Protest over cut in special needs assistants

Wed, Jun 22, 2011, 01:00

MORE THAN 100 children, parents, teachers, and special needs assistants took part in a protest outside the Dáil yesterday against cuts in the numbers of special needs assistants.

Students, parents and staff from St Senan’s School in Enniscorthy in Wexford, where a number of children with autism attend, were protesting against the cut of six special needs assistant positions at the school.

Lorraine Dempsey, of the Special Needs Parents Association and area representative for the Wicklow/Wexford area, said the cuts would affect both these children and their classmates.

She said that, while some children are on the lower scale of the spectrum when it comes to behavioural difficulties, they still required assistance.

“The question is how will this impact on the whole class and the teacher trying to teach them,” Ms Dempsey said, adding that there would be further protests as the cuts were announced.

The number of special needs assistants, which stands at 10,802, exceeds a cap agreed under the conditions of the EU-IMF bailout by 227 posts. This is as a result of a commitment by the department to provide an additional 230 special needs assistant posts in 13 new schools for children with autism.

The Department of Education said no school would see the withdrawal of all special needs support and schools with children with significant needs will have special needs assistants. The Dáil technical group consisting of 16 councillors, including members of the United Left Alliance as well as Independent TDs, held a press conference calling for the reversal of the cuts. Richard Boyd Barrett said the Government was sacrificing children’s needs to placate the ECB, EU and IMF. “Over 200 schools will receive letters this week telling them that they will lose special needs assistants. Some schools have already received them . . . The removal of these vital supports is not only grossly unfair – it is utterly short-sighted and economically stupid.”