Special Needs Survey

We have designed a very short survey on special needs support in Irish mainstream schools.

Please complete it.

There are only ten questions.

Feel free to share it widely as well.


We will post up the survey results once the responses stop coming in.

Thank you very much.


Special Needs Supports Under Threat Again

Thank you to Alice O’ Donnell for alerting us to this letter in the Irish Times tod.


Sir, – I am a parent of two children with special needs, one with Down syndrome and another with autism spectrum disorder. I am also a teacher of three children with special needs in a mainstream class of 28 children in St Anne’s school in Shankill, Co Dublin. My children also attend this school. Most of the special educational needs (SEN) children in St Anne’s have behaviour modification programmes and individualised plans.

The Department of Education and Science recently published a circular (0030/2014) that will drastically reduce the level of support for children and teenagers with special needs. A shocking aspect of this circular is their intention to remove almost all access to specials needs assistants in secondary schools.

This withdrawal of specials needs assistant support in secondary schools comes at a crucial stage for both students and teachers. Secondary schools are only now having to cope with increasing numbers of children with special needs as they come up through the system. Many teachers are still in the early stages of working with children with special educational needs in an inclusive environment. Many of them have not been provided with relevant training to upskill to meet the challenging demands of working with children with SEN children.

This “inclusion policy” is negligent and finance driven. Under the guise of “value for money” it makes victims of our precious, vulnerable children by kicking away their specials needs assistant support.

Both of my children have access to a specials needs assistant as part of an individualised plan and appropriate interventions. Without their invaluable help, they would not be as productive and independent as they are.

My son is starting in mainstream secondary school in September. He suffers from extreme anxiety as part of his Asperger’s syndrome and requires access to a specials needs assistant to take him out of class for breaks to keep him calm.

He knows when he needs to go and get some time out and then he can return calmly to class without affecting his classmates.

If, as the circular suggests, he should be left until he has a meltdown, he would disrupt and upset all the other children and the teacher, embarrass himself and reduce his self-esteem.

Did these policy reviewers come into classrooms? Did they talk to teachers? Did they talk to parents?

This is not inclusive education. It is blatantly excluding children with special needs from reaching their full potential and is therefore denying them the right to access the same educational opportunities as their peers. By removing access to specials needs assistants, the rights of all children in these “inclusive classrooms” to an equal education will be denied.

Maybe these policy reviewers need to upskill themselves on what is really needed in our schools?

I invite them to come to our school any day of the week to see how invaluable the specials needs assistant are.

Is it not better practice if a specials needs assistant accompanies the child rather than a teacher out of the classroom? According to this circular, we should wait until the child or teenager displays violent behaviour or self-harms before we intervene.

I would ask all parents to raise this matter with their public representatives and all candidates in the upcoming local and European elections. – Yours, etc,



Will SNAs be a Thing of the Past Soon?

Can teachers include children with Special Needs fully without SNA support?

Voice for Teachers alerted our members when Circular 0030/2014
“The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme to support teachers in meeting the care needs of some children with special educational needs, arising from a disability”
was published.

The INTO magazine intouch has an article on that Circular on page 28 of the current issue (Issue 144).
All teachers should be very concerned about this Circular 00030/2014. Particularly the following – “it is expected that all primary school pupils having their first school experience will have been enrolled and commenced attending school before any application for support will be made” (intouch, May 2014: p.24).
What about ensuring that the child’s transition to school is as smooth as possible?
What about Early Intervention?

The section on behavioural issues is equally worrying. In short, it appears that the school will have to prove (in writing over a period of time) that for example “there is a clear and documented history of violent behaviour or assault, or self harm, or other safety issues”; “it is impossible to teach him/her in a classroom situation without additional adult assistant support” (also p.28).
What about the other children in the class?

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) 2004: page 7, has this to say,
2.—A child with special educational needs shall be educated in an
inclusive environment with children who do not have such needs
unless the nature or degree of those needs of the child is such that
to do so would be inconsistent with—
(a) the best interests of the child as determined in accordance
with any assessment carried out under this Act, or
(b) the effective provision of education for children with whom
the child is to be educated.

2.(b) is clear that the other children in the class have rights too.
Does this Circular 0030/2014 really intend that children and staff must suffer violence for a period of time before even applying for SNA support?
Does this Circular infer that the DES no longer supports inclusion?

The last sentence on page 28 of the intouch magazine already quoted tells us, “The CEC will consider the details of the circular over the coming weeks”.
Make sure that your CEC Representative hears your views on this Circular at the May meetings.

The Irish Mirror outlines some very serious concerns for parents and teachers here: