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Four schools that won’t provide places for special needs pupils named

'We decided to publish a list of schools who hadn’t been forth coming in opening special classes come September...'

Junior minister Josepha Madigan

Aoife Breslin

The Government has named and shamed four schools that were not “forthcoming” in opening special classes for pupils this September.

The names of the four schools, all located in Dublin, were published on the Department of Education’s website. They are Cromcastle Green Boys National School in Artane, St John of God Girls National School in Artane, Scoil Bhríde Buachailli in Blanchardstown and St Gabriel’s National School in Dublin 7.

It comes as 106 children have been left without a place in a special class for the coming school year.

Junior minister Josepha Madigan, who has responsibility for special education, told RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday with Katie Hannon that 14 schools had been written to the department about the need to establish places for children with special educational needs and four of them have not responded.

“We decided to publish a list of schools who hadn’t been forth coming in opening special classes come September, in specific circumstances where we know that they have capacity,” she said.

“Out of the 14 schools whom we sent a letter to, 10 of those, there is a very intense engagement going on with those at the moment, so there is a willingness of their part at the moment.

“If it arises by next week that they are not going to be in a position or refusing to open a special class then we will publish the names of those schools.

“It’s not about embarrassing schools or shaming schools but at the same time we have to put them in the spotlight because its just not acceptable anymore that a child with additional needs doesn’t have a special class place, so I am going to be relentless in my pursuit to open these special classes no matter what it takes.”

She said the four schools that were named are currently making little engagement with the department in moving forward with change.

“They are not saying anything at the moment, they are just ignoring correspondence, that is not good for us, it’s a bit of a red flag so if we don’t hear from them with a willingness to open a special class then we will move to section 37A process.”

“We are also engaging very closely with the attorney general in relation to his advice in terms of emergency legislation, as I think at this point of time, we should have no child with additional needs who doesn’t have special class place.”

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) issued a joint statement in which they accused the minister of seeking to “scapegoat schools and avoid political blame”. It said the four schools have special classes and are working towards building capcity.

They condemned the “politicised decision by the Department of Education to name a small number of Dublin primary schools who have raised reasonable concerns relating to a lack of resources required to deliver a quality education to students with special educational needs”.

“The haphazard approach taken by the minister to name schools on a national radio broadcast today flies in the face of meaningful engagement, serving only to deflect blame and mislead the public and parents about the lack of resources and supports being made available in a timely manner to schools by Government,” they said.

“Only this week, the Ombudsman reported significant deficiencies in the department’s planning and resourcing of special education. Essentially the department appears to be suggesting that the mere presence of spare capacity in a school is sufficient to host special education provision. It does not take account of the actions schools need to take in order to open a special education class."

It said such actions include making adaptations to school buildings, playground and classroom space, purchase sensory equipment, furniture, protective mats and assistive technology as well as recruiting teachers, special needs assistants and bus escorts, among other actions.

They said all of the education partners support the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs who deserve appropriate resources and facilities.

"It is evident that many of the listed schools already have special classes and are working towards increased capacity, however they need to be afforded the time to do so. September 1 is not a realistic timeframe.

"It was confirmed on Thursday that 43 new special education classes will open this September in Dublin, with the number of special classes in Dublin’s primary schools more than doubling in the last five years from 158 in June 2017 to the 340 which have been established for the coming school year.

"Acting outside the established legal process upon which the delivery of special education is based – in an apparent effort to scapegoat schools and avoid political blame – risks eroding trust with the people who are working hard to deliver quality special education.

"Both the INTO and the IPPN express our outrage at an ill-judged departure from a clearly defined process by a minister who has failed to tackle the serious issues that limit the ability of schools to deliver quality inclusive education.”

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