Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Other Questions

Special Educational Needs

3:55 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

A number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 have been commenced, including those establishing the National Council for Special Education and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children. In order to ensure that inclusive education can be provided for, very significant investment has been made in the area of special educational needs supports. In 2016, the Department of Education and Skills invested €1.5 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the entire education budget. It reflects our commitment as a Government to help children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential. Total spending on special educational needs has increased from €706 million in 2006 to €1.5 billion in 2016, thus more than doubling in the period.

Under the Programme for a Partnership Government I have committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the Act on a non-statutory basis. At present, all schools are encouraged to use education plans.  My Department's inspectorate's advice is that the majority of schools are now using some form of individual education planning for children with special needs. In line with Circular 30/2014, schools are required to put in place a personal pupil plan, including a care plan for all pupils availing of SNA support.

While awaiting the full implementation of the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has published a number of policy advice papers which make recommendations aimed at developing a better or more effective alternative to the current resource allocation model, and which aims to move the system towards ultimate implementation of the EPSEN Act. As the Deputy is aware, I have announced the details of that new model which are being implemented from September this year. That has been piloted successfully and I am confident it will introduce both a better and a fairer way of allocating resources to support children with special needs and ensure that they are able to follow an individual pupil plan within the school. That will be in the context of a whole school and not solely an individualisation approach. Clearly, the whole-school approach is the best model that has been based on the NCSE's experience.


David Maher
Posted on 19 Jan 2017 12:20 am (Report this comment)

The last Minster for Education cited the poor economy as the excuse to why the key parts of EPSEN act 2004 were not implemented. Yet we passed through boom, bust and recovery since. Still no sign of anything happening! Many parents see the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) as another barrier to an appropriate education led by bureaucracy.

David Maher
Posted on 19 Jan 2017 1:38 am (Report this comment)

The reality on the ground is schools do not willingly engage with Individual Educational Plans (IEPs). When they are forced it is not done in a timely manner and in many cases, they do not follow the NCSE guidelines and templates. According to the British Journal of Special Education in 2012 they sated that, there is no obligation on Irish schools to carry out an IEP. However, the importance of a proper conducted IEP is vital for our vulnerable students. The United Sates Department of Education in 1997 stated an IEP is a significant document that ensures ‘full education opportunities’. This needs to be put on a statutory footing now so that the Irish education system does not keep overlooking our disabled children.

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