While this blog tries to focus specifically on issues relating to disability & employment I don’t apply that rigidly – very few things are so clearcut and in this instance, education is an integral part of any conversation about employment.

Below is a letter from our director, written to the Irish Times on the budget cuts proposed by Minister Batt O’Keefe which will effect children with mild general learning difficulties (MGLD) It speaks for itself.

“Minister O’Keefe is right to mainstream education, but for the wrong reasons

Placing children with MGLD is “special” classes is not mainstream  education, it is still segregated education even though it is located in a mainstream school.  In fact the “special” class only highlights the difference of the child and label of disability attached making the child quite isolated amongst the other children.  A really inclusive school is one which includes all children including those with MGLD and other disabilities in the mianstream classroom.

Inclusive education is education which welcomes every child and acknowledges the right of every child to be included by saying that every child has the right to be in a mainstream classroom with other children his/her age and it includes them in all school activities.  An inclusive school changes and restructures how it does things to ensure that every child can learn and reach their potential, it changes its classrooms, the curriculum it buildings, images to  ensure that the child’s educational needs are met.

Mainstream education benefits children with MGLD in particular as they will learn from the interaction with other children, the cut and thrust of slagging, of joking of having fun with children their own age.

This however is not what the Minister had in mind as Inclusive education needs the additional resource teachers in the classroom.  It will definitely not save money.  It would require a full complement of resource teachers and special needs assistants to be incorporated into the classroom and to work as a team with other teachers to support the learning activities going on in the classroom.

So we ask the Minister to move to move the children into the mainstream classroom, but to bring the resource teachers with them.

Ann Heelan

Executive Director