Circular 13 / 2017 regarding Special Education Teaching Allocation.

Circular 13 / 2017 regarding Special Education Teaching Allocation.

 

This long-awaited Circular was published at last by the DES on the 7th of March 2017. It is 24 pages long and contains lots of information. I will do my best to go through each section. My response to the Circular is also long (sorry), so I might have to work on it piece by piece and publish it as I go through it (sorry, again).

 

  1. Purpose: pages 1-2

 

  • Advise schools of the revised allocation process for SEN Teachers to mainstream primary schools from the 2017/18 school year.
  • Replace three types of teachers – GAM (Learning Support Teachers); EAL Teachers and Resource Teachers with one Teacher to teach all pupils needing GAM; EAL and Resource Support
  • Inform each school that they will now be allocated SEN teachers based on the school’s profile, not on how many Resource hours they have
  • Each school must deploy resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.
  • Sections 6 and 7 of theCircular describe how schools have been profiled.

 

The Circular claims that this new model gives certainty to schools. However, many schools will have to appeal their allocation, for example due to errors made by the DES (as outlined on RTE news) or large intakes of SEN pupils in September 2017 or growing school population or inability to cluster “minutes”. This Circular does not give certainty to parents and children who had some level of certainty after years of fighting for Resource hours, it takes away that certainty.

 

The Circular also claims that the new model “will allow schools to better plan and timetable for this provision. The earlier allocation process will also allow schools to plan in advance of the school year” (p. 2). First of all, this allocation is not really early at all, given that (i) many schools may have to appeal their allocation and (ii) schools knew where they stood with Resource hours. Secondly, DES should understand that children who need GAM or EAL or Resource support very often have difficulties with memory, therefore, it is wrong to plan timetables etc… in June, because those children are very different in September. Support needs to be allocated based on the children who need it in September, not those who scored x in June. Thirdly, Irish-normed standardised assessments are few and far between. It would be wrong to select children for support based on just one result on one test.

 

The Circular tells us that “new model will provide a greater level of autonomy for schools in how to manage and deploy additional teaching support within their school, based on the individual learning needs of pupils, as opposed to being based primarily on a diagnosis of disability” (p. 2). Translated this means that schools will have to decide who does and who does not receive support and take the responsibility and accompanying blame (and possible court case) for that decision. This is totally wrong. The DES must step up and provide more supports to schools if we are expected to support every child who needs support.

 

The Circular infers that it is a bad thing for children to have “a diagnosis of disability“. However, (i) It was DES who used the term disability; (ii) Teachers are teachers and need people like Speech and Language Therapists to diagnose language difficulties and Occupational Therapists to diagnose e.g. writing difficulties and Educational Psychologists to diagnose e.g. Dyslexia and Child Psychiatrists to diagnose e.g. mental illnesses; (iii) Teachers can then implement programmes to individually support pupils who have been diagnosed correctly by the correct expert; (iv) the Government must support pupils who have been diagnosed as needing support. This Circular does not provide more support or more interventions or more therapists. Parents should be very aware that schools cannot provide support to every child unless DES provide the Teachers to do it. This Circular gives children nothing extra.

 

The Circular assures us that “In order to support schools in how they should identify and provide for the learning needs of pupils, this Circular is being accompanied by Guidelines for Schools on the organisation, deployment and use of special education teachers to address the need of pupils with special educational needs” (p 2). Teachers all over Ireland are wondering why those Guidelines did not accompany the Circular. “The Guidelines for Primary Schools: Supporting Pupils with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools has been developed by the National Educational Psychological Services, the Inspectorate and Special Education Section” (p. 2). Did the DES mean the 2013 NCSE Policy Advice Paper No. 4 “Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools” (May 2013)? That Advice Paper is available here  Or perhaps the DES mean the NEPS Continuum of Support: Guidelines for Teachers (2007)? Available here.

 

  1. Support for the Introduction of the New AllocationModel: pages 2-3

 

The Circular claims that “Significant additional resources are being made available to provide extra Special Education Teaching posts for allocation to schools from September 2017, in order to support the introduction of this model”. However, many schools are reporting that they have lost hours and even teachers.

 

The Circular claims throughout it, that no schools will lose out this year or next year for example “no school will receive an allocation of special education teaching resources, arising from the introduction of the new allocation model, which is less than the combined allocation the school received under their GAM/EAL and NCSE allocations for the 2016/17 school year” (p. 2). Translated, that appears to mean that if you add your GAM support and your Resource hours that you were allocated in September 2016, that you will not have less support this September 2017. Check that out, because several teachers have told me that their new allocation is lower.

