from Minister Madigan informing us that our proposal in relation to emergency legislation to resolve the current crisis was now being actively considered and has been referred to the Office of the Attorney General,” he said.
“The meeting today was constructive and there has been agreement to continue to meet over the coming week to monitor the situation and consider further solutions.”
Mr Harris said disability representative groups were satisfied that the Department had “clearly heard and understood” their opposition to so-called special education centres.
He said the focus had now shifted to engaging with groups on a “rights-compliant solutions” to deliver “appropriate, local education which every child is entitled to.”
“We will continue to update the community as the matter progresses further in the weeks ahead,” he said.
Minister of State for special education Josepha Madigan has confirmed that new legislation which could fast-track special school places is being explored.