Inclusion Ireland, the national advocacy organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, has said it is “shocked and appalled” at Government plans for new special education centres.
As reported in The Irish Times on Wednesday, the Government is planning to create special education centres as an emergency response to the shortage of appropriate school places for vulnerable children.
Last week, educational authorities confirmed there are 80 children waiting for a special class in Dublin.
Meanwhile, it is estimated there are many more children waiting for places outside the capital.
Minister of State Josepha Madigan, who has responsibility for special education, is expected to announce the establishment of five special educational needs (SEN) centres across north and south Dublin.
According to The Irish Times, there will be four special classes in each of the new centres, which are due to open in September 2022.
It is understood that the Education and Training Boards will manage and operate the new centres, along with the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education.
The CEO of Inclusion Ireland, Derval McDonagh, said it is not what children deserve for their education.
“Children only get one chance to participate in their education, and then they become the adults of tomorrow,” Ms McDonagh said.
“There needs to be proper planning around children’s right to their education and a coordinated, well-thought-out and appropriately resourced response to the needs of children, even when the response needs to happen quickly.
“This plan does not offer choice to children and families, if parents refuse a place in a segregated ‘temporary’ centre what happens then?
“Energies and resources should be immediately channelled into finding and following through on appropriate places for each child in their local communities.”
Ms McDonagh said the Department of Education is “not running an accident and emergency department” and has known about the support needs for years.
“Emergency responses have no place in education and have far-reaching consequences beyond the intended fix and will impact massively on the inclusion and educational outcomes of children who deserve and are entitled to an appropriate education.”