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Government must end discrimination in education system against children with Down syndrome – McDonald

9 May, 2013 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Speaking during Leaders Questions this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on the Tánaiste to add Down syndrome to the list of ‘Low Incidence Disabilities’ to enable children affected qualify for Resource Teaching Hours.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Research shows that children with Down syndrome will have better outcomes if they attend mainstream rather than special schools, yet access to resource teaching hours within the public system is being withheld from these children despite their obvious need.

“Down syndrome is by its nature complex and affects intellectual ability, speech, language, hearing, memory, vision motor skills and general health.

“This is a condition which seriously affects a pupil’s ability to engage with the school curriculum. It affects 1 in every 546 births in Ireland each year.

“That means every year about 120 children are born with Down syndrome and approximately 80 of these will begin mainstream primary education each year.

“It is then by definition a complex low incidence disorder yet remarkably it is not one of the 11 ‘Low Incidence Disabilities’ that qualify for Resource Teaching Hours. Prior to 2005 all children with Down syndrome received Resource Teaching Hours.

“This means that children with Down syndrome who have IQ scores in the mild range of learning disability do not qualify for specifically allocated resource hours despite the very small numbers needing these supports, no more than 30 children each year.

“It could easily be resolved by simply adding Down syndrome to the list. It’s a small number and is the kind of support that will have a huge impact on these children’s lives.

“Government cannot continue to discriminate against children with Down syndrome. These children have the right to the same education as every other child in the country and the state or the Department shouldn’t be putting barriers in their way.”

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