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18 January, 2017 - Better outcomes for children with special educational needs is the key goal of new model – Minister Bruton

Minister to implement new model for allocating resource teachers to schools, following policy advice from the NCSE and piloting of new model in 47 schools

7.2% Increase in Resource Teachers - 900 extra teachers have been provided to support the introduction of the new model which will commence in schools from September 2017

The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton T.D., today (18 January, 2017), announced that a new model for allocating Special Education Teaching Resources to mainstream primary and post primary schools will be introduced from September 2017. This new model will be a fairer and better way to allocate resources to support children with Special Educational Needs.

An additional 900 teaching posts will be provided to support the introduction of this new allocation model. This substantial additional provision will ensure that:

  • Up to 1,000 schools will receive additional allocations, where the new model indicates additional need.
  • No school will receive an allocation of resources less than the allocation they received in the 2016/17 school year.

Currently there are over 12,000 special education teachers.

The new allocation model, which has been devised by a working group established by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) chaired by Eamon Stack, Chairperson of the Council, and further developed by the Department of Education and Skills in close collaboration with parents, teachers, disability representatives and other stakeholders, is aimed at providing better outcomes for children with special educational needs, and at addressing potential unfairnesses of the current model. It is be based on the profiled special educational need of each school.

The new special education teacher allocation model will allocate teachers to schools on the basis of the profiled educational needs of each school. This will end the unfairness which exists in the current system, whereby many parents are unable to access the assessments needed to qualify for educational resources. This had a particularly negative impact on children from more disadvantaged areas.

The new Resource Allocation Model will be a fairer and a better way to allocate resources. The main benefits of the new model are that:

  • Barriers to accessing resources will be removed and children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.
  • Resources will be linked with genuine need, and children will not be unnecessarily, or inappropriately, labelled in order to access resources
  • Resources will be linked closely with the learning needs of children
  • It will ensure that children with special educational needs are properly integrated into the school
  • Schools will be able to allocate resources to pupils taking into account their individual learning needs as opposed to requiring a particular diagnosis of disability.
  • It will support inclusion and early intervention

The decision to implement this new allocation model, from next September follows the successful piloting of the model in 47 schools over the course of the 2015/16 school year. The Inspectorate of the Department of Education completed a review of the Pilot. The review concluded that:

  • The new model has been positively received by schools and parents
  • Schools welcome the move away from the unnecessary labelling of children in order to secure resources
  • Schools also welcomed that they no longer need to wait for diagnosis and that this facilitates intervention at an earlier stage based on the schools identification of need
  • In addition, schools indicated a belief that they were well supported in meeting the needs of children with Special Educational Needs
  • Most schools acknowledged that over the course of the pilot their whole school approaches had improved and that they were targeting students more effectively
  • Schools reported improvements in their planning for students, better collaboration between classroom and support teachers and better tracking of student progress

The role of resource teachers is to provide additional support for the educational needsof children with special educational needs. This is separate from the role of Special Needs Assistants who are responsible for supporting the care needs of the child, and are not the subject of today's announcement

Announcing the introduction of the new model today, Minister Bruton said:

“The basic aim of this Government is to sustain our economic progress and use it to build a fair and compassionate society. Education is the best means of delivering a fairer society, breaking down cycles of disadvantage and ensuring that all our people, in particular those with special educational needs, are able to participate in that progress and fulfil their potential.

“I am very pleased to be able to implement the NCSE policy advice recommendation that a new model for allocating special education teachers to schools should be introduced. The model which has been carefully worked up is aimed at ensuring that we can deliver better outcomes for children with special educational needs, and eliminate unfairnesses and other problems which exist in the current model.

“I am therefore very pleased to be able to announce today that the new model will be introduced from September 2017.

“I am delighted that the Government has agreed to provide very significant levels of additional resources, including 900 additional resource teachers, to ensure that the model can be introduced in a manner which ensures no school loses out by moving to the new allocation system.

The €18million of additional funding for this specific measure, and indeed the €1.5billion which the Government spends on this area overall, demonstrate our commitment to this crucial area. That is one fifth of the total education budget.

“I am convinced, based on all the work which has gone into this initiative that this will deliver better outcomes for children with special educational needs, and ultimately that is the most important thing for those of us who work in this area.

“I welcome the broad support from parental and disability representative bodies, and I wish to thank Eamon and his team at the NCSE, as well as all the other people who have been involved in this major project”.

Welcoming the announcement, the Chairman of the National Council on Special Education (NCSE), Mr. Eamon Stack said:

“We are delighted that the DES agreed with our proposal for change and developed this new model for allocating resources will benefit students, parents and schools”.

