Schools promised help in light of looming changes in assessment of special teacher needs

Schools promised help in light of looming changes in assessment of special teacher needs
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Schools will be supported in planning for the use of special teachers to meet the requirements of pupils with special educational needs, Education Minister Joe McHugh says.

It follows criticism that extra special teachers will not be provided by his department next year to match rising school enrolments.

As reported by the Irish Examiner this week, the minister's officials told him in October that maintaining special teacher numbers at 13,300 will be a challenge when their hours are being distributed among the country’s 4,000 primary and second-level schools for September 2019.

When a new way of deciding each school’s special teacher numbers was introduced in 2017, extra posts were created and schools were told they would not lose their initial allocation for at least two years.

An ongoing assessment of schools’ needs, based on a range of factors that include numbers of pupils with complex needs, social and gender background, will see some schools given extra posts next September. But at the same time, others will lose them if their overall need is deemed less than provided for two years ago.

The Special Needs Parents Association said it would be unacceptable to spread the same number of special teachers around a growing school population when the department now has data about the prevalence of pupils with varying levels of special educational needs.

A spokesperson for Mr McHugh said decisions on allocations of special education teaching hours will be made early next year.

“The department is in consultation with stakeholders regarding the approach to be taken and will continue to ensure schools are supported and advised in planning for the needs of students."

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