Parents protest at special needs cuts

The Minister for Education is to meet Kildare TD’s this week over cuts to special needs posts at St. Raphael’s in Celbridge.

Following last Wednesday’s, April 6, public protest by parents of special needs children at St. Raphael’s over the cutting of four and a half jobs, the Leader understandstands that Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, is to meet Kildare Dail deputies, possibly today, Tuesday April 12.

At last Wednesday’s protest, many of the parents attending drew attention to the bail out of banks.

A spokesperson for the partents, Delores O’Donnell said the school had ten teachers and 24.5 special needs assistants (SNAs) up to Monday of last week, April 4.

But the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recommendation led to four an half jobs being cut last week.

Ms. O’Donnell said the impact on the school would be “enormous” with one-to-one support being withdrawn for some children with complex needs and school activities such as gardening, horse riding and swimming being restricted.

She said social outings have been curtailed.

The Board of Management told parents last week it had to request one pupil to remain at home as it is not possible to provide that child with their education in a safe environment.

St. Raphael’s caters for children with special needs roughly within a catchment of area of 15 miles, mainly covering the north Kildare area.

This week there has been suggestions of a difficulty in communications over the school’s needs, particularly in relation to documentation required.

Deputy Catherine Murphy said the Minister is examining the information and the communications between the school and the National Council for Special needs which decided on the cuts.

Deputy Murphy said parents do not have a strong enough role in the appeal mechanism and that needed to be changed.

She has questions over whether the NCSE has the staff to do what is being expected of it.

Among the issues which surfaced in the past is that schools kept on SNAs when the pupils for which they were employed were no longer required. A year ago, then opposition TD, Eamon Gilmore said the cuts were a false economy which would save, at most, €50 or €60 per post per week.

At the time, Deputy Emmet Stagg said the cuts were “scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

The previous government said then that there was no question of posts being removed from schools where they meet the scheme’s criteria but there is also no question of posts being left in schools indefinitely where they are deemed to be surplus to the care needs of the pupils or where the pupils have left the school.