 

The Circular makes a very ambitious assertion here – “These resources will ensure that all schools can continue to meet the special educational and learning support needs of all children in their school” (p. 2). Parents should be aware that this claim may be impossible for schools to actually implement.

 

Page 3 contains further promises, which do not appear to have been implemented for all schools? For example, “Schools which are due to receive increased allocations from September 2017, under the revised model, which is based on their school profiles, will receive additional allocations from September 2017 and retain these allocations until the next re profiling takes place” (p. 3). Translated those words appear to mean that if you gained a teacher due to numbers for September 2017 or should have gained Resource hours, then you will get those gains in your September 2017 school profile / teacher allocation. Did that happen in your school? Have a look at your allocation and check it.

 

Teachers have distrusted this new model since it was first proposed in 2013, viewing it as an attempt to cut resources to SEN pupils once again. Voice for Teachers have written many times about Special Education. We have fought hard to save resources for our wonderful SEN pupils. We have written on this topic on numerous occasions (i) May 2014 along with our reaction to the SNA Circular of that month, (ii) June 2014 along with survey results in the same month, (iii) twice in January 2015 here and here, and (iv) in February 2015

 

This Circular 13/2017 attempts to put fears to rest by stating “Schools which would have nominally been due to receive reduced allocations from September 2017, under the revised allocation process, based on their school profiles, will maintain their existing 2016/17 school year allocations andretain these allocations for the course of the model, until the next profiling takes place” (p. 3). That sentence appears to say that, if you lost a teacher / resource hours this school year, that it doesn’t matter, you will keep the hours in September 2016. This sounds very good, but has it actually happened? Did your school profile show a loss? Did you keep the hours that would have been lost through for example 6th class children with resource hours leaving the school?

 

The Circular repeats again the assertion that no school will lose support – “The additional resources being provided to support this model means that no school will lose special educational teaching resources, on the introduction of this model, while extra resources will be placed in schools where the profile indicates that needs are greatest” (p. 3). Did your school lose any support? 

 

The final paragraph on page 3 gives us an indication that cuts are indeed on the way, “Any future adjustments to the allocations for schools will take place on a graduated basis, which will take account of changes to school enrolments, and the pupil population, including the number of pupils in the complex needs category, since the initial allocations were developed”. All schools need to be aware of this and wary of future cuts. Now is the time to protest, not after the fact.

 

  1. Revision ofProfiles: p. 3.

 

The teacher allocations you received this week will remain for two years, September 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. After that, even though the Circular doesn’t say it, schools could very well see significant cuts in September 2019, particularly under “Complex Needs” (depending on how such needs will be defined).

 

 

  1. Background: p. 3 – 4

 

This section briefly mentions previous Circulars 08/99, 08/02, 24/03, 02/05, 30/11, 07/12 and 07/16

This Circular 13/17 replaces all of them.

 

 

  1. National Council for Special Education PolicyAdvice: p. 5 – 6

 

This section of the Circular talks about NCSE and its policy advice. I will put my own comments in bold under the 13/17 text.

The National Council for Special Education has a statutory function, under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, to provide the Minister for Education and Skills with policy advice in relation to the education of children and others with disabilities or special educational needs” (p. 5). Yes, the NCSE has legal obligations under EPSEN (2004). Schools have few legal obligations under EPSEN, because it still has not been fully enacted.

 

The NCSE provided policy advice in 2013, concluding that elements of the existing model for allocating Special Needs resource teaching supports were potentially inequitable.

http://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Supporting_14_05_13_web.pdf

 