The allocations for each school, along with the new Circular for the scheme, Guidance for schools on how to distribute resources under the new model, and details of an appeal process for school will be issued to schools in the coming weeks.

The new model will also reduce the administrative burden on schools, as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually. The combination of a baseline allocation based on school size and profiled allocation will give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support but which provide a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need and pupils in each school.

Ends.

Note for Editors:

In May 2013, the NCSE published Policy Advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools.'

This paper found that the current model for allocating additional learning support and resource teacher posts to mainstream schools was potentially inequitable and required improvement, because -

  • A substantial component of the current model is based on the availability of a diagnosis of special educational need, but access to professionals who can make this diagnosis is not readily available to all students.
  • There is a risk that children are being diagnosed as having a special educational need for resource allocation purposes rather than for health reasons.
  • There is a spectrum of ability and disability within every category of special educational need whereas the current system allocates the same level of support for students within certain categories of special educational needs
  • Additional learning support resources are allocated to schools on the basis of enrolment and are not linked to the level of need for such support in schools.

The NCSE were requested to set up a Working Group to develop a proposal for a better way to allocate these supports.

In June 2014, the NCSE Working Group, led by Mr. Eamon Stack, recommended that a new model for allocating resource teaching support to schools, based on the profiled needs of each school, rather than on the diagnosed disability of individual children.

The Stack Report proposed that the allocation of additional teaching supports to schools be in future based on two components:

A. School educational profile component comprising elements of complex needs, standardised test scores, and social context and gender; and

B. Baseline component provided to every mainstream school to support inclusion, prevention of learning difficulties and early intervention.

The Department, in conjunction with the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and the NCSE, has developed profiles for all primary and post primary schools for the 2017/18 school year.

These profiles are based on the following criteria:

Complex Needs

On the introduction of the new allocation model from September 2017, the model will maintain the existing 2016/17 school year NCSE ‘low incidence’ allocations in schools. When schools are re-profiled in 2019, low incidence allocations for children who have left schools in the previous two years will be replaced with allocations in respect of children enrolled in school in the previous two years.

This will result in no school losing low incidence support in respect of any pupil who has previously been in receipt of this support within their existing school sector.

Also, all existing children in the low incidence category would be counted on the introduction of the model and would continue to be counted while these pupils remain in their school.

A model for the future identification of pupils with complex being has been devised in consultation with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the NCSE.

Its primary purpose will be to inform decisions on the selection of children for access to Disability Network Care teams set up under the ‘Progressing Disabilities 0-18s programme.

This complex needs criteria will be used by the NCSE and the Department to identify new pupils who will be enrolling in schools in future years as being in the Complex Needs category.

New entrants with complex needs, as defined under the new model who enrol to schools at September 2017 and September 2018 will be included as such in the next re-profiling exercise in 2019.

Standardised Tests

For the 2013/14 and 2014/15 school year, all primary school pupils in 2nd, 4th and 6th class completed tests in English and Maths.

These test results, along with Junior Cert data in relation to English and Maths for post primary schools for 2013, 2014 and 2015 were assessed by the ERC.

Schools were profiled according to test results for pupils achieving at or below Sten 4 (STen or Standard Ten score of 4 means low average in the range of 1 to 10) in national standardised tests. The ERC developed a formula to assist in the weighting of Junior Cert Grades. 

The use of the aggregate of a number of years test data reduces the risk of schools being penalised for improvements and future reviews of the model will include additional test data which becomes available. This will give a balanced picture of the schools profile over time.

Social Context and Gender

In 2014, the Department of Education and Skills and the Educational Research Centre collected data on the social context of all primary and post primary schools through a survey of primary schools, and for post primary schools, through the use of centrally held data in relation to social context, such as exam fee waiver data, to calculate the social context component for post primary schools.

This data will be used for the introduction of the new allocation model for 2017/18. 

Work is currently underway to review the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. Under this review, consideration is being given to the use of the HP Deprivation Index based on the Central Statistics Office small area data in conjunction with geocoded pupil data from the Primary and Post Primary Pupil Databases.  Once updated data is available, this will be used for future reviews of the model.  

As regards gender, the NCSE Working Group advised that the incidence of special educational needs tend to be higher for males than females.

This will be factored into the profiles of all schools based on the most up to date enrolment data.

Baseline Component

The Working Group Report recommended that in the region of 15% of the total number of Resource/Learning support posts should be used to create a bases line allocation for schools.

Over the course of discussions with education partners, a number of education partners and parent representative bodies had suggested that the baseline should be set at a higher level.

In response to this request baseline has therefore been set at 20% of the total number of Resource/Learning support posts currently allocated to schools.

This will ensure that all schools, regardless of the other elements of their profiles, can continue to enrol and support pupils with special educational needs.