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Thursday, June 14, 2012
Teaching unions and parents’ groups have hit out at a 5% cut in resource teaching hours.
Under the plan for the next school year, announced by the Department of Education yesterday, children using the services provided by resource teachers will see the weekly allocation cut.
The time allocated is based on an assessment of need, meaning a child with severe emotional or behavioural difficulties would have received five hours additional teaching two years ago, four-and-a-half hours last year, and four hours 15 minutes next year.
The cut is due to a cap on resource teacher numbers and growing pressure on the system.
The plan was announced by the National Council for Special Education, which oversees the allocation of resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools around the country.
NCSE chief executive Teresa Griffin said €1.3bn was being spent on providing special education services, equating to 15% of the total education budget.
She said there would be a reduction on a school-by-school basis in resource teaching hours, even though the number of special needs assistants posts was being maintained at 10,575.
On the basis of valid applications 10,311 of those slots will be available immediately, with 264 provided throughout the school year for new assessments.
The equivalent number of spare teaching resource posts for new assessments is 469, slightly more than was available in the last school year, but Ms Griffin said there had been an increase in demand, meaning the resource hours needed to be cut.
The NCSE is asking schools to consider alternative approaches, such as team teaching, to limit the impact of the cut.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said schools had to do "more with less".
"We are meeting the demand," he said. "All of the children of the parents who applied for special needs assistants support, all the allocations, have been met."
Lorraine Dempsey, chairwoman of the Special Needs Parents’ Association, said: "Since 2010, it is a 45-minute reduction, which is essentially one full slot a week. You are reducing the individualised time where the class is tailored to meet the needs of that child."
She said this could have a knock-on effect on the child who then spends the remaining 80% of class time in a mainstream class.
She said the Government needed to engage in "long-term thinking" such as introducing teaching assistants in classrooms, which may mean a reduction in the number of special needs assistants needed.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation criticised the delay in announcing the allocation of teaching time for children with special needs.
Ferdia Kelly, director of the Joint Managerial Body and the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools, said: "The reality is that each child who has been diagnosed with a low-incidence special educational need will receive a total of 25 hours less support in 2012/13 than they would have received in 2010/11. Is this just and fair?"
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