Changes in appeals process for learning supports at schools
Parents will not be able to appeal decisions over support for special needs children
Seán Fleming, chair of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, said parents will no longer be able to appeal resource decisions to the National Council for Special Education. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Parents will no longer be able to directly appeal decisions over the allocation of learning supports for children with special needs at school, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Under changes to the way special needs supports are to be allocated from next September, schools will receive a set amount of resources aimed at delivering earlier intervention and better outcomes for children.
However, Seán Fleming, chair of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, said parents will no longer be able to appeal resource decisions to the National Council for Special Education.
The Fianna Fáil TD said the existing appeals process led to a number of allocation decisions being overturned.
This, he said, showed that safeguards were needed to ensure children get the allocation they need.
However, Mr Fleming said the new system was likely to cause confusion for parents who will be distressed at not being able to appeal decisions on behalf of their children.
Department of Education officials confirmed that while parents will not appeal decisions, it will be open to schools to do so.
Each school has now received an allocation of resources under the new system, rather than waiting to provide resources based on applications for support.
Allocations have been based on factors such as existing level of need, whether a school is in a disadvantaged area (where needs are typically higher) and the outcomes of standardised tests.
A spokesman for Minister for Education Richard Bruton later confirmed that schools may seek to have their allocation reviewed if they feel they do not have sufficient resources to meet the needs of its students.
“In such cases schools will be required to demonstrate how all of their special educational resources are being utilised to meet the needs of all of their identified pupils with special needs,” the spokesman said.
“Schools will be required to provide evidence of additional need and evidence to demonstrate that all of their allocated resources, including mainstream teaching resources, as appropriate, are being correctly and properly deployed.”
He added: “Where parents have concerns that their child is not getting access to the support the child needs, they should raise this concern with the principal and in the event that they are not happy with the response they should raise this with the board of management.”
The spokesman said schools were encouraged to put in place plans for each child identified for support indicating the support needs of the child and the proposed interventions the school intends to deploy.
It is recommended that in each case the school would agree the plan with the parents of the child.