Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Disability, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has said the failure of Minister Bruton to come forward with proposals to end the ability of schools to refuse to establish Special Education Needs classes is deeply disappointing.
During the last Dáil term, Fianna Fáil put forward amendments to the Schools Admissions Bill in June and also passed a Dáil motion last March calling for the National Council for Special Education to be given the power to direct a schools to establish Special Needs Classes.
“Our proposals were a direct response to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) being refused school places in their local secondary school.
“Five months on from our Dail motion, children with ASD and their families are still waiting and another school year will begin without their right to an education in their local school being vindicated.
“Minister Bruton requested additional time following the Committee Stage debate of this bill to come back with amendments that would work for his Department but has yet to do so.
“At present, schools are not allowed to refuse entry to a student on the basis of their disability.
“However the absence of special ASD classes in secondary schools means that effectively children with ASD cannot be accommodated with a school place in their local area.
“Minister Bruton’s only response has been to outlaw so-called the use ‘soft barriers’ being used against children with special needs during school admissions in new legislation.
“However, this action will be totally insufficient to deal with the scale of this problem.
“Children with ASD are being failed by the State and a much greater sense of urgency is required to ensure these children can claim their constitutional entitlement to education gaining admission to an appropriate school.
“Fianna Fáil will be pushing Minister Bruton when the Dáil reconvenes in September to set out his plans to ensuring that no child with a disability is discriminated against by being refused a place in a school.
“Most importantly, schools will need to be supported if these changes are accepted. We’re committed to working constructively with the relevant school management bodies, the Departments of Education, Health and Children, and the various disability organisations to make this process work for everyone involved,” concluded Murphy O’Mahony.