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(UK) NI: Parents forced to 'go to war' for SPED places despite having 20% of school budget

Apr 13, 2021, Belfast Telegraph: Parents forced to ‘go to war’ for special needs school places, committee hears https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/republic-of-ireland/parents-forced-to-go-to-war-for-special-needs-school-places-committee-hears-40308766.html Parents of children with special needs have to “go to war” to access a school place for their children, an Oireachtas committee has heard. Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said he was “horrified” to learn what families had to go through to secure places and that some who had contacted him were “in tears” over the matter. He told the Education Committee a fundamental shift in the system was needed. “The process seems to be that the special needs organiser hands the parents a list of schools and says best of luck,” the Labour education spokesman said. “I know of parents who have gone to 15 or 16 schools to try to access a place. “So not only are you dealing with a challenging situation of dealing with a diagnosis, you almost have to go to war with the system in order to access a school place. “There seems to be no absolute right for a school place….” Mary McGrath, head of operations at the National Council for Special Education, admitted that were “pinch points” where some parents find it difficult gaining a place for their child…. …special educational needs organisers (SENOs) advise parents about schools where they are aware there are placements available for the forthcoming school year. “The SENOs are engaging with schools on a continuous cycle and planning additional special classes and placements and those places are confirmed at different points of time in the year,” she said…. “It’s up to the parents.” “We have to have a fundamental overview and review about how the system interacts with parents who are completely exhausted… I think this is a massive failing,” he added…. In her opening statement Ms Mannion told TDs and senators that this year the State will spend more than two billion euro, or more than 20% of its total educational budget, on providing additional supports for children with special educational needs. This represents an increase of more than 50% in total expenditure since 2011. She said the Budget 2021 provides funding for 400 additional special education teaching posts and almost 1,000 additional special needs assistants (SNAs).