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Lowry – “New Proposals Could See Major Cuts To Special Education”

“Closure of special schools; special classes and cuts in SNA allocations will hurt pupils of all abilities, especially those with complex needs”. – Michael Lowry TD. (Election Launch, Friday January 24th, 2020).

There are 516 candidates running for just 159 seats, in 39 constituencies, in this upcoming Irish General Election.

Yet, to date, only a few outgoing TD’s appear to be aware of disastrous new policies for special education proposed by the National Council for Special Education.

Last night, at a packed election launch by Tipperary Independent TD Mr. Michael Lowry, some startling facts were publicly highlighted by Ms Lorraine Lowry (Principal of Scoil Chormaic, Cashel); same facts which Deputy Lowry stated he will strenuously oppose.

Ms Lorraine Lowry explained in detail to the large assembled gathering, what we the public, can expect with regard to the future of special education in Ireland, if the National Council for Special Education get their way.

New ideas suggesting the future of special education in Ireland have been detailed in a recent National Council for Special Education (NCSE) progress report.

Firstly Note: The NCSE were set up in 2003, by the then Minister for Education and Science. Their purpose; to ‘improve the delivery of Education Services to persons with special educational needs’.
Their recent progress report and the new model for special education, that they suggest should be put in place, have many in the field of education questioning whether or not it is the Department of Finance that is actively involving itself in prescribing our Education system, rather than those charged to do so within the National Council for Special Education itself.
Read what the NCSE are promising our children at the following link: – https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/NCSE-An-Inclusive-Education-A5-Proof-07WEB.pdf

Plans are afoot to close Irish Special Schools and Special Needs Classes.

The new ideas proposed by the NCSE, include the complete closure of (A) Special classes, (B) Special schools and (C) a reduction in Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) as part of the introduction to Ireland of ‘The New Brunswick Model’.

The ‘New Brunswick Model’ comes from Canada and as part of their system, there are no special schools or classes for pupils with special needs. The NCSE argue that the ‘New Brunswick Model’ is superior, with students getting access to therapists and psychologists in their schools and teachers getting more training and support from outside agencies.

Those directly responsible in the day to day running of schools, however, argue that the ‘New Brunswick Model’ would be a total disaster if introduced. As it stands, children with special needs sit on waiting lists for months if not years for access to therapies and assessments. It is worth noting that as highlighted in a recent Irish Times article, the Premier of New Brunswick Blaine Higgs, has also called the educational system in New Brunswick ‘a disaster’.
See link: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/is-ireland-ready-for-a-total-inclusion-approach-for-special-education-1.4109360

Read also attached CBC link : Inclusion model a ‘race to the bottom,’ says policy expert

Plans to cut SNA jobs.
The government cannot justify taking away SNA’s, special schools and special classes until it addresses the lack of therapists and services available to schools and pupils with special needs. The reduction in SNA’s will come through a new ‘front-loaded model’ of SNA allocation, already expected to begin in September 2020.

The government will use a profiling system, involving ‘algorithms’ and ‘statistics’ to estimate what a school should get.
If introduced, this will spell disaster for all schools and in particular small schools and the rural and minority populations they represent.

Regrettably, a profiling system has already been introduced for the allocation of special education teaching hours and pupils and schools are not benefiting; with small schools among the worst affected. Why can’t the government allocate resources and SNA’s based on actual need, rather than algorithms and statistics? Are educational decisions being totally motivated by budget constriction?

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.

The government will try to convince you that since 2011 they have increased investment in ‘Special Education’. That is technically true, but what the government neglects to mention is that from 2008 to 2010, during the recession, there were shameful cuts in funding for special education.

Our children need better – stop covering up our budget limitations.

Our educational system is not perfect, but what we have we understand and up until now they were attempting to move in the right direction. Ireland is known internationally for its high-quality educationalists and its traditions around family and local community. Parents and teachers work closely together here in Tipperary and other counties, in order to supplement the lack of educational funding. Go down to Dunnes Stores here in Thurles Shopping Centre any weekend and you will most likely see parents and teachers fundraising together, ‘bag packing’ for their schools and their children. We all know that money is not there for everything, but stop covering this fact up with ‘algorithms’ for estimates, new idiotic ‘models’ and other ‘ideology’. Let us talk about reality and let us talk directly to parents and teachers and grant our children and our schools, what they actually need.

Talk to your local TD’s – the very few who are truly listening.

Ahead of this 2020 General Election start talking to your public representatives. Awaken them to the knowledge regarding these cuts and inform them that we the electorate will not be fooled by ‘models’ and ‘algorithms’. Ask them why they are supporting the cutting of funding to special education; closing special schools; special classes and cutting SNA jobs? Ask them what they intend to do to stop this threatened outrage?

We are aware from Michael Lowry’s election launch last night, that we can expect his support and strong voice, loudly opposing any such cuts, as he consistently listens to what his constituents, on the ground, are stating.

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