March 18, 2021
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD expresses concern at deployment of therapists away from special schools

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has expressed his concern at the rollout of the Progressing Disability Services programme, that will see the deployment of therapists away from special schools.

Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Special schools already have insufficient multi-disciplinary teams to meet their students’ specific needs. It is completely unfair to take in-school resources away from these schools.

“I am extremely concerned about the implications this could have. I am hearing from many within the special education community that they are worried that children with special educational needs will now have reduced access to therapies and services, and that this may cause regression.

“The way the Government have handled the assessment of needs and waiting lists for therapies generally, highlights the lack of a strategy to widen the pool of therapists available.

“The Department of Education have talked a lot about special education being a priority. Indeed, Minister Josepha Madigan back in January of this year made a big deal of the success of an In-School Therapy Support Demonstration Project, which tested a new model of therapy supports within schools by providing in-school SLT services.

“I do not understand then, when Minister Madigan was quoted saying how important it was to continue to develop the in-school supports for children with special educational needs, that she is allowing these services to be taken away from many schools under this Progressing Disability programme. 

“In January, Minister Madigan spoke of the success of in-school supports, and how her In-School Therapy Project was just a ‘first step in an important reform of our special educational system that will see therapy supports provided in school settings.’

“This will be news to many special schools across the country, as many have been in touch with grave concerns that they will be stripped completely of all in-school supports, and the huge effect that this will have on their students.

“One such school in my own constituency, St Columba’s GNS which has a facility for Deaf children, has expressed concern that they will lose their in-school speech and language therapists, which will have a devastating impact on their ability to fully support their Deaf and hard of hearing students. It really is not good enough.

“I intend to raise this inconsistency with Minister Madigan next week at the Education Committee.

“What shouldn’t be lost here, is the fact that children have a right to these services. These rights should not be compromised. The ability for children with additional needs to progress should not be compromised.

“The Government needs to remember this, to take a rights-based approach, and rethink the potentially devastating impacts of the Progressing Disability programme on many special schools and families.”


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