For example –

  • The existing allocation system was inequitable, as some children could experience delays in accessing support because of delays in accessing assessments which are required for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours. Delays are not the fault of the allocation system, but are the fault of DES; the NCSE and the Government (for not hiring sufficient therapists).
  • The General Allocation Model, which is used to allocate Learning Support teachers, is inequitable as it takes little account of the differing needs of different schools, as allocations are made on the basis of the number of mainstream teachers in each school. DES / NCSE chose to do that, probably because it was the easiest way to allocate supports. The new model does the same thing in a portion of the school profile. Why, if it is deemed to be “inequitable”).
  • Thereis a real risk that children are being diagnosed as having a special educational need for resource allocation purposes rather than such a diagnosis being required for medical  This is a disgraceful accusation and has yet to be withdrawn.
  • There is a spectrum of ability and disability within every category of special educational need. The current system allocates the same level of support for pupils within certain categories of special educational needs even though one pupil may have a greater need for support than another, with the same DES / NCSE chose to do that. Children should not be penalised now because they are on a spectrum! Every child is different and while they may not require supports in x, they do require supports in y. Every child is on a spectrum. Schools were never allocated sufficient supports. The 10% cut to resource hours, then the further 5% cut and the attempt to cut another 10% from already inadequate time allocation displays the mind-set of Governments.

 

“Following the publication of this policy advice, the NCSE established a Working Group to develop proposals for a new model based on the policy advice. In 2014, the Working Group published its Report: Delivery for Students with Special; Educational Needs: A Proposed New Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs (2014)” (p. 5) 

 

Voice for Teachers responded to the 2014 NCSE Report here.

 

From that NCSE Report on page 3: “A clear finding of this Report was that the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) 2004 (Government of Ireland, 2004) still represented the most effective blueprint for delivering resources to this cohort through its emphasis on individualised assessment processes, educational planning and monitoring of student outcomes. The NCSE recom­mended the full implementation of the Act as soon as resources permitted“. However, despite this very clear finding, the full enactment of EPSEN (2004) has been deferred indefinitely. Until EPSEN is fully enacted and then implemented, schools, teachers, parents and especially pupils cannot be expected to carry the burden of a poorly resourced system, which pretends to support inclusion. Integration is not inclusion. NCSE were right to recommend the full implementation of EPSEN. NCSE should recommend the immediate implementation and resourcing of EPSEN, and make no other recommendation until both of those things happen.

 

The Circular 13/17 that we are talking about here, refers to a number of recommendations from that Report, but fails to mention the first and very clear finding of the NCSE Action Group Report. This is a serious omission and means that this Circular 13/17 is based on a flawed foundation and is incomplete.

 

The 2014 NCSE Report spoke about “a broad consensus” (p. 4), meaning that the recommendations were not unanimous. Was there even a majority agreement? That is not certain from the term “a broad consensus”. Circular 13/17 claims that the Report recommended:

  • Baseline component provided to every mainstream school to support inclusion, assistance with learning difficulties and early intervention,and Schools already had that, it was called Learning Support (GAM)
  • A school educational profile component, which takes intoaccount:
    • The number of pupils with complex needs enrolled to the Complex needs are not defined
    • The learning support needs of pupils as evidenced by standardised test When schools agreed to send standardised test results to the DES, we were assured (and our Union assured us) that those results would never be used against us or to form league tables. They are now being used against us. What does INTO have to say on our behalf about that broken promise?
    • The social context of the school including disadvantage and The social context of the school is already considered (DEIS) as is gender (GAM).

 

 

What is new in this new model? Using test results against us, removing resource hours completely and inventing a new term called “Complex needs”.

 

 

  1. Baseline component provided to every mainstream primary school to support inclusion, assistance with learning difficulties, and early intervention: p. 6 – 7

 

The Working Group recommended that a baseline allocation of teaching resources to all mainstream schools, allocated in line with overall enrolmentnumbers, should be a core component of the new mode” (Circular 13/17: p. 6). A baseline component already existed, this is not new. This baseline component is just more complicated to examine and far less transparent.

The Working Group also recommended the enactment of EPSEN (2004), but the only mention of EPSEN in Circular 13/17 is on page 5 in regard to the NCSE’s function. We have been waiting for its enactment since 2004, our children have been kept waiting. That is totally unacceptable. Our Union should not accept it. We must not accept it.

 

  1. School EducationalProfile: p. 7 – 13

 

7.1  The number of pupils with complex needs enrolled to the school: p. 7 – 8

 

While this new model is being introduced, the NCSE ‘Low Incidence’ allocations (Resource hours) have been used as the complex needs component for each school.

 

The Circular repeats that “no school will receive an allocation, for the support of pupils with complex needs, which is less  than the allocation they had received to support pupils with Low Incidence special educational needs during the 2016/17 school year” (p. 7 and 8). This assertion is repeated so often that it must be true. Is it?

