Early deadline for special needs assistants means ‘unacceptable cuts by back door’ - FF
Change allows needs at individual schools to be dealt with quickly, Tánaiste insists
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: the earlier application date for special needs assistants and resource teachers was to allow for the difference in the general allocation of resources and “what is happening on the ground in individual schools”. Photograph: Alan Betson
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has defended the early deadline for applications for special needs assistants against claims that it was a “back-door way of implementing unacceptable cuts”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin highlighted today’s deadline and compared it with last year’s cut-off point of October 15th.
Mr Martin said “the Government is putting far more pressure on schools, parents and children”.
He said in the Dáil: “The shortening of the deadline is a back-door way of implementing unacceptable cuts. We are witnessing a constant limiting and restriction of support.”
But Mr Gilmore pointed to the protection of the annual €1.3 billion budget for special needs education. He also said the earlier application date for special needs assistants and resource teachers was to allow for the difference in the general allocation of resources and “what is happening on the ground in individual schools”.
The Tánaiste said the earlier deadline was to allow requirements at individual schools to be addressed quickly and resources to be deployed where they were needed.
Mr Gilmore was responding as the Fianna Fáil leader highlighted the case of five-year-old Cork girl Kate Crowley who had been refused a special needs assistant, despite being in a wheelchair, having spinal rods, severe respiratory conditions and hearing problems.
“She was ultimately told that she could have access with five other children to a special needs assistant,” Mr Martin said.
He added: “there is something fundamentally wrong with the system when a girl like Kate Crowley is refused a special needs assistant”.
Mr Gilmore said the Minister for Education would examine the case and respond to it very quickly.
Mr Gilmore said: “The question does arise as to why will you find an individual case or a particular problem in an individual school where you have a child who clearly needs special needs provision and why that isn’t being addressed”.
The Tánaiste said an interim report would be issued next month, following an assessment of the allocation model for special needs as to why “protection of resources does not appear in some cases to be translated on the ground”.