4% increase in resource teachers to help pupils with disabilities

There will be 4% more resource teachers in schools in September to help children with disabilities.

The 6,454 teachers being allocated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is 554, or over 9%, more than schools had at the start of the current school year.

But despite an increased budget from the Department of Education, a cap on special education staff means only 251 posts remain available for schools with pupils whose needs were not diagnosed before applications closed. That is 66, almost 21%, less than were distributed during this school year, but it is unclear what levels of demand will emerge after September.

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The details from the NCSE came as Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said no school taking part in pilot testing of a new system to allocate special teachers will lose staff or hours in the year-long exercise.

She confirmed that 30 primary and 20 second-level schools will be asked to take part voluntarily in the programme, aimed at helping finalise a fairer system to get additional teaching resources to schools.

As reported this week by the Irish Examiner, the selected schools will include a mix of urban and rural, small and large, disadvantaged schools. It is now likely to be September 2017 before changes take effect nationally, meaning pupils will still need a professional assessment of a disability before their schools are sanctioned specific resource-teaching hours for them.

Under the plan being developed, schools would each have an allocation of special education teachers based on a profile of disadvantage status, the social background of families and gender mix. But delays are being attributed to defining the complex needs that would be a strong factor in determining each school’s allocation, which will also cater for pupils with more common learning difficulties. The pilot schools will be supported by the NCSE’s inclusion support service, school inspectors and the department’s National Educational Psychological Service.

Meanwhile, executives of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Teachers’ Union of Ireland will today consider new junior cycle reform plans that have the backing of their leaders and the minister. The proposals that emerged from talks over the past week will be published today and are expected to be put to an autumn ballot of the unions’ 27,000 second-level members.

A positive response at today’s meetings could lead to lifting of industrial action .

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