“The failure to give force of law to Individual Education Plans raises serious questions about the commitment of the State to assist children with special needs”
Senator Rónán Mullen raised the issue of special needs education in Seanad Éireann this week, and in particular the concerns expressed by the ASTI and the TUI that schools are not receiving adequate resources to implement Individual Education Plans for students with special needs.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Mullen said: “It is estimated that approximately 25% of students have special educational needs. The Education for Persons with Special Needs Act 2004 includes a requirement for schools to provide Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students with special needs. These are written plans specifying the learning goals to be achieved over a set period, as well as the teaching strategies, supports and resources necessary to achieve those goals.
“However, this section of the Act has not been implemented 14 years after it was passed. We are relying on the goodwill of teachers and the ability of individual schools to implement individual education plans from their own resources. This changed before Christmas when the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), issued advice to its members not to implement IEPs due to a lack of adequate resourcing. This is very worrying.
“How is it defensible that 14 years later, Individual Education Plans have not been given force of law? How can it be acceptable that teachers feel that they cannot provide these plans due to a lack of resources?
Senator Mullen concluded by saying:
“Surely, when we speak about children with special educational needs, we imagine there would be a greater percentage of resources dedicated to their needs. We are all aware of the seeming inability of some Departments to manage public finances in a prudent way, causing massive potential waste of resources. It would be horrible to think that this would be one area that would suffer the downstream consequences of such mismanagement.”
See full text of the Seanad statements on this issue here.