When it comes to Special Education in Ireland, we have a very interesting system, full of the right intentions but with a complete lack of investment. The government will trot out figures that there are over 1,000 special classes for pupils with specific special needs that are integrated into primary schools. At first glance, this would look extremely good – 1 in 3 schools! However, the reality of these figures is very different and the spread of the classes is astonishing. In Ireland, of the 1,062 Special Classes integrated into Irish primary schools, here is how they are allocated by need:
I don’t have a study of the prevalence of particular needs but I am absolutely sure that this does not represent the percentages of children with the above needs accurately. I also know full well that the number of classes available for children with Autism is nowhere near enough to manage the need.
The question really isn’t where are the classes. More so, the question is why are there nowhere near enough of them?
The government need to resource special classes properly in Ireland to ensure that every child with an additional need that requires a special class to integrate has that facility within their community. Taking EBD as an example, there are only 8 schools in the whole of the country catering to this growing need, (1 school has 2 classes, making the total of 9 EBD classes.) There are 18 counties in Ireland without a single class for children with EBD. Dublin, by far the largest city has 1.
If the government don’t sort out these issues as quickly as possible, it will simply come back to haunt them in the future with higher costs as we try to help them as adults. If we don’t put in early interventions, the issues will continue to grow until there is little hope of resolving them.