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(Ireland) Primary schools sues SPED council to get classroom aides

May 1, 2024, Irish Times: Primary school takes High Court action over refusal to allocate more special needs assistants

National Council for Special Education rejected initial application by Shinrone NS and has not set date for hearing of appeal

A Co Offaly primary school has initiated High Court proceedings over the refusal of the National Council for Special Education to allocate it additional special needs assistants (SNAs).

The action has been taken by the board of management of Shinrone National School, which says it sought additional SNA support so it can fully and properly care for the needs of students currently attending and due to be enrolled in the school later this year.

The coeducational school currently has five mainstream teachers, two special education needs teachers, an autism class teacher and six special needs assistants.

It asked the council, the State body whose functions include the provision of education to people with special needs, for additional SNA support late last year. The school is set to have more students who will need additional SNA support and it believes its current allocation will not be sufficient to meet those requirements.

The application was rejected and the school board lodged an appeal of that decision to the council’s Independent Appeals Advisory Committee, which will have the final say on the matter. However, the school board claims the appeal has not yet been heard and no date has been set for it. The school board claims the delay in hearing the appeal amounts to a breach of fair procedures.

The board, represented by Feichin McDonagh SC and Brendan Hennessy BL, instructed by solicitor Patrick O’Neill, said there was some urgency to the application because the current school year is coming to an end. If the appeal is not heard soon, the board says, it would find itself in a new school year when the entire process of seeking the allocation of SNAs from the council starts again.

As a result, the board has brought High Court judicial review proceedings where it seeks an order compelling the council to determine its appeal. The matter came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland, who granted the board permission on an ex parte basis to bring its challenge. The judge noted the urgency of the claim and adjourned the case to a date later this month.



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