 

Another claim “no allocation for pupils made by the NCSE will be removed from schools as long as that pupil remains in the school” (p. 8) needs further investigation. Teachers have told me that they applied for Resource hours to be transferred to their school from a previous school, and were refused.

 

Will Complex Needs be the same as Resource hours forever? Page 8 gives us a clue. “A model for the identification of pupils with complex needs in future is being devised by the NCSE, in consultation with the Health Service Executive and National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS). This model will take account of the decision making process and qualification criteria for the selection of children for access to HSE Children Disability Network Teams” (p. 8). Thus, it looks very likely that Complex Needs will not equate to Resource hours in September 2019. It appears that those who currently have been allocated Resource hours may keep them (in the same school), but new SEN diagnoses may not be deemed to be Complex needs. We need to be vigilant.

 

7.2 Standardised Test Results: p. 8 – 10

 

Once again, this Circular utilises the NSCE Working Group Report very selectively: “The NCSE working group report considered that standardised test data provides a broad and objective basis to establish differences between schools in levels of relative overall pupils’ educational achievement” (p. 8).

 

As already stated, Ireland has very few Irish-normed standardised tests, so to rely on those few tests when allocating something as important as support in school, would not be prudent.

 

We were promised that test data would never be used against schools, but this Circular states otherwise now, “Schools have been profiled according to test results for pupils achieving at or below STen 4 in national standardised tests in English and Maths” (p. 9).

 

Infant classes do not complete standardised assessments, and so “the 2nd class standardised test scores from pupils in their associated or feeder school have been used to apply a standardised text value for these schools” (p. 9). This is highly unscientific.

 

The Circular makes a claim on page 10 that GAM had to be updated because it “did not take account of the learning needs of pupils, or of the profile of pupils in the school” (p. 10). Prior to GAM, support allocation was given based on the needs of the children in the school. GAM made administration easier for the DES / NCSE, and so GAM was introduced. Will we have another new model again in a few years’ time?

 

Many teachers are angry that all of the work they put in to supporting learning difficulties is now being punished in this new model. DES / NCSE deny that, “In calculating this element of schools’ educational profile, in order to ensure that schools are not penalised for improving performance in the short term, an aggregate of primary school standardised test results over 2013/14 and 2014/15 has been used for the first phase of the introduction of the new allocation model” (p. 10). An aggregate of 5 years would be fairer. Also, I note that this aggregation was utilised for the introduction of the model. Will schools be punished for improvements in subsequent years? Page 10 talks more about how improvements will not be punished, but seriously, if test data forms part of the school profile and the test results go up…. supports will be removed, will they? Page 10 claims not, but it doesn’t make logical sense.

By the way, is anyone else uneasy about the use of the term School Profile? We have objected in society to social profiling, yet here we are participating in school profiling.

 

Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools: p. 10 – 11

 

“For Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools, the standardised test scores in both Irish and English have been used to calculate the element of the school profile relevant to pupil attainment in literacy” (p. 11). Have such schools been allocated extra supports? It is not explicitly clear.

 

7.3  Social Context: Disadvantage: p. 11 – 12

 

The Circular states that “The profiled allocation for schools therefore contains an allocation to take account of social context. This has been calculated by conducting a social context survey of primary schools in 2014.”

 

There is absolutely no transparency as to how this data was utilised. DEIS schools of similar size and cohort of pupils have reported vastly divergent allocation of hours under Social Context. Indeed some inner city DEIS 1 schools have been allocated zero hours under Social Context while neighbouring schools have an allocation of many hours.

 

Many schools who have utilised the additional GAM time allocated to DEIS schools under the current scheme for programmes such as Reading/Maths Recovery/Power Hour leading to improved outcomes have had that time stripped away. It beggars belief that these schools can be expected to deliver similar outcomes without the necessary scaffolding and supports.

 

The DES must publish the hours they have granted to every DEIS school so that we can have any confidence in the impartial manner which they state hours were granted under this new model.

 

 

7.4  Social Context: Gender: p. 12

 

The Working Group report noted that international evidence clearly shows that there is a higher incidence of special educational needs among boys” (p. 12). There may be a higher incidence of diagnosed SEN among boys in the past, but research is showing that girls are increasingly being diagnosed nowadays. GAM described in Circular 02/05 began the discrimination on the basis of gender, this Circular 13/17 continues it. Supports should be given to the children who need it, regardless of what type of school they attend.

