NPC, Principal Organizations Support the Amendments to Special Education Criteria

Principal Organizations

Two school principal organizations, along with the National Parents Council (NPC), have voiced their support for controversial changes made by the Department of Education regarding the allocation of additional teaching hours for children with special needs.

In a joint statement issued shortly after disability organizations criticized the changes at an Oireachtas hearing, the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), the post-primary National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), and the NPC expressed their desire to address “inaccurate commentary” and “misconceptions” that have emerged since the changes were announced.

Nearly a month ago, schools were informed that the number of students assessed by the HSE as having complex needs would no longer be considered for calculating the amount of Special Education Teacher (SET) hours a school would receive, starting from September.

Children with complex needs, such as those with Down syndrome or autism who require significant support to learn, are typically affected by these changes.

The decision has sparked significant controversy, with disability organizations and many primary school principals expressing concerns that children will be adversely affected.

During Tuesday’s session of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, several charities, including Down Syndrome Ireland, voiced apprehension about the changes. Fidelma Brady, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, warned that the changes “will have a potentially devastating effect on many pupils with Down syndrome.”

In a joint statement released yesterday, the two school principal organizations and the NPC emphasized that “children with complex needs have not been excluded from the allocation of hours that schools receive.” They clarified that the purpose of their joint communication is to address and alleviate “misconceptions…that have caused significant concern and anxiety among parents and in schools.”

“We would not support or welcome any model that proposed a decrease in supports for children with complex needs,” they asserted.

The principal and parent organizations assert that they were provided with an opportunity to offer perspectives during consultations with the Department of Education, and that these perspectives were considered in the circulars issued to schools.

In contrast, Down Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, and autism charity AsIAm heavily criticized the Department of Education for neglecting to consult with organizations representing families of children with disabilities. They informed the Oireachtas committee on Tuesday that this lack of consultation violated the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The IPPN, NAPD, and the NPC emphasized their shared commitment to prioritizing students’ needs in every decision and ensuring the most effective school experience for all. They explained that the Department of Education altered its method of calculating complex needs due to a lack of consistent, accurate, and up-to-date external data nationwide regarding children with complex needs.

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