PEARSE Doherty, has criticised figures he received from the National Council for Special Education which show that 12 of the 35 Exceptional Review Applications submitted by Donegal schools for Special Needs Assistance for the upcoming school year have been unsuccessful.
Furthermore, figures released show that a further 7 Exceptional Review Applications submitted by Donegal schools have been deemed to require a school visit, which may not occur until later in September or October.
Sinn Féin Deputy Doherty has said that this has led to a situation whereby children will now be returning to school without the much-needed support of an SNA.
He said: “I raised these questions with the Minister a number of weeks ago and I have now received these disappointing figures in response. The figures reflect exactly what I have been hearing from schools across Donegal.
“This is happening year on year where children are returning to school and are being left without the SNA support that they desperately need.”
“This is causing untold stress for parents, principals and teachers.”
Deputy Doherty raised the issue via a Parliamentary Question.
A response on behalf of the Minister for Education said: ‘The position as at 21 August 2020, is that the NCSE received 44 SNA Exceptional Review applications in relation to Donegal schools. Two of the applications were recently received, on the 10th and 13th of this month, and these are currently being processed.
‘A further 7 schools are to receive a school visit. In these cases there wasn’t sufficient information to bring the applications to a conclusion without further exploring the issues raised in the applications.
‘The school visit is intended to provide an opportunity to discuss the deployment of SNAs with school management and to engage with teaching staff and SNAs.’
Deputy Doherty blasted the figures, with the Donegal TD saying that the ’system isn’t working’.
He said: “Why must children wait up to two months after the school year has started to get assessed? Surely there is a better, more efficient way to assess children so that the first few months in school are as comfortable as they can be?
“Sinn Féin during the election committed to providing funding for the recruitment of 500 additional SNAs and 450 additional resource teachers over and above those required to meet demographic pressures.
“In addition to this, Sinn Féin further committed to providing the NCSE with greater powers to ensure that sufficient school places and classes are provided, and the needs of children are met alongside robust appeals mechanisms.”
“We also need to reduce waiting times for assessments and resourcing support for students with special educational needs, including proper access to therapies.”
“Without changes such as these, children who need additional support in the classrooms will continue to be left behind and that is not acceptable”.