The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, yesterday (Wednesday, January 18th) announced that a new model for allocating special education teaching resources to mainstream primary and post-primary schools will be introduced from September 2017.
The new resource allocation model has been developed by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) over several years in collaboration with parents, teachers and disability groups.
While a resource allocation model based upon the needs of a child is welcome, there are some fundamental issues with the Department of Education ‘new model’ of resource allocation.
Our reaction to new resource model:
● A historical 15% cut to resource hours is still in existence. Although the Department of Education is providing 900 additional teaching posts, this does not fully cover demographic changes and hours lost in the previous cut;
● There is no independent appeal mechanism for a parent if they feel their child is not being allocated an adequate amount of hours. A parent can only complain to the principal/board of management who has made the original decision. Keeping a complaint within the school system effectively sidelines any role for the Ombudsman for Children in the event of a dispute;
● There is no oversight of how resources are used. There are many reports of the misuse of resource hours. Implementing a new model would have given the NCSE an opportunity to ask schools to report on how these hours are being used. The Department has not taken this opportunity and has ignored the advice of the NCSE policy advice report to implement oversight;
● The Oireachtas passed the Education of Persons with Special Education Needs (EPSEN) Act in 2004. This Act provides for this new model of resource allocation and much more. However, it has not been fully commenced almost 13 years later. As a result, children with a disability have no right to an assessment of their education needs and the supports identified. The EPSEN Act must be commenced without delay;
● The Department of Education has done nothing to ensure pupils with special education needs are welcome in their local school as recommended by the NCSE. Barriers remain in school enrolment policies for children with a disability to enrol. While the new model means a child does not require an assessment to access resource teaching, almost every school enrolment policy demands a child with special education needs is assessed prior to enrolment.