Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne has said that any review of special needs education cannot be focused exclusively on the cost to the State but must reflect the impact SNE has on the wellbeing of children with special needs.
Deputy Byrne was commenting after it was revealed that the Minister for Finance raised concerns with the Education Minister about the rising costs of special needs education in Irish schools.
“As a former spokesperson on Public Expenditure I am more than conscious of the need to secure the maximum possible benefit from exchequer funding and special needs education must not be exempt from that.
“However, DPER’s primary role cannot be solely focused on the limiting future budgetary spending. The impact of spending on the wellbeing of children must be taken into account when reviewing how the State’s resources are spent.
“The briefing paper from DPER contained no emphasis on improving educational outcomes for children with special education needs or with a disability – nor indeed on the long term gains for society - and the exchequer - that such an emphasis could provide.
“It is imperative that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Special needs education has been transformed over the past two decades. We have gone from a stage where it barely existed to providing a system that is enabling children with difficulties to make real progress.
“Nothing must be done to jeopardise that progress and comments that there are now more SNA’s than Gardaí are as facile as they are irrelevant.
“We must never forget that each child who receives supports from the Department of Education is a valuable member of society, and the State must continue to support their learning and development,” concluded Byrne.