Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called on the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to put the spin aside, and be up-front and honest about cuts to teaching supports for children with special needs.
“No amount of spin or massaging of figures can hide the fact that 42,500 children with special needs will be hit with a cut in support from September. No attempts at keeping this cut under the radar or manipulating the timing and method of announcement can disguise the fact that this is Minister Quinn’s cut. It’s his budget, he signed off on it and he must own his decision,” said Deputy McConalogue.
“The silence from Labour backbenchers has been deafening. On the same day the special needs cut was announced, the Labour Party issued 12 press releases about the government’s u-turn on Coillte. But not one single statement was issued about the 12% cut in resource teaching hours – a cut that was approved in secret by a Labour Minister three weeks previously.
“It begs the question, who did Minister Quinn tell about his cut? Did he keep his own Labour colleagues in the dark? Did the Fine Gael Cabinet Ministers tell their party colleagues? It is clear that there was no consultation whatsoever with teachers, parents or groups representing children with special needs. Was Minister Quinn just hoping that no one would notice that tens of thousands of children with disabilities would lose up to half an hour of teaching a week?
“Whatever way you look at it, this is a discrimination against the most vulnerable children in the school system. There is no excuse for increasing mainstream teacher numbers in accordance with the increase in the student population, while deliberately deciding to leave children with special needs with a 12% reduction in teaching hours in September. Not only will there be a profound impact on pupils with severe disabilities, the entire classroom environment will be effected.
“It is not too late to put a stop to this. Government Deputies will have an opportunity to do the right thing next week when Fianna Fáil tables a Dáil motion demanding a full reversal of what is clearly an indefensible cut.”