Gary Gannon TD

Principals and special education teachers are not qualified to diagnose disabilities or specific learning disabilities

The Minister for Education must confirm whether legal responsibility for assessing the educational needs, of children with additional needs, is being transferred to school principals, according to Social Democrats Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon.
Deputy Gannon was speaking after schools received an “information note” from the National Council of Special Education (NCSE), outlining a new process for determining children’s educational needs as part of the assessment of needs process.
“The National Council of Special Education has told schools that, following a High Court case in 2021, it “now has the responsibility to nominate an appropriate person to carry out an assessment of education needs on behalf of the HSE under the assessment of need process”. According to the NCSE, school principals and special education teachers will now be nominated, by it, to complete these assessments.
“This is hugely concerning for a number of reasons. Most obviously, principals and special education teachers are not qualified to diagnose disabilities or specific learning disabilities. If principals and teachers are responsible for conducting these assessments, are psychologists or speech and language therapists going to play any role?
“It is also important to note that the NSCE failed to consult with schools in advance of announcing this fundamental change to the assessment of need process. The instructions they have now circulated suggest the NCSE is trying to divest itself its legal responsibilities to children with disabilities.
“We all know that the assessment of need process is under huge pressure with more than 2,500 children on a waiting list for assessment. However, the answer to these endemic problems is not to try to take shortcuts or foist the legal responsibility for these assessments onto already overburdened principals and teachers.
“The least that children deserve is timely assessments undertaken by appropriate professionals. When is the government going to live up to the commitments in the Disability Act and provide these important interventions on time?”

25 October, 2022


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