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(Ireland) "More than 2,000 kids lack access to SPED services" "due to staff vaccancies"

Mar 11, 2023, Irish Examiner: 2,000 children lacking school special-needs access because of staff shortages

Families desperate to access school places and educational services for the children who have additional needs are being left "in a void" due to staff vacancies.

More than 2,000 children are without access to a special education needs organiser (SENOs), the person who advises about special classes and special schools in their area.

SENOs also advise parents on the best school for children who may need particular settings and supports, based on different assessments and reports.

In Cork, 600 children lack access to a SENO. Two posts for the region remain vacant. Other counties experiencing vacancies include Kildare, which also has two vacancies, as do Carlow, Monaghan, and Wicklow.

With the pressure for special schools and classes expected to continue this year, SENOs are also responsible for planning and co-ordinating support to schools.

A shortage of essential SENOs makes navigating an already difficult system even harder for parents, according to Rebecca O’Riordan, a parent and spokesperson for Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS) Cork….

The details of the SENO vacancies were released by Education Minister Norma Foley in response to a parliamentary question posed by Labour TD for Cork East Seán Sherlock.

The matter should be "of huge concern" to the minister, Mr. Sherlock said. "Families are being left in a void as school admissions are decided without SENO intervention. …

Labour senator for Kildare, Mark Wall, said he continues to receive calls every week from worried parents who cannot access school places.

"The absence of SENOs is not just a problem for school admissions, but vacancies have a knock-on effect for reports right across the system for those families desperate to access services for their children."

A spokesman for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) said the delivery of education services is managed by five regional managers across 10 teams.

Recruitment competitions have continued into 2023, with start dates for additional SENOs agreed between January and early May, he added.

"In the meantime, where an SENO post is vacant, responsibility for supporting families and schools in relation to managing transitions and securing school placement remains a regional team priority."

Rebecca O'Riordan leading a FUSS protest. She says there's no consulatation with parents about specal-needs services. Picture: Jim Coughlan.


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