New schools system for special needs is ‘fantastic’

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A FIRHOUSE mother has described a new system which will allow schools to apply for extra supports for children with special needs as “fantastic”, cutting out the requirement for individual assessments of children and securing a diagnosis to access extra supports.

The Department of Education and Skills last week announced that it is setting aside €15 million for a new model to allocate Special Education Teaching Resources.

Leoin McCarney Quirke 26 January 2017

The new model will see an extra 900 teachers being provided nationally during 2017, while schools who do not get extra resources have been given a guarantee that they will not see a decrease from their 2015/2016 level of resources.

Leóin McCarney Quirke’s five-year-old son Joshua has autism, and when talking about the new system she said: “Overall it’s a very good idea – kids aren’t going to be waiting ages to get supports in school.

“The current system makes everything harder on teachers, students and parents.

“It’s a wonderful idea that principals can allocate supports now, if it works it’s going to be fantastic.”

Ms McCarney Quirke, who is also a member of Tallaght Parents Autism Support Group, added that the new system will remove three levels of application for school supports.

These three levels included going to an educational psychologist to get a diagnosis, sending the confirmation of diagnosis and supports to a Special Education Needs Officer to get it approved, then having the approval returned to the parent to bring it to the school principal in order to get the supports, in a process that can take a number of months.

However Ms McCarney Quirke added that some parents did have concerns about what would happen if they didn’t “get on” with their child’s school principal.

Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs a local independent TD, said: “Many parents have been contacting my office in Tallaght very worried about the barriers they face to get teaching support for a child with special needs.

“The burden to have their child diagnosed is not only unfair it also labels children and that is wrong.

“Under the new approach schools in Tallaght will be invited to identify their overall need for extra teachers and resources – ending the need for individual assessments.”

Frontloading resources at the start of each year also forms part of the system, which will allow schools to plan for the school year without having to wait for allocations.

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