Posts Tagged ‘Department of Education’

A real set back for Inclusion- Lucan Educate Together – a disgrace!

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Lucan educate together

A DUBLIN school was entitled to refuse to enrol a boy in a class for children with autism, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe yesterday upheld a challenge by Lucan Educate Together National School to a Department of Education appeals committee decision allowing an appeal by the child’s parents against the school’s refusal in late 2007 to enrol him in its outreach class for children with autism.

While it was accepted the class had capacity for the child, the school refused enrolment on grounds he did not meet the criterion for enrolment in light of a psychologist’s report stating he had “significant” learning disability and significant developmental delay.

The school’s criterion for enrolment included only a “mild” learning disability and the school said the services available to it could not meet the child’s needs.

The parents appealed under Section 29 of the Education Act and the appeals committee allowed that appeal and directed the child be enrolled in January 2008. The committee found the child met the “main criteria” for enrolment but the school then took judicial review proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Justice O’Keeffe found in favour of the school.

While it was not unreasonable for the committee to describe autism as the main criterion for enrolment, and there was no issue that there was capacity in the outreach class for the child, other aspects of the committee’s decision were unreasonable and invalid, the judge found.




The committee’s conclusion that the child had a mild learning disability was unreasonable, given the facts and evidence in the case, he ruled.

The judge said the report relied on by the committee at the appeal could not be read as establishing the child suffered from a mild learning disability.

The report referred to the child having “adaptive skills” within the “mild range of adaptive functioning” This was a different condition to a learning disability, he said.

Source Evening Herald

We at My Special Needs say Shame on You Lucan Educate Together! The effort you spent ( and the money! ) bringing this case to the high court should have been spent on resources within the school to facilitate the boy’s learning.

Enrolment Policies in Schools- the big problem in our Education System

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

School enrolment policies

Tuesday January 11 2011

AFTER more than 40 years of free education, isn’t it incredible that we are still playing out the game of education on a pitch skewed by discrimination, class consciousness, income and family background?

There is a belief in the minds of some that they do not have to deal with what they consider the unpleasant business of problem students, Travellers, students with special needs and, generally anyone who might impact on their self-constructed coziness.

Irish education is not played out on a level pitch and a detailed study of schools’ admission policies reveals the common thread — that many of them have devised imaginative ways of setting the slope on the pitch:

-By giving preference to the brothers or sisters of existing students or children of former pupils.

– By reserving places for certain feeder schools or parishes.

-By reserving places for the children of full-time members of staff.

-By taking applications only from students who are in third or fourth class in their primary feeder schools and who have an €800 non-refundable deposit.

-By requiring parents to have the resources to participate in an “induction weekend”.

-By telling parents at the open evening that they want only “honours students”.

 This list is not exhaustive. In some schools the restrictions are innocent and simply exist by custom and practice. In others, however, they are very carefully crafted to enable the school to “cherry pick” its intake. In many towns the length and breadth of the country, this covert form of social apartheid is in operation.

The Department of Education is well aware of this but, like so many problems, refuses to deal with it until, as with the banking crisis, it becomes unmanageable.

Why do I say this? Back in 2007 the department carried out an audit of admission policies with particular reference to assessing the treatment of pupils with special educational needs, Travellers and newcomers who arrived here to settle. The survey looked at about 50pc of schools in limited geographic areas and, perhaps most significantly of all, did not include any fee-paying schools. Notwithstanding that fundamental flaw, it threw up some astonishing results.

Schools in the vocational and community sector bore an unequal representation of pupils with special needs, and Traveller and newcomer backgrounds in comparison with their secondary counterparts. Perhaps the most staggering statistic from that report and the one that would leave any reader speechless was the revelation that in one mixed vocational school in the West 55.84pc of the pupils had special educational needs whereas in the same small geographic area two secondary schools had just 2.5pc of pupils with special needs. This is not something that just happens by accident.

The then minister, Mary Hanafin, decided to go into consultation mode and, in a letter to management bodies and other agencies asking them to comment on the audit findings, set the stage for the replies by advising that “the audit did not find evidence of problematic enrolment practice on a system-wide scale”.

At the time the department received about 18 replies from parents’ bodies, unions, management bodies, the National Education Welfare Board and the Equality Tribunal. The responses reveal a deep-seated and fractious divide across a plethora of fault lines among the various parties.

However, one line was strong and clear: unions and the vocational and community patronage bodies favour more regulation and an end to discrimination whereas the religious patronage representative bodies, quite simply, are not up for change. Why should they be, hasn’t the slope run with them for a long time now?

There is no doubt that the nettle of discriminatory enrolment policies and covert means of cherry picking pupils will have to be grasped and grasped quickly as the enrolment season opens because there is now the unavoidable issue that every policy which sets down discriminatory criteria for applicants is unlawful and there are a great many such policies all around the country.

There is a real opportunity for the department to learn from the bitter experience we have had in the banking sector that soft-touch regulation is not good public policy in an area where those with vested interests can take unfair advantage.

Rather than require individuals to vindicate their rights before bodies like the Equality Tribunal, the department must now step up to the plate and manage this proactively. As we look to what is undoubtedly a future of diminished resources and expenditure in education, it is now time for the State to level the pitch and to draft and implement a set of admission regulations which all state-recognised and state-funded schools will have to abide by or run the risk of having their recognition and funding withdrawn.

Some will read this and say these are side issues that we are now too broke to tackle. To them I respond that these are core issues and, fundamentally, they are part of the reason why we are broke now.

Gearoid O Bradaigh

Gearoid is a practising barrister and consultant on school management issues and former CEO of Westmeath VEC

taken from Irish Independent Tuesday 11th January

Irish Government at Odds with Salamanca Statement

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The Salamanca  Statement begins with a commitment to Education for All, recognising the necessity and urgency of providing education for all children, young people and adults ‘within the regular education system.’ It says those children with special educational needs ‘must have access to regular schools’ and adds:

Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-e ffectiveness of the entire education system.

The Irish Government needs to stop hiding behind the excuse of a lack of resources for implementing what was agreed all of 15 years ago!!

Department of Education and Science Reviewing its Discriminatory Policy

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The Department of Education has been forced to change rules that would have required a teenager to leave school at the age of 18 because he has a learning disability, while allowing his twin sister to continue.

Ms Keen ( mother of the two children) took her case to the Equality Tribunal, along with the parents of other special needs children, who are all pupils at Catherine McAuley School in Limerick. The case was supported by the Equality Authority.

As well as ordering the Department to review its policy, the Tribunal ordered it to pay a total of 10,000 euro compensation to three of the students who took the case under the Equal Status Act.

We congratulate Ms Keen for winning her case and commend her for fighting for the rights of her son. Well done and we wish you and your children evry best wish for the future.

Senator Brendan Ryan to meet with Mary Canning Principal St Michaels House Special Needs School Skerries

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Senator Brendan Ryan has kindly offered to meet with Mary Canning Principal St Michaels House Special Needs School Skerries. Mary Canning was part of the School Case Conference team that refused to admit our son Michael to the school. We were told by Mary Canning that the decision to admit or not to admit Michael would be made by the Board of Management of the school – but that proved incorrect as the decision was not made by the Board. It is very unsettling when the Principal of the school is unclear on the decision making process in her own school!

Hopefully Senator Brendan Ryan will be able to assist us change the Principal’s and the Board of  Management’s enrolment policy -as change it must!