THE father of a girl with Down Syndrome is hopeful that her level of support in school will be restored following a meeting with Education Minister Mary Coughlan.
He said he expects to hear back from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) within the next few days rather than waiting until September 26 when it is due to issue the outcome of a review of its earlier decision.
Andrew Boyle’s seven-year-old daughter Zoe returned to class at Araglin National School near Mitchelstown, Co Cork, last week. But her family has been told she is only entitled to have a special needs assistant (SNA) with her in class for five hours a week instead of the 25 hours of support she previously enjoyed.
Mr Boyle raised his concerns with the Tánaiste in a 10-minute private meeting during her visit to north Cork yesterday.
“I am delighted and overwhelmed with her response; hopefully, this will work. She (the minister) will now talk to the powers that be, the top people in the NCSE and, hopefully, that pressure will resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” he said.
Almost 2,000 people have supported the family’s case through a Facebook petition page but despite his appreciation of the backing, Mr Boyle said he is a broken man by the situation.
“There are only a few people in the system who made this wrong decision and I think it is naive, irresponsible and spiteful. Zoe needs an SNA, it’s a black-and-white case,” he added.
More than 60 people joined a silent protest led by Mr Boyle and his wife, Annabelle, outside the school nine days ago.
The Archbishop of Cashel Dr Dermot Clifford, patron of the school, has also asked the NCSE for a sympathetic review of the case to reinstate Zoe’s SNA hours.
Hundreds of children with special needs have lost their SNAs or have had their access reduced over the past 18 months since the NCSE initiated a review.
Ms Coughlan said yesterday that she is keen to ensure she keeps a €1 billion budget for special education and that frontline services for pupils with special needs are protected. She was visiting Holy Family Special School in Charleville where students showed off some of their modern facilities.
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