Supporting pupils with special needs should not be about the level


Supporting pupils with special needs should not be about the level
XX1 - V1
Irish Examiner
Friday 03.06.2011
Supporting pupils with special needs should not be about the level of resources but ensuring
they are the right resources to enable their full development, says Áine Lynch
HILDREN with special
educational needs (SEN)
should be put at the
centre of policy formation and
education/health service delivery in
order to best provide for their future.
Who could argue?
This statement comes directly
from the National Council for
Special Education’s (NCSE) 2006
Implementation Report. A report
that provided the framework for
the phased implementation of the
Education for Persons with Special
Educational Needs Act 2004, frequently referred to as the EPSEN Act.
The act was passed in 2004 but is
still not fully implemented. The
Programme for Government commits
to “publish(ing) a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004”.
We have a plan — we have had the
NCSE’s implementation plan since
2006. What we need is for it to be
implemented in full.
The act puts forward a positive
vision for special educational provision. It recognises the rights of people
with special educational needs. The
act provides that “people with special
educational needs shall have the same
right to avail of, and benefit from,
appropriate education as do their
peers who do not have such needs”.
Again, who could argue with that?
However, if you talk to a parent
of a child with such needs you will
find that this is all too often not the
reality they or their child experiences.
From the time a parent becomes
aware that their child’s learning and
development needs are more intensive
than their peers, parents report the
daily battle that they experience in
trying to access assessments, supports
and services.
They report the negative impacts
that this has on their child’s development, their own mental health and
often other children in the family.
This week we have heard that
resource teaching hours for children
with SEN may be cut. The circular
from the Department of Education
states that for the coming school year,
an allocation of 90% of valid identified
resource teaching allocations will be
made to schools, which may or may
not be increased in September.
This decision has been made
to ensure that the department can
adhere to the Employment Control
Framework established under the
EU/IMF agreement.
The EU/IMF deal is permeating all
aspects of life. It seems to be a justification for all decisions, even this one
affecting children who are already
struggling with so many adversities.
The cutting of resource teaching
hours has added to the impact of the
recent capping of Special Needs Assistant numbers. Can this all be blamed
on our EU/IMF bailout?
The quick-fix solution to spending
less is always to cut what we spend
money on. We know Ireland’s
financial woes are not going to be
While access to special needs assistants or resource teachers is important, greater co-ordination between education with health services could ensure children get the right resources for their needs.
short in duration, we know that
spending cuts are going to be long
and protracted; we are talking years
not months.
These cuts will affect a whole
generation of children.
The EPSEN Act does not talk
about numbers of Special Needs
Assistants or the number of resource
teaching hours. The act is child
centred. It says children with SEN
should be put at the centre of policy
formation; this policy formation must
include a child centred approach
to the development of policies that
are for the purpose of saving money.
We need to develop systems that are
not employment-based or system-based but children-based. We can
make decisions about spending less
that are also child-centred. One key
feature of the act is the child with
SEN’s Individual Education Plan. This
is developed following an assessment
of the child’s needs and sets out the
measures that will provide for the
appropriate education of the child.
The plan outlines the services
and supports necessary to enable
the child to participate and benefit
from education.
The National Council for Special
Education implementation plan highlights the necessity for the education
and health sectors “to work collaboratively in the parallel processes involved
in order to enhance the lives of those
with disability and with SEN”.
The National Parents Council Primary engages with parents of children
who have SEN on a regular basis
through its SEN special interest group.
Parents who attend this group do not
recognise this vision of collaboration
and parallel processes. They and their
children live a different reality.
Parents talk about settling for the
resource they can get rather than
the one they need for their child.
Resources provided by the Department of Education are often settled
for because specialist health services
such as speech and language therapy,
occupational therapy and behavioural
therapy are not accessible. Would we
need the current level of educational
and care supports if we had the appropriate specialist supports in place?
There are models in other jurisdictions where specialist supports are
part of the education structure. This
ensures parallel processes, and also
allows children to access supports in
their own environment, the school,
they do not need to miss significant
periods of schooling due to travelling
to and from clinics. The model also
ensures on-site support to teachers
and other members of the school
community as specialist services become part of the school community.
Implementing a model like this
would need radical reform, but we
already know this Government will
make those reforms in the best interest
of children. We have evidence of it
with the new Department of Children
and Youth Affairs and the development of the Child Welfare and
Protection Agency.
It is important that we look at what
impact the different resources are
having on the outcomes for children
with SEN. We need to ensure resource decisions are made in a child
centred manner, this does not necessarily mean more resources but that
children with special education needs
get the right resources for them.
■ Áine Lynch is chief executive
of the National Parents
Parents talk
about settling
for the
resource they
can get rather
than the one
they need for
their child
Change tack to win war on drugs
HE global war on drugs has
failed, with devastating
consequences for individuals
and societies around the world.
Fifty years after the initiation of
the UN Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years
after US President Richard Nixon
launched the US government’s war
on drugs, fundamental reforms in
national and global drug control
policies are urgently needed.
