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(Ireland) SPED kids bussed "due to shortage of appropriate school places"

Oct 4, 2022, Irish Times: Special needs children bussed out of their communities due to shortage of school places

Children with special needs are being bussed out of their communities to attend schools many miles from their homes due to a shortage of appropriate school places, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

School principals’ representatives told an Oireachtas committee on autism that a lack of planning and support means local schools are often unable to meet the needs of children with complex conditions.

The Irish Primary Principals’ Network, a professional body for principals and deputies at more than 3,00 primary schools, said it supported the principle of ensuring equal access to education for all children alongside their siblings and friends in their local area….

The Fórsa trade union, which represents thousands of special needs assistants as well as health staff, warned that long waiting lists for access to vital supports such as speech and language or occupational therapy are undermining children’s education.

“The backlogs are not in any way the fault of the staff in those services who are trying valiantly to cope with unmanageable caseloads. However, the waiting lists present significant difficulties for schools, and families, who are trying to support students with autism,” said Linda Kelly, Fórsa’s national secretary in the health and welfare division.

The union said the lack of these in-school supports means “truly inclusive education is a dream rather than a reality”.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting focused on the lack of teachers and schools willing to run the summer provision programme for children with additional needs.

Last week’s meeting heard that just over 400 out of 8,000 children in special schools got to participate in the programme last year.

Jennifer Carroll McNeill TD (Fine Gael) questioned why so few out of the 116,000 teachers on the Teaching Council’s register were involved, while committee chairman Senator Micheál Carrigy (Fine Gael) asked whether all schools who receive State funding could be compelled to run the programme….

Pauline Tully TD (Sinn Féin) raised concerns over the level of training and education available to inexperienced teachers who are allocated special classes for children with specialised needs.

She said newly-qualified teachers are often given jobs in these settings with the promise that they can move on to mainstream classes in a few years.

“It’s not fair on the teachers and it’s not fair on the students, either,” she said.


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