Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, said that new research findings by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), on children with Special Needs, raises serious questions about the current policy of integrating children with special needs into a mainstream school setting, and it highlights current failures.

The ERSI bulletin claims that 7% of nine-year-old children without special needs “never like school”. However this figure increases to 12% for children with special needs and who are attending mainstream schools.

Describing the findings as “very worrying”, Deputy Crowe said:

“The data published by the ERSI clearly indicates that children with learning and emotional difficulties struggle disproportionately in mainstream schools, compared to their peers who have no special needs.

“These findings need to be considered in the context of the current government’s policy, which is undermining the gains that were made in increasing supports and resources for children who have special educational needs.

“The government has decreased the level of SNA supports in classrooms, despite the yearly rises in the school population, and the fact that resource hours and other essential supports are being seen as an easy target for cuts.

“I agree with many educationalists who share my concerns about the increasing numbers of specialised resource teachers now retiring out of the system. This will inevitably lead to a furthering weakening of the cohort of experience in this demanding area.

“An added worry is that with further cuts likely to be made to essential frontline services in October’s budget, the present situation is likely to get dramatically worse.

“This report looks at the changes in the way children with special needs are educated over the past 10 years. It also refers to the 2004 Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, which was envisaged to be the basis for an all-inclusive child centred education system.

“The failure to fully implement the EPSEN Act, combined with the steady erosion of cuts, has negatively impacted on the education sector.

“The new ERSI findings are disappointing, but unsurprising for many of those who wanted to see real reform in implemented and delivered to the growing number of children identified as having special educational needs.

“The bleak message from the ESRI report is that vulnerable children and their families are the real victims of the failure to roll out supports and resources.

“Unfortunately the aspiration of an inclusive education for all Irish children looks increasingly like a pipe dream under this cruel and indifferent government.”