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(Ireland) "Majority of principals lack confidence in SPED council"; needs not being met

Dec 5, 2022, Irish Examiner: Majority of principals lack confidence in special education council https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-41022065.html
The majority of primary school principals lack confidence in the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), a new survey has found.

There are “deep systematic failures” within the special education system stemming from a “deep-rooted disconnect” between schools and the NCSE, a lobby group for principals has said.

The survey, carried out by the National Principals’ Forum (NPF) found “an overwhelming majority feel wholly unsupported when advocating for pupils with additional educational needs”.

Of the 921 principals surveyed: one in three were without a special educational needs officer; 55% said the resources provided by the NCSE do not meet the needs of their pupils; and of the schools that appealed their special education teacher placement in the past two years, 93% were unsuccessful.

Almost half of schools surveyed said they did not have enough special needs assistants (SNAs) in the classroom, and 58% of schools who appealed their SNA allocations in the last two years were also unsuccessful.

Around four in 10 schools were also without a dedicated psychologist for a period within the last three years.

The NPF said there were “deep systematic failures within the [special education] system that work against providing all pupils with an equitable education” as just 14% of principals rated the NCSE service as good or very good.

Of 350 schools sampled, there was an average 21% cut to supports compared to the previous system of resources allocation for children with special educational needs, the group said.

The NPF rejected the idea that schools have been unwilling to open special classes, claiming 11% of principals surveyed declined to open a special class due to: lack of space, underqualified staff, lack of support from the NCSE or Department of Education, the “arduous” process involved, and a lack of trust in supports promised to schools.

'Deep-rooted disconnect'

The NPF called on the minister for special education to meet with the group on foot of the “deep-rooted disconnect” between schools and the NCSE.

The group also demanded “clarity and tra

nsparency” on an amendment to school admission policies which it said the department requested of all schools on November 24. The policy asks schools to make clear they will co-operate with the NCSE, which the principals’ forum responded to by saying that “schools are being compelled to be servants to an agency they have no confidence in”….

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