Clare delegate says that only asses and children are not recognised as disadvantaged

 

MORE than 900 schools are still without a remedial teacher 35 years after the introduction of the service, said Mr Sean Rowley, of the central executive committee. "The Constitution provides for the education of all our children. There is little doubt that the present provision is unconstitutional and inequitable," he added.

Remedial teachers may serve clusters of up to 10 schools. There should be no more than three schools in a cluster, said Mr Rowley. School clusters should be selected on a planned and coordinated basis.

Mr Flan Garvey, a north Clare delegate, said his situation was that of "the old chestnut" of a small school with no remedial teacher. The Department of Agriculture recognised every cow, every horse, every goat and every sheep as being disadvantaged. The only ones not recognised were asses and children.

Combined total enrolments and political influence seemed to be the two criteria for gaining the services of a remedial teacher, a Wexford delegate, Ms Mary O'Donoghue, said. These were hardly sound criteria for addressing the question of learning difficulty, she said.

Mr Joe Moylan, a Carlow South delegate, cited the case of one school which was "totally isolated except it is surrounded not by water, but by schools which have the services of special needs teachers. . . this isolation is a direct result of Departmental bungling and or political interference". The Department had created the mess and they must set it right, he said.

Proposing a motion calling for a radical review of the provision of remedial education in primary schools, Ms O'Donoghue said the priority for this review must be the urgent appointment of remedial teachers to those schools that have none. The motion also asks that provision be based on the educational needs of children rather than on overall enrolments.

The provision in rural areas where schools are clusters should be restructured on the basis of manageable and realistic caseloads for remedial teachers. The final section of the motion asks that shared remedial teachers get travelling expenses from base schools to all schools served by them irrespective of family residence. The motion was carried unanimously.

Another motion demanded that children with special needs should be educated in suitable buildings with suitably qualified classroom assistants for all classes and proper support services. Where children with special needs are enrolled in mainstream classes in ordinary national schools, the motion demanded a capitation grant for each child with special needs equal to that paid to special schools or classes. It also asked that when the child's needs are assessed, the required backup facilities be provided.

Ms Rosemary Fahey, a Navan delegate, said the Minister for Education spoke yesterday about teachers' professionalism. "Well, it is that professionalism that motivates me to speak here and to demand a proper support service for our children with special needs. And there is very little about the service which the Minister now provides that appeals to my sense of professionalism."

Ms Fahey, a teacher in a special school, said the current psychological service was almost entirely a referral service. "Regular systematic monitoring, assessment, review and consultation are not processes that I can easily associate with the psychological service as it exists for my pupils. We need a co ordinated service available to schools independent of the health boards."

She noted the Minister did not mention any extension of resources or any lifting of embargos and she called on the Minister's professionalism to recognise the need for a more extensive structured support with the expertise and services necessary for children with special needs.