Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called for an extension to the deadline for applications for special needs supports in schools, describing the current deadline as ‘unfair and unrealistic’.

As it stands, schools have only until Friday week to apply for resource hours and Special Needs Assistants they will need for the year. Any child with disabilities that has not been assessed in time will have to go the full school year without the support they need.

“It is simply unreasonable to expect that the needs of all children in the school system can be fully and correctly assessed within three weeks of the new school year, particularly given the significant increase in the school going population this year. I believe it does not give teachers anywhere near enough time to evaluate all children in their class, especially those who are new to the school,” said Deputy McConalogue.

“This deadline puts enormous pressure on teachers and parents. In many cases, a child’s special needs will not become apparent for a few weeks after they and their class have settled into the new school year. But by that time, it will be too late to apply for additional supports and that child will have to wait a full year before an application can be made. Not only will this have potentially serious consequences for their development, it could affect the entire classroom environment.

“My concern is that such a strict deadline is another cynical attempt to cut costs by reducing the number of applications for SNAs and resource hours. Minister Quinn has already targeted these supports and despite being forced into a u-turn on his cuts to resource hours, additional SNA reductions have kicked in this year. I am urging the Minister to do the right thing and extend the deadline for at least another two weeks give schools a chance to ensure that all children who need support get it this year.”