 

7.5    English Additional Language Support (EAL): p. 12

 

English Additional Language (EAL) needs used to be given support, but in 2012, that support was cut and EAL pupils had to be supported through GAM. The new model retains that cut, but dresses it up nicely – “The new allocation model retains and reflects this provision and provides that all schools will have a basic allocation to assist pupils who have learning and literacy difficulties, including those arising from English Additional Language (EAL) needs” (p. 12).

 

7.6     Additional Allocations for Schools with High Concentrations of Pupils that require Language Support (EAL): p. 13

 

Where schools can demonstrate that they have high concentrations of pupils requiring EAL they can continue to apply for Additional Allocations for Schools with High Concentrations of Pupils that require Language Support (EAL) in accordance with the procedures set out in the primary school staffing schedule for the 2017/18 school year” (p. 13). Schools must prove this, but it is not clear how. It is unlikely to be easy.

 

  1. Total ProfiledAllocation: p. 13

 

Pupils will be identified for support in accordance with the NEPS “Continuum of Support Guidelines, and the Guidelines which accompany this Circular. Teachers and School Principals will use their professional judgement in applying the principles and practices set out in the Continuum of Support Guidelines The NEPS Continuum of Support is not an assessment or a diagnostic tool or a therapist. We need more than a NEPS booklet to take on such a huge responsibility.

 

The total profile allocation is detailed in Appendix 1 of this Circular. In brief –

Baseline 20%

Standardised Test Results 23%

Complex Needs 50%

Disadvantage 3.5%

Gender 3.5%

 

 

  1. Enrolment of Pupils with Special EducationalNeeds: p. 13 – 15

 

This section claims that “significant additional resources… have been provided to assist the introduction of this new model” (p. 13). Has your school been allocated significantly increased supports?

 

Again, the Circular claims on page 14 that schools that were dues to lose supports won’t lose them, but there is a threat added this time. “In circumstances where schools refuse to enrol children, on the basis of their special educational teaching needs, and notwithstanding any other legislative provisions currently in place, or forthcoming, the Department of Education and Skills reserves the right to review the allocations of Special Educational Needs Teaching Support Allocations made to schools who do not enrol such pupils” (p. 14). Teachers always do their best for the children in their care and do not need or deserve to be threatened. Neither can we provide support for pupils if we have not been allocated those resources. This threat is very unfair and should be addressed by our Union.

 

  1. Medical and ProfessionalAssessments

 

We have been told for a number of years now that assessments would no longer be necessary. This section states otherwise. “Medical and other professional assessments should, where available, continue to be used to help explain, and provide a better understanding of a child’s needs, the nature of difficulties, and to inform relevant interventions” (p. 14). Thus, of course we still need assessments. Where will we get them?

 

It is expected that the number of leavers in each school, who had previously been in receipt of learning support or resource teaching support, will be broadly balanced by any new entrants that have enrolled over the same period” (p. 14). Once again, this is highly unscientific and not necessarily the case at all in our schools.

 

The Circular claims that children will not need assessments to receive supports in school and therefore, will not have to wait for supports. (1) Children will continue to need assessments to put them high enough on the selection criteria of the school if there are insufficient SEN teachers in the school. (2) Schools will have to go through an appeal process to secure extra resources if children are diagnosed with a SEN, which is hardly going to be instant. “Profiles will not be updated over the course of the initial two years of the model to take account of new enrolments or the newly diagnosed needs of pupils attending the school, other than as noted in Section 11 in relation to appeals” (p. 15).

 

  1. AppealProcess: p. 15

 

 

This section contains very sparse information: “The NCSE will be notifying schools of the allocations in March 2017 by letter and website publication. Details of an appeal process will be set out as part of this notification” (p. 15). Was your school notified? Are you going to appeal?

 

 

12   Identification of Pupils for Support: p. 15 – 16

 

The missing Guidelines that are supposed to accompany this Circular are referred to again on page 15. It is worth quoting this section in full, because this section appears to be the Selection Criteria we should use to select pupils for additional support –

 

The Guidelines which accompany this circular set out the manner in which schools should identify pupils for additional teaching support in schools.

