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Seanad Éireann Private Members Business - Wednesday 29 May 2013


That Seanad Éireann, noting:

-    the recent publication of the report ‘Supporting Students with Special Education Needs in Schools’ by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which, pursuant to Section 20 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, has a statutory role in advising the Minister for Education and Skills on any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities and to provide policy advice in the area;

-    the findings in the NCSE report that certain school enrolment policies and practices have been less than fully inclusive, in particular where such policies have created barriers to enrolment for students with special educational needs;

-    and that this report reaffirms the principle that all children, irrespective of special educational needs, should be enabled to enrol in their local schools;

Believes:

-    that it is essential that children with disabilities have access to mainstream education, which has been shown to improve self-esteem and social skills for students with disabilities;

-    that, while respecting the entitlement of schools and their patrons to develop enrolment criteria and policies, any policies and/or criteria that exclude students with special education needs are illegitimate, unfair and discriminatory;

And calls on the Minister for Education and Skills to:

-    implement the recommendations in the NCSE report of May 2013, and in particular to ensure that his Department introduces a robust regulatory enrolment framework for schools to ensure that:

•    Every child with special educational needs is protected from school enrolment practices or policies with overt or covert barriers that block his/her access to enrolment in the school;

•    Every child with special educational needs may enrol in the nearest school that is or can be resourced by the NCSE to meet his/her needs;

•    A school must enrol a student with special educational needs if so directed by the Special Educational Needs Organiser on the basis that the school will be provided with resources in line with national policy;

•    A school must establish a special class if so requested by a Special Educational Needs Organiser.

Senator Ronan Mullen, Senator Feargal Quinn