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Cairns criticises special needs teaching criteria change

February 25th, 2024 7:30 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Deputy Holly Cairns said changes to special education teaching criteria have seen teaching allocations cut by 33% in set hours nationwide, and the loss of teaching jobs.

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CHANGES to special education teaching allocations could be disastrous for children with additional needs, according to Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns TD.

Recently, the Dept of Education issued a circular to all primary schools outlining changes to how hours for the special education teaching (set) will be allocated.

With immediate effect, children with ‘complex needs’ – which, typically, includes children with Down Syndrome, autism, or an intellectual disability – are to be removed from the special education teaching (set) criteria.

The Department says it has removed the complex needs criteria so it can operate a system based on population statistics and standardised testing.

It claims this will not lead to a reduction in services, but Deputy Cairns said it has already led to a 33% reduction in set hours nationwide, and the loss of teaching jobs.

She claimed the Department was not meeting the needs of children requiring set hours before removing the complex needs criteria, and in making this change, it had simply moved the goalposts.

‘The decision to remove children with complex needs as a criteria for the allocation of set hours is dangerous and completely illogical,’ she said. The circular confirmed to schools the hours allocated for 2024.

Some schools, like Kilmeen NS, saw a small increase in hours from 65 to 67.5, but Deputy Cairns said one third of schools have seen a decrease in resources.

‘This is detrimental to the education, wellbeing and development of children with complex needs,’ said the TD, who has written to the Minister for Education seekingto review the decision.

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