Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Disability Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD has slammed this government’s policy of special needs education for children and says hundreds of children are being left behind every year.

Fianna Fáil has brought forward a Private Members Motion on special needs education this week.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony explained, “Every year hundreds of children with autism and special needs fail to secure a school place – this is a fundamental breach of their constitutional right to education and Fine Gael has allowed this to happen on its watch. It’s also failed to bring forward any measures to address the issue, which has deteriorated year on year.

“Fianna Fáil has been to the fore on this issue – and several times have called on Minister McHugh to use the powers provided to him by the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act. This gives the Minister the power to compel schools to provide classes for children with special needs.

“To date, Minister McHugh has failed to use this option and parents are left fighting for places which simply don’t exist. The situation here in Cork is particularly bleak. I have been contacted by several families who have been unable to secure places for their children. Others have to travel long distances to find a school with a place.

“This is not a new phenomenon – the situation has been getting steadily worse over the past number of years. Last year more than 850 students with special needs were being taught at home because there were no places available for them. Others, who have secured a place are often offered reduced hours.

“These children deserve so much better, and there are options open to the government. Ministers have simply failed to pursue them”, concluded Deputy Murphy O’Mahony.