Fewer than 1% of students in Ireland now attend a special school. In the vast majority of cases, mainstream schools are the first choice for parents of children with special educational needs.
There is a range of international human rights legislation and agreements which supports inclusive education, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and the UNESCO Salamanca Statement (1994).
Schools can access a range of supports to address the needs of students with special educational needs. Every mainstream school has a learning support teacher service to complement the work of the class or subject teacher. Furthermore, every school can apply for additional resource teaching hours or care supports to provide for students with more complex learning or care needs. (Source: NCSE, 'Choosing a School', 2013).
Responsibility for education services lies with the Department of Education and Skills.
All children in Ireland have a constitutional right to free primary education. Children with special educational needs have the right to free primary education up to age 18. Children with disabilities are entitled to avail of free secondary education in the same way as other children. There are also specific arrangements in place for those with special educational needs.
The EPSEN implementation report (NCSE, 2006) estimated the overall prevalence of combined special educational needs categories within the education system at almost 18 per cent:
- 8% with mental health difficulties (including emotional and behavioural disorders, mental illness and psychological disturbance)
- 6% with specific learning disabilities (including dyslexia, dyscalculia)
- 2% with intellectual/general learning disabilities (1.5% mild; 0.3 % moderate, 0.1% severe, 0.02% profound)
- 1% with physical and sensory disabilities (in particular speech and language disorder, cerebral palsy)
- 0.5% with autistic spectrum disorders
Under EPSEN, current educational policy determines that students with special educational needs should be included, as much as possible, in mainstream classes and withdrawn for individual or small-group teaching only when it is clearly in their interests or where appropriate education for them or other students cannot be provided in the mainstream class.
Overall, there are three main types of provision to meet the range of
educational needs found among students in primary and post-primary schools in Ireland:
- mainstream classes
- special classes in mainstream school and
- special schools
Wherever a child is placed, educational placements should be flexible and should be reviewed periodically as a student’s needs change.
In this area, we consider the transition from Primary School to Second-Level Education for students with a disability and/or special learning needs, and outline the educational supports and options available.
The section also covers the tranistion from Second Level to Third-Level education, outlining the different further education and training options available.
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