 

In summary, in identifying pupils for support, schools should take into account the following:

  • Standardised tests can be used to screen and identify pupils’ performance in reading and Those pupils performing below the 10th percentile should be prioritised for support in literacy and numeracy.
  • Pupils who were previously in receipt of supplementary teaching from a resource or learning support teacher and who continue to experience significant learning
  • Pupils who are identified as having significant needs through a process of ongoing assessment and intervention as set out in the Continuum of Support Process (DES, 2010). This will be evidenced through school-based assessment of attainment, and behavioural, social and emotional functioning and ongoing monitoring of learning Schools should also take into account needs set out in professional reports, where available.
  • Pupils with mild or transient educational needs including those associated with speech and language difficulties, social or emotional problems, or co-ordination or attention control difficulties. Pupils who have specific learning
  • Pupils with significant Special Educational Needs. For example, pupils with significant learning, behavioural, emotional, physical and sensory needs. These pupils need additional teaching support because they require highly individualised and differentiated learning programmes that are tailored to their
  • Schools should also carefully consider the needs of other pupils who may present with a range of learning whose interaction may present a significant barrier to the pupils’ learning and ability to access the
  • Pupils who have additional literacy or language learning needs including those pupils who need additional English Additional language Support” (p. 15 and 16).

 

It is unclear if this list is the order in which pupils should be prioritised for support or not. The Guidelines may contain clarifications once they are found / issued.

 

 

  1. The Role of the Classroom Teacher: 16 – 17.

 

Much of the role remains the same, but some aspects are repeated here on pages 16 and 17. It is worth quoting this section in full also:

  • “Section 22 (1) of the Education Act 1998 states the primacy of the teacher in the education and personal development of pupils in schools. The classroom teacher is responsible for educating all pupils in his/her class, including any pupil with a special educational need. The class teacher has primary responsibility for the progress and care of all pupils in his/her classroom, including pupils with special educational needs.
  • It is the responsibility of the classroom teacher to ensure that each pupil is taught in a stimulating and supportive classroom environment where all pupils feel equal and valued.
  • In line with Continuum of Support Guidelines, the class teacher may gather information through formal and informal means, with a view to informing interventions. The classroom teacher also has a central role in identifying and responding to pupils with additional needs including differentiating the curriculum as appropriate. These responses will be informed and assisted by collaboration with colleagues, parents/guardians and others such as the school’s NEPS psychologist and the local Special Educational Needs Organiser.
  • The classroom teacher will also make specific accommodations for a pupil within the class as a result of concerns about a pupil’s progress, application, communication, behaviour or interaction with peers and the development of a programme of differentiated instruction for that pupil”.

 

  1. Additional Teaching Support: 17

 

There is no change here. Special Educational Needs Teachers will work with the class teacher to support children with SEN. This can be done through considering ways in which the curriculum can be differentiated; adapting the curriculum; using appropriate teaching strategies and programmes. Parents should normally be consulted as part of this process.

 

 

  1. Type of Teaching provided: 18

 

There is no change here. Support can be provided through in-class support “or withdraw pupils in small groups and/or individually for a period of time (depending upon the nature of pupils needs) for intensive teaching of key skills” (p. 18).

 

Configurations of team-teaching have been shown to provide an appropriate model for engaging with individual needs in the collective setting of the classroom” (p. 18). No evidence or citation is provided for this claim.

 

The provision of support for small groups of pupils, or use of in class support teaching for a number of pupils, as opposed to primarily one to one teaching, also means that qualifying pupils will often be able to receive more support than they otherwise would have done” (p. 18). Yes, this is probably the reason why the DES favour types of in-class support.

 

  1. Single Allocation: 18 – 19

 

GAM / EAL and Resource hours can now be combined to make a post, reversing the DES’ ridiculous 07/12 Circular. “The distinction between what were previously Learning Support Posts, or Learning Support/Resource Teaching/EAL posts under GAM, and NCSE allocated Resource Teaching Posts will no longer apply from September 2017” (p. 18).

 

The Circular states – “This will reduce the amount of inter school post sharing, or clustering. It will further reduce the administrative burden on schools and the amount of travelling time between schools” (p. 18), although looking at the staffing schedule there appears to be many schools who will still have to seek a cluster and all that it entails.

 

  1. Rounding: p. 19

 

Additional allocations are rounded to units of 2.5 hours. “Schools who are not receiving additional allocations will maintain their existing 2016/17 allocations” (p. 19).

 

  1. Status of Posts: 19

 

The Circular states clearly – “All full-time Special Education Teaching (S.E.T.) posts, both full-time in one school and base posts for S.E.T. clusters are permanent posts. Part-time hours remaining in a school that are not clustered can only be filled in a temporary capacity” (p. 19). It is likely that new, permanent posts will go in the first instance to Panels.

