Parents to rally nationwide over special needs cuts

Parents of children with special needs hope to bring towns and cities to a standstill amid growing anger over cuts to extra teaching that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn denies will take place.

Rallies will take place in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Athlone, and Boyle at the same time as an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation Dáil protest on Wednesday. The Special Needs Parents’ Association has had calls all week from people unable to get to Dublin who want to voice anger in their own area.

A 12% year-on-year cut to resource teaching for 42,500 pupils would bring to 25% the daily teaching time lost to children with a range of disabilities since 2011. Concerns have also been raised of less support from special needs assistants (SNAs).

“It’s not just special needs parents contacting us. Somebody working in social care was on to me earlier, and teachers are extremely angry too,” said SNPA chair Lorraine Dempsey.

In his first comments since Wednesday’s resource teaching and SNA allocations, Mr Quinn said his heart goes out to parents of children of special needs.

Asked if there was a possibility of the cuts being reversed, he said: “There won’t be, because they are not cuts. I have not cut the resources. Everybody [is] being asked to achieve the same levels of productivity with less resources or, alternatively, do more with same levels of resources.”

Ms Dempsey said she agreed everybody has to strive towards productivity, “but our children are not products”.

Mr Quinn said details of resource teaching hours were not given out until SNA allocations were decided because it might have been possible to provide more resource teachers if a cap on SNA numbers was not likely to be breached.

The Irish Examiner revealed yesterday Mr Quinn’s department decided on the reduced hours three weeks ago but told the NCSE to announce both sets of supports together, a move criticised by primary and second-level representatives.

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