Speaking in relation to the proposal by the Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan to create five special educational needs (SEN) centres in Dublin as an ‘interim’ solution to a shortage of places, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh O Laoghaire has said:
“It should never have got to a position that we are in late May and 80 children in Dublin do not have a school place.
“The government has the power to use S37A to ensure schools open special classes in areas where they are needed. This conversation between the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Department of Education should have been happening last autumn.
“It is incredible that the Minister for Education, the Minister for Special Education and the NCSE have access to all the data they need, as well as the powers and budget, yet did not use these.
“Parents are now desperate because of the lack of government planning.
“I am very concerned about the proposal to open special educational needs centres in the Dublin area, as very often what the Department deems a ‘short-term’ measure is far from that. We only have to look at prefabs in schools around the State as testimony to their previous form in this regard.
“Where a child needs a special class place, parents do not want them to be totally separated and segregated from other children. They want them to be part of the life of a school community; ideally a local school.
“It is devastating for these parents that the government’s lack of planning has stripped them of this option.
“We are meant to be moving forward on the basis of inclusion and integration, not segregation.
“Families across the State would much prefer if the government focused on using the powers available to them to open special classes, and ensure schools that do open classes are properly supported, funded and staffed.
“That way the government would be living up to its commitments to children with special educational needs – to have a place in a special class in a school, not a special education ‘centre’, segregated and isolated from the school community.”