Moving children with special needs into mainstream school classes is not only a bad move educationally, it will cost the State dearly, a local politician has warned.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, Fine Gael Seanad education spokesperson, says if Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe goes ahead with his plan he will lose €40,000 through one class in Renmore alone.
“I visited Scoil Caitriona junior school in Renmore on Friday last where I met the parents and their children as well as the teaching staff. When I did up the figures I was astonished to learn that, based on the children’s education and care needs, they will cost the Irish State €40k more if they are mainstreamed.
“Currently this class of seven children has one teacher and two special needs assistants. This costs the state €110k annually in salaries. However, if these children are mainstreamed such is their severity of need that they will need and qualify for five special needs assistants, a half a teacher in resource teaching hours, in addition to drawing from a mainstream class teacher’s time.”
The Oranmore senator says in salaries alone this will amount to €150,000 before the mainstream teacher’s salary is taken into account.
“Ironically, here we have a Minister claiming this deplorable move would save the State money. It is another mess.”
Slamming his plan as a “desperate educational and financial practice” Senator Healy Eames claimed his decisions are knee-jerk reactions and are not thought through.
“In this class alone three of the children need to be toileted, one is in a wheelchair with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities, two have severe speech delay while one is not yet able to talk.
“These children, if mainstreamed, would create an intolerable load on any class teacher. He/she would be unable to cope and deliver the curriculum. Their care and education needs would be compromised in a mainstream class setting as would also the education needs of the mainstream pupils. This case clearly demonstrates that Batt O'Keeffe has not done his sums. I have no doubt that there are other similar cases around the country.”
She is calling on the Minister to reverse what she terms his “thoughtless, financially and educationally unsound decision” with immediate effect.