Slowly but surely, the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Special Education are retreating from special education in mainstream schools, and they are consistently undermining it by developing wrong models. Special education is under-resourced at the moment and it is not prioritised by the Government. I have met with the parents of children with special needs, with the principals of special schools and with principals of mainstream schools that cater comprehensively in their own ways for children with special needs. The National Educational Psychological Service is grossly under-resourced and needs more psychologists. Every school is limited in the number of psychological assessments it can get per year. For example, a school whose representatives I met yesterday is limited to three assessments a year. It needs 20 on average per year and it is told it can only have three. That is the case across the system. The wait for occupational therapists for children in special education is about two years. For speech and language therapy, it is over a year. There is no ongoing intervention for children on the autistic spectrum in special classes providing for autism in mainstream schools.
The new general allocation model that is being proposed is causing enormous concern to principals and teachers and will shock many parents. Essentially, the whole concept of a resource teacher for children with special needs will disappear. They want a general allocation model now in the interest of administrative simplicity, and that is what will happen. They are saying there will be no more need for professional diagnosis and they think this is a good thing.