Rally against special needs cuts to be held

Head teacher Tomas O Dulaing speaking at a press conference held by the Alliance  against Cutbacks in Education (ACE) at Buswell's Hotel in Dublin.

Parents and teachers from across the country have been urged to join a national demonstration against special needs cuts.

Alliance against Cuts in Education (ACE) has organised a mass rally on Wednesday, September 14, marching from the Central Bank in Dublin to the Dail.

Tomas O Dulaing, ACE chair, said vulnerable children went back to school last week to a devastating array of cutbacks with the support of special needs assistants (SNAs) halved or eliminated.

“Children with special needs have the human right to fulfil their potential in our education system,” he said.

“The shameful attacks on these vulnerable children engaged in by Fine Gael and Labour amount to a savaging of that basic human right.”

Mr O Dulaing, principal at Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School in Lucan, is backed by parents, SNAs, teachers and advocacy groups, such as the Special Needs Parents Association, and Down Syndrome Ireland.

Mr O Dulaing said Government measures to slash school budgets were the cruellest and most inhuman cutbacks he had witnessed over three decades of teaching.

It is understood the number of SNAs around the country is being capped at 10,700.

The number of assistants in Griffeen Valley have been cut from 11 to seven, while the amount of special needs pupils rose to 25.

Barbara Brack, whose nine-year-old daughter Robin has an autism spectrum disorder, has had her SNA time at Griffeen Valley school halved.

“It means that for half the day Robin is going to go in the dream world, she’s not going to be able to hold her attention by herself,” said Mrs Brack.

“She has to be encouraged to finish tasks, she doesn’t like not finishing tasks so if the task is not finished she will be emotionally upset and the teacher will have to stop the class to look after her.

“So it doesn’t just affect her, it will affect the rest of the class.”

Elsewhere Tom Murphy fears for the future of his daughter Eleanor, who is waiting for her Junior Certificate results at Scoil Mhuire Secondary School in Trim.

The 17-year-old transition year pupil, who has Down’s syndrome, has had an SNA since primary school and hopes to sit her Leaving Certificate.

“She never would have survived mainstream school without an SNA,” he said.

“With less resources her ability to achieve a pass in the Leaving Certificate, which would be a passport to an independent future, will be be severely compromised.”


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