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(Ireland) Reversal: Principal WON'T have to limit paras for autistic students

Aug 30, 2022, Mirror: Primary principal told to choose between kids when allocating Special Needs Assistants 'delighted' officials overturned decision

A primary principal who was told to choose between kids when allocating badly-needed Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) says she is ‘delighted’ officials overturned their own decision and sanctioned more resources.

Anne Marie Ford and Scoil Naomh Colmcille in Co Louth had battled to overturn an initial decision by the Department of Education, who told the principal to 'reprioritise' and choose between 15 vulnerable children in allocating 1.83 SNAs.

One of the SNAs had to support 12 children and the other, who worked until 2pm, helped three children in Junior Infants.

After a recent review upheld the sparse allocation, she said: “I feel very compromised and upset about being put in this position and I feel I should not be making clinical decisions which could be detrimental to the physical and mental health of my pupils….

A determined campaign led to the intervention and review by the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education with Responsibility for Special Education who sanctioned extra resources of two extra SNAs and a learning support teacher for September.

In a statement Ms Ford and school board chair Seamus Finegan said: “We are delighted to confirm that the parents campaign has been successful in securing much needed support for all the children with additional needs in the school at Tullydonnell in Togher.

“Following a long and difficult campaign of lobbying and protest, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education with Responsibility for Special Education intervened with an offer of a comprehensive review of the needs of the children in St Colmcille’s School.

“A team was sent to the 175 pupil school to meet all parties and assess the situation overturned an exceptional review which supported the original allocation of support.

“They said it fell far short of meeting the needs of the children.

“The Parents Action Group are very grateful for the additional supports received but are also anxious to stress that the campaign should not have been necessary to secure these supports if the system took into account the particular circumstances of the school rather than applying a ‘one fits all’ template based on school profiling.

“St Colmcille’s is a welcoming, inclusive community and is thrilled that has been provided with the supports required to allow children to reach their full potential. We would like to thank local and national politicians for supporting our campaign.”

Anne Marie is passionate about integrating children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) as soon as possible into mainstream education to allow them to become independent and realise their potential.
The school also teaches 24 children who have a diagnosis of ASD, from all over Louth and Meath, in four early intervention classes at the rural facility.

Mum Karen Leonard, whose six-year-old Tadhg is heading into first class at the school, said the extra resources were a ‘huge relief’ to her and many parents at the school.

“Tadhg was diagnosed with autism last December and he has shared an SNA since. He has a language disorder so needs an SNA to break down things for him and keep him focused.


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