Vast expenditures on
criminalisation and repressive
measures directed at producers,
traffickers and consumers of illegal
drugs have failed to effectively
curtail supply or consumption.
Apparent victories in eliminating
one source or trafficking
organisation are negated almost
instantly by the emergence of other
sources and traffickers. Repressive
efforts directed at consumers
impede public health measures
to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose
fatalities and other harmful
consequences of drug use.
Government expenditures on
futile supply reduction strategies
and incarceration displace more
cost-effective and evidence-based
investments in demand and harm
reduction. Our principles and
recommendations are as follows:
The war on drugs has
‘failed’ and
marijuana may help
curb drug-related
violence and social ills,
argue a group of
prominent former
world leaders in a new
report on the issue
regulation of drugs to undermine
the power of organised crime and
safeguard the health and security of
their citizens. This recommendation
applies especially to cannabis,
but we also encourage other
experiments in decriminalisation
and legal regulation that can
accomplish these objectives and
provide models for others.
that have proven effective in
reducing transmission of HIV
and other blood-borne infections
as well as fatal overdoses.
■ Respect the human rights of
people who use drugs. Abolish
abusive practices carried out in the
name of treatment — such as forced
detention, forced labour, and
physical or psychological abuse —
that contravene human rights
standards and norms or that remove
the right to self-determination.
■ Apply much the same principles
and policies stated above to people
involved in the lower ends of illegal
drug markets, such as farmers,
couriers and petty sellers. Many are
victims of violence and intimidation
or are drug dependent. Arresting
and incarcerating tens of millions of
these people has filled prisons and
destroyed lives and families without
reducing the availability of illicit
drugs or the power of criminal
organisations. Direct drug control
resources elsewhere.
■ Challenge rather than reinforce
common misconceptions about drug
markets, drug use and dependence.
■ Offer health and treatment
services to those in need. Ensure
that a variety of treatment
modalities are available, not just
methadone and buprenorphine
treatment but also the
heroin-assisted programmes that
have proven successful in many
European countries and Canada.
■ Invest in activities that can
prevent young people from taking
drugs in the first place and also
prevent those who use drugs from
developing more serious problems.
Eschew simplistic “just say no” and
“zero tolerance” policies in favour
of educational efforts grounded in
credible information and prevention
programmes that focus on social
skills and peer influences. The most
successful prevention efforts may
be those targeted at specific at-risk
■ Encourage experimentation by
governments with models of legal
■ Implement syringe access and
other harm reduction measures
■ Focus repressive actions on
violent criminal organisations, but
■ End the criminalisation,
marginalisation and stigmatisation
of people who use drugs but who
do no harm to others.
do so in ways that undermine their
power and reach while prioritising
the reduction of violence and
intimidation. Law enforcement
efforts should focus not on reducing
drug markets per se but rather on
reducing their harms to individuals,
communities and national security.
■ Begin the transformation of the
global drug prohibition regime.
Replace drug policies and strategies
driven by ideology and political
convenience with fiscally responsible
policies and strategies grounded in
science, health, security and human
rights — and adopt appropriate
criteria for their evaluation. Review
the scheduling of drugs that has
resulted in obvious anomalies like
the flawed categorisation of
cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA.
■ Ensure that the international
conventions are interpreted and/or
revised to accommodate robust
experimentation with harm
reduction, decriminalisation
and legal regulatory policies.
■ Break the taboo on debate and
reform. The time for action is now.
■ This article is the executive
summary of the Report of the Global
Commission on Drug Policy. The
Commissioners responsible for the
report are: Kofi Annan, former
Secretary General of the United
Nations, Ghana; George P Shultz,
former Secretary of State, United
States (honorary chair); Richard
Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for
social causes, founder of the Virgin
Group, co-founder of The Elders,
United Kingdom; Asma Jahangir,
human rights activist, former UN
The policy calls for an end to the criminalisation, and stigmatisation of people
who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty
Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary,
Extrajudicial and Summary
Executions, Pakistan; Carlos Fuentes,
writer and public intellectual,
Mexico; César Gaviria, former
President of Colombia Ernesto
Zedillo, former President of Mexico;
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former
President of Brazil (chair) George
Papandreou, Prime Minister of
Greece; Javier Solana, former
European Union High Representative
for the Common Foreign and
Security Policy, Spain; John
Whitehead, banker and civil servant,
chair of the World Trade Center
Memorial Foundation, United States;
Louise Arbour, former UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights,
President of the International Crisis
Group, Canada; Maria Cattaui,
Petroplus Holdings Board member,
former Secretary-General of the
International Chamber of Commerce,
Switzerland; Mario Vargas Llosa,
writer and public intellectual, Peru
Marion Caspers-Merk, former State
Secretary at the German Federal
Ministry of Health; Michel
Kazatchkine, executive director of the
Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria, France;
Paul Volcker, former chairman of the
United States Federal Reserve and of
the Economic Recovery Board; Ruth
Dreifuss, former president of
Switzerland and Minister of Home
Affairs; Thorvald Stoltenberg, former
Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN
High Commissioner for Refugees,