Dublin, 8th February: The Department of Education recently published circular 0002/2024 which details changes to the model for allocating Special Education Teaching (SET) hours.
The circular advises schools on the process for calculating the educational profile for each primary school and the SET hours allocated.
AsIAm – Ireland’s Autism Charity has several concerns and questions regarding the direction of this circular:
· Removing “complex needs” as a criterion for the allocation of SET hours will impact the most vulnerable in our schools.
· Children starting school, who require the highest level of support needs, risk receiving less support this year and ultimately this change will push more students in mainstream into special school/class settings.
· This announcement is completely at odds with the recent NCSE policy position paper on Pathways to Inclusive Education, which advocated working towards a system which supports all children to be able to access mainstream education.
· It remains unclear that the SET allocation model is an equitable model of distributing resources that guarantees children the access they need based on their individual support needs.
Responding to the announcement Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm said “The Department of Education has reduced the criteria for the allocation of SET hours to schools from five to three for the coming year. Specifically, ‘complex needs’ and ‘gender’ have been removed from consideration. This change will affect students starting Junior Infants this coming September and represents a potential loss in support, for children and school communities most in need, into the future.
At its most basic, children with the highest level of need appear to be being told that they can access more support in special classes than in a mainstream class, irrespective of their parent’s choice, the voice of the child or where they are most suited to learn. It is deeply concerning that the Department of Education is moving in this direction, given only a short few weeks ago the National Council for Special Education published policy advice to the Minister on pathways to inclusive education.
He went on to say, “This approach is just another example whereby the Department of Education has made a decision that moves us further away from person centred, rights-based supports, as called for in the UNCRPD. The Department did not consult with or inform disability stakeholders in advance of this move. This is despite commitments made by the Department and Minister Madigan when the Special Education Consultative Forum was established during the COVID-19 pandemic. We call on Minister Madigan for an urgent meeting of the Forum to address these issues.
“An inclusive education system will only be achieved based on trust in the system whether a child needs to access a special school, special class or mainstream class in the context of our current system. Removing ‘complex needs’ from the allocation model is sending a message to parents that they cannot be assured of the required support when their child starts in mainstream school this coming autumn.”