Quinn reverses planned cuts to supports of special needs pupils
Proposals by Minister for Education had provoked public backlash
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn: denied doing a U-turn on special needs supports. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has reversed planned cuts to special needs supports following a public backlash.
He said today he has secured agreement at Cabinet to release 500 additional teaching posts which means special needs children will not have cuts to their supports.
He said the move was a once-off budgetary measure. In the meantime, he said he has established a working group to develop a new model to allocate resource teachers in schools.
Mr Quinn appointed Eamon Stack, a former chief inspector in the department, to chair the working group. Established by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the group will include parents and will report back to the Minister in September.
“Parents can be assured that their children will not be disadvantaged while we are moving towards a new model that will ensure greater fairness and quality of education for children with special educational needs,” Mr Quinn said.
He denied the move was a U-turn and said the extra teaching posts were being kept in reserve in case of additional demand.
Mr Quinn later told RTÉ Radio he would have to find extra money in next year’s budget which “may involve reductions in pupil-teacher ratio or other measures”.
Mr Quinn said he was surprised with the “surge” in requirements for special needs supports. The distribution showed a “greater number of resources teachers in relatively well to do areas compared to disadvantage areas and that’s a double disadvantage in increasing inequality”, he said.
Every member of Labour had been getting “direct contact from parents”raising concern about last week’s announcement, he said.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) welcomed Mr Quinn’s decision today. “Last week, the union strongly condemned the cuts, lobbied for a change and organised a protest against the cuts,” it said. It welcome the fact schools will be able to provide the same level of resource teaching as last year.
Last week, the NCSE announced that support hours for children with special educational needs were being reduced by 10 per cent due to an increase in demand, a 25 per cent cut on 2010/2011. The cut would have left a pupil who had been allocated 4.15 additional teaching hours each week last year with just 3.45 hours .
It announced that the level of resource teachers and special needs assistants at primary and post primary level would be maintained at last year’s capped levels. However it said there was an increase of some 10 per cent in children entitled to support, with 4,100 more children receiving teaching supports than last year.