Calls for appeals system where pupils with disabilities lose care support

AN appeals mechanism must be put in place for cases where care support is withdrawn from pupils with disabilities, primary teachers demanded yesterday.

The cutbacks in various education services and the impact of two budgets since October on teachers’ pay were the subject of a number of motions on which members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) backed industrial action at their annual congress yesterday.

Limerick delegate Ann McMahon said it is more important now than ever to have an appeals procedure for children who have the service of a special needs assistant (SNA) withdrawn or reduced. The Department of Education has a number of reviews of the number of SNAs working with children who have special needs and it is strongly expected that hundreds of children could lose such supports next autumn.

“If you apply for a medical card and are refused, you can appeal the decision, or you can appeal if you apply for any kind of social welfare payment and get refused,” Ms McMahon said.

“But if your children are recommended certain resource allocation in a professional report and those recommendations are denied or modified by a special educational needs organiser, there is no appeals process,” she said.

Ms McMahon said the process demanded by delegates, who passed a motion on the issue yesterday, should be independent and transparent.

Earlier, the INTO congress backed a motion seeking a day of action with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions before the end of June to defend public services and jobs in response to various cuts to pay and conditions of public service workers. The union, along with fellow teacher unions, is already mandated to stage up to two days of strikes in protest at education cutbacks and the public service pension levy.

Another motion passed by INTO delegates in Letterkenny gives their executive sanction to take industrial action in pursuit of its campaign to have class size reductions in the Programme for Government implemented. Last October’s budget reduced primary school staffing allocations, meaning many schools will have children in larger classes than this year from next autumn.

North Clare branch member Michael O’Connor said four rural schools in his area would each lose one of their four teachers as a result.

“This was done with absolutely no thought for parents, pupils or needs of the school and this is coupled with no automatic substitution, which could result in chaos if a teacher or teachers are ill on a particular day,” he said.


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