 

Many teachers currently undertaking temporary / part-time hours would appreciate clarity around that, because they fear they will have no job if the posts are made permanent. The DES needs to contact these teachers and answer their queries as soon as possible.

 

  1. Registration Requirements for Special Education Teaching Posts: p, 19 – 20

 

Previously, the DES insisted that teachers working in a learning-support role must be a probated teacher. This Circular 13/17 removes the distinction between GAM / EAL / Resource. According to this Circular, “fully registered teachers or teachers previously probated in a restricted setting may be appointed to the post of Special Education Teachers” (p. 19). It is worth quoting this section in full, because many teachers are concerned about their qualification being recognised.

 

Schools should make all effort to ensure that where possible fully registered teachers or teachers previously probated in a restricted setting are appointed. Such teachers may hold Teaching Council registration under Route 1 Primary (formerly Regulation 2 Primary) or Route 4 Other (formerly Regulation 3 Montessori & Other Categories).

 

It is important to ensure that pupils with the greatest needs are supported by teachers who have the relevant expertise, and who can provide continuity of support. Therefore, if it is not possible to fill the post of Special Education Teacher with a fully registered teacher, or a teacher previously probated in a restricted setting, teachers with outstanding conditions, may be appointed where they are deemed to be the most appropriately qualified. In these circumstances, the acquired professional development and expertise of teachers, including where teachers have attained recognised qualifications in special education, should be taken into account” (p. 19 and 20).

 

  1. Filling of Posts: p. 20

 

This section simply says – “Special Education Teaching posts should be filled in accordance with the published staffing and redeployment arrangements which will be set out in the Primary School Staffing Schedule for the 2017/18 school year” (p. 20).

 

  1. Deployment of Teachers within the School: p. 20

 

Pupils who have the greatest needs should be taught by teachers who have the relevant expertise and have attained the relevant qualifications in special education.

 

  1. Utilisation of additional teaching resources for pupils with special educational needs: p. 20 – 21

 

Resources to support pupils should be deployed in accordance with the Guidelines being provided to accompany this Circular” (p. 20). Did anybody receive these Guidelines? They are mentioned very often in this Circular 13/17.

 

In the meantime, we are told that:

Support Teaching supports must be used “in their entirety to support pupils identified with special educational needs, learning support needs, and additional literacy needs such as English Additional Language Support” (p. 21); not “for mainstream class teaching, or to reduce the pupil teacher ratio in mainstream classes, or to provide additional subjects for pupils who do not have special educational needs” (p. 21).

 

We are warned that if such supports are misused, the DES  “reserves the right to review the allocations of Special Educational Needs Teaching Supports which have been made to those schools” (p. 21).

 

  1. Coordination Activities: 21

 

The Circular acknowledges that timetabling; conducting of planning and co-ordination activities requires time. “Co-ordination time” is allowed, but “will vary depending on school size, the number of pupils requiring additional teaching support, and the number of teachers proving this support. Co-ordination time, should however, be kept to a minimum in order to ensure that the most teaching time that can be provided for pupils can be given to those pupils” (p. 21). This is a welcome development and a return to the pre 2005 situation.

 

  1. Educational Planning: p. 21 – 22

 

The missing Guidelines for primary Schools: Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools are referred to again here.

 

The Circular recommends we plan:

  • Using the NEPS Support Files
  • Include clear, measurable learning targets
  • Specify the resources and interventions that will be used to address student needs
  • Utilise the NEPS Continuum of Support process
  • Develop through a collaborative process involving relevant teachers, parents/guardians, the pupils themselves and outside professionals, as necessary
  • Include regular reviews of learning targets as part of an ongoing cycle of assessment, target setting, intervention and review
  • Plan as a whole-school approach
  • Utilise differentiation, according to the child’s needs

 

  1. Supports for Schools: 22

 

The Circular assures us that “additional support and guidance will be available for school management and staff from Department agencies and services such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), and the DES Inspectorate” (p. 22).

 

Queries can be e-mailed to this address – special_education@education.gov.ie

You can write to Jim Mulkerrins, Principal Officer, Special Education Unit, Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

 

Readers should access Circular 13/17 themselves. This is my response to it. You may see something I have missed, or interpret it differently. I would very much welcome your comments and feedback.

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