Affluent areas get more special needs teaching hours

Trend linked to parents getting private diagnoses of needs to support applications

Children living on Dublin’s southside are more likely to gain access to resource teaching for special educational needs than their northside peers, new figures show.

An analysis by The Irish Times of the allocation of teaching supports for special needs shows schools in some of the most socially advantaged areas of Dublin are among the highest recipients of resources.

The trend is linked to a practice of middle-class parents getting private diagnoses of special educational need to support applications for additional resources.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) last year recommended a new method of allocating resources, which sought to eliminate this advantage, but it was rejected by Minister for Education and Skills Jan O'Sullivan.


Backlash fears

Concern within Government of a backlash from middle-class parents is understood to have informed the decision. The Minister has instead set up a pilot project to explore the NCSE proposals in 48 schools on a voluntary basis starting this month.

The analysis shows primary schools in Dublin 6 got an hour of additional teaching support for every 5.6 children last year, whereas those in the more working-class areas of Dublin 9 and Dublin 11 got an hour for every 11 children. Just one of eight areas which received an allocation above the national average was on the northside (Dublin 1).

Middle-class areas

The highest allocation went to the relatively disadvantaged area of Dublin 10, with one hour of additional support for every three children. But two areas categorised by the department as “middle class” – Dublin 6W and Dublin 14 – have increased their allocation based on previous statistics.

Two years ago, the department compared allocations in this pair of boroughs against two “working-class” counterparts on the northside: Dublin 5 and Dublin 17. While the disparity between the two sets has narrowed, the greatest recipient of resources remains Dublin 6W, with an allocation of one extra hour per 5.3 children.

At a county level, Louth, Cavan, Meath and Waterford received the lowest special needs allocations relative to student population – but all were ahead of Dublin 9 and Dublin 15.