Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants schools and teachers to “go that extra mile” to make up for a 15% cut in special needs teaching.
While mainstream teachers will be allocated to schools based on unchanged pupil-teacher ratios next year, pupils with special needs will continue to get less than the recommended levels of support.
Mr Quinn told the National Council for Special Education to sanction resource teaching at 90% of recommended levels in autumn 2011, and cut it to 85% ahead of the current school year because of growing demand.
The restriction is a result of staffing limits in resource teaching, which covers common learning difficulties as well as pupils with more acute needs. The cap on resource teacher numbers of 9,950 is unchanged, along with the same cap of 10,575 special needs assistants (SNAs).
Mr Quinn said after the budget that “frontline services are virtually completely unaffected in any significant way compared to previous occasions”.
“On an hourly basis of resources estimated to be required, we have reduced that in the first instance by 10%, which went from 60 minutes down to 54 minutes. And [in] a subsequent reduction, it went down to just over 51 minutes,” Mr Quinn said.
Schools have had to cut the time pupils get with resource and learning support teachers, or put them into bigger groups.
“We’re reducing in a very small manner, I would respectfully suggest, the actual allocation of those hourly supports,” Mr Quinn said.
“I would hope in those circumstances that people involved in the system would go that extra mile and try and provide that resource. We’ve had to cut our cloth according to our measure and that’s what we’re trying to do in the most responsible and constructive way possible,” he said.
The National Parents Council-Primary said the system should integrate more supports than just SNAs or resource teachers.
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