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ERSI findings on children with special needs “very worrying” – Deputy Jonathan O’Brien

9 August, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said that research findings published this week by the ESRI (Economic and Social Research) raises serious questions about the policy of integrating children with special needs into a mainstream school setting.

The ERSI bulletin claims that while 7% of nine-year-old children without special needs “never like school”, this figure increases to 12% for children with special needs who are attending mainstream schools.

Describing the findings as “very worrying”, Deputy O’Brien said:

“The data published by the ERSI clearly indicates that children with learning and emotional difficulties struggle disproportionately in a mainstream school compared to their peers who have no special needs.

“These findings must be considered in the context of current government policy that has not increased the level of SNA supports in classrooms despite the yearly rises in the school population and the fact that resource hours and other essential supports are being continually targeted.

“I am also concerned that as increasing numbers of specialised resource teachers are retiring out of the system, and with further cuts likely to be made to essential frontline services in October’s budget, then the present situation is likely to worsen.

“This report looks at the changes over the past 10 years in the way children with special needs are educated and it refers to the 2004 EPSEN Act (Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs) which was the basis for an inclusive education. The failure to fully implement EPSEN, combined with the raft of cuts that have impacted on the education sector, means the ERSI findings are unsurprising and a cause for alarm.”

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