Parents angry over lack of school support teachers

By Mary Dennehy

CHILDREN are “coping but not thriving” at a local primary school, which is experiencing an acute shortage of special education teachers and SNAs.

On Tuesday evening, more than 150 parents from across the community attended a meeting in Firhouse Educate Together National School – to express their anger and upset over a lack of support teachers in the school.

Firhouse Educate Together01 compressor

Colette Dunne (Principal), Roisin Farrell, Robert Carroll, Jenny Smyth and Kathryn Farrelly. (Image: Paddy Barrett)

According to parent Niamh Neville, from Woodstown Village, Firhouse Educate Together NS has three Special Education Teachers and seven Special Needs Assistants, who support 77 children with additional needs in the school.

The school also has two special classes, which have six children in each.

Niamh’s son Rian (7), who has autism, attends the school and is in one of the special classes.

However, due to a lack of support resources in the mainstream classes, Rian is, according to mam Niamh, being held back.

“Rian is being held back and is not developing as fast”, Niamh told The Echo.

“Rian is verbal and high functioning… and does have some exposure to mainstream classes but not all children get that due to the level of resources.

“Every child has the ability to do more… and the way we see it, our children are coping but not thriving.”

She added: “The school has amazing staff who are doing a super job in challenging circumstances.

“The department just isn’t providing the right resources.”

According to Niamh, despite Firhouse ETNS having two special classes and 77 children with additional needs, the Department does not assess the school on its individual needs.

It is also the only school in the immediate area with special classes, and there’s a waiting list for places.

Niamh told The Echo that parents are also calling for more special class places to be made available in Dublin 16 and Dublin 24.

“We received a generic response back from the Department”, Niamh said.

“The Department is not looking at schools on an individual basis.”

She added: “It makes me very angry, very upset.

“I’m upset for Rian and other kids like him who have a right to an education.”

The event on Tuesday evening was attended by parents from the immediate community and the wider Dublin 24 and Dublin 16 area.

Members of national campaign, Meet the Kids Behind the Cuts, were also in attendance, alongside a number of elected reps and General Election candidates.

Department of Education

According to the Department of Education, the number SNAs in the school system has increased from 10,575 in 2011 to over 17,000 at present.

In a reply to The Echo, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “It is important to note that SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

“The SNA allocation to Firhouse ETNS was increased to 10.64 SNA posts with effect from 3 December, 2019.

“Firhouse ETNS currently has an allocation of 74.50 special education teaching hours, or nearly 3 full special education teaching posts, for an enrolment of 171 pupils at the time that the model was developed.

“This represents an allocation of 1 special education teacher for every 57 pupils, which is considerably in excess of the national average SET allocation of 1 special education teacher for every 100 pupils in primary schools.”

According to Niamh, the campaign is highlighting with the Department that the population of the school has grown to 288, and is not still at 171 – the enrolment number being used by the Department.

The parent-led campaign also received a comment back from the Department, and according to Niamh: “It’s shocking that the national average is one teacher for every 100 pupils, that’s totally unacceptable.

“Firhouse ETNS having one teacher per 57 students is shocking in itself let along 100 children.”

She added: “The Department say they are giving more resources and giving more teachers but have these increases met 100 per cent of the needs?”

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