Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Advanced Skills Teachers and Special Classes in Mainstream Schools: Discussion

3:30 pm

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the all witnesses. I particularly thank Mr. Adam Harris for his presentation and I also thank Senator Ruane for her contribution, which provided us with first-hand information of what it is like to live through that experience. I found it beneficial as I am sure we all did. The dreaded word, "resources" seems recurs in everyone's contribution. It is important that we acknowledge that much good work has been done and we have made great strides in this field. However, according to these contributions here, I am left with the feeling that we have so much more to do and there are so many moving parts that it is difficult to connect them all. There are the therapists on the ground who must let a parent know what a child's needs are by the time the child goes to school. I know a mother going through this. Her child has been in school for some time and is yet to be assessed. We can talk about training teachers but it is difficult because if they do not know a child's diagnosis, how are they meant to help them and progress that child?

Mr. Curtis and Mr. Kelly specifically referred to the role of the school principal. There is an ongoing campaign on the role of the school principal. These professionals are at the end of their tether because they are exhausted from both the teaching and administrative responsibilities. I know of several principals who have reverted to mainstream teaching because they could not cope with the workload. Unfortunately, their cry has fallen on deaf ears so far. There is campaign to get the Department and the Minister to acknowledge that something needs to be about the role of the school principal and its future direction. They are responsible for everything in that school from the point of view of legislation, administration, curriculum, dealing with parents and children, boards of management, the running of the school and so on. The role has got to the point where it is difficult to take this role on board on top of what they are doing. It is a big issue. If we are serious about tackling this issue, we need to look at resources but it is also essential that we look at the role of the school principal to improve the lot of our children going through the system with special needs.