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Dáil Éireann - Private Members Business (Fianna Fáil)
Wednesday 8 March 2017

“That Dáil Éireann:

recognises that:

— the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is drastically understaffed, with 95,543 primary and post-primary pupils across 397 schools without access to an assigned NEPS psychologist;

— even for schools that do officially have an assigned NEPS psychologist, access to a psychological assessment for a developmental or behavioural issue is unacceptably long, creating adverse effects on children’s education and reducing access to resource teaching hours and learning supports, and privileging households that have the resources to opt for private assessment;

— there are serious inequities and defects in the current allocation of resource teachers and learning support across schools; and

— there is a serious shortage of special Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classes at post-primary level, with less than half (45 per cent) the number of classes available at primary level; overall there are 548 ASD classes at primary and just 237 at post-primary, and there is also a severe shortage of ASD classes at pre-school level, with only 127 classes available throughout the country;

acknowledges that:

— while the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has proposed a reformed system, whereby access to resource teaching would no longer rely upon a formal diagnosis of learning difficulty, emotional or behavioural problems, there are legitimate concerns over aspects of the proposed new allocation model for resource teaching and learning supports that need to be addressed;

— the absence of special ASD classes in secondary schools is a national travesty and is creating real discrimination against children with ASD, and a much greater sense of urgency is required to ensure that these children can claim their entitlement to education by gaining admission to an appropriate school; and

— the outlawing of ‘soft barriers’ in the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016, to children with autism being admitted to school is insufficient to deal with the scale of the crisis; and

calls on the Government to:

— give a firm commitment that no child with assessed special education needs will be deprived of resource teaching or learning supports under the new allocation model and that schools will have additional provisions made available for students who start school from September 2017, with a specific diagnosis, either in junior infants or transferring from another school;

— bestow the NCSE with statutory powers to direct schools at primary and post-primary level to establish autism units and/or special classes where these are required in an area; and

— act on the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to increase the number of NEPS psychologists by at least 100 with the goal of reducing the ratio of students to each psychologist in real terms.” — Thomas Byrne, Bobby Aylward, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, James Browne, Mary Butler, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa M. Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen, John Curran, Stephen S. Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Sean Fleming, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Seán Haughey, Billy Kelleher, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Eugene Murphy, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Willie O'Dea, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Anne Rabbitte, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Robert Troy.

[3 March, 2017]