Teachers support special needs pupils

 

Sir, – The article “Teachers refusing to support special needs pupils may face sanctions” (March 4th) misrepresents the position of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, which is to ensure that schools can provide the education and supports these students deserve.

Since the introduction of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004, inclusive education has become a success story for Ireland.

Despite the significant underfunding of Irish schools, the vast majority of students with special educational needs attend mainstream schools and are in mainstream classes. Every day, schools and teachers do their utmost to provide the best possible education for these students. The ASTI advice to its members is to continue this work.

The ASTI believes that the efforts of schools and teachers are being significantly undermined by the Department of Education and Skills’ recent focus on form-filling rather than on equipping schools and teachers to meet the individual needs of these students. Specifically, teachers are now being asked to complete individual education plans (IEPs) or equivalent forms.

These forms are excessively complex and require subject teachers to collaborate with a significant number of colleagues, as well as with parents and external agencies, for each student with a special educational need. All of this is to be done without appropriate training or time allocation. It is estimated that approximately 25 per cent of students have special educational needs. For a second-level teacher teaching 250 students this could involve 60-plus of these forms.

The ASTI has advised its members that they do not have to create or devise IEPs or equivalents. The union has emphasised that existing arrangements for the education of current and future students with special educational needs are not impacted by this advice. Teachers are continuing to engage in their normal classroom planning for these students (such as pedagogical strategies, differentiated teaching and learning, and so on).

Bureaucracy and paperwork should never be allowed to dominate the way schools and teachers support these children, nor should it be allowed to obscure the important relational work which is the heart of teaching. – Yours, etc,

BREDA LYNCH,

ASTI President,

Winetavern Street,

Dublin 8.