Teachers must meet the Educational Needs of Students with Disabilities

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The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) has advised its members not to devise or implement Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and any equivalents for school pupils with special educational needs, including for those on the autism spectrum. 

This followed a similar piece of advice given by the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) to its members its most recent magazine (pg.17).

All schools are legally required to provide students with an “appropriate education” and a key element of this is individualised planning. Individual Education Plans are recognised internationally as a central tool in supporting students with disabilities. They bring together all stakeholders in a student’s education, including the student and their families, in agreeing goals and approaches to meeting the needs of students with special educational needs. Whilst the EPSEN Act 2004 legislated for IEPs, this element of the act has never been implemented.

This does not remove the obligation of a school to provide an ‘appropriate education.' The vast majority of schools put in place some form of IEP for students and, from January 2019, the Inspectorate will actively check if schools have Student Support Files (SSFs) in place for any student receiving additional supports (such as a Special Needs Assistant or additional teaching hours).

We are quite shocked that the ASTI and TUI would see IEPs / SSFs as an additionality or an “add-on” to their role. All teachers are meant to differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of the students in their class as a core part of their roles.

We support any call for additional resources to enable schools and their teachers to meet the needs of students with additional needs. However, we will not allow our students to be used as some kind of bargaining chip.

That a teacher knowingly would refuse to implement measures which a child requires to learn is grossly unethical. IEPs include recommendations such as permitting movement breaks, using clear communication or providing visual supports. These small changes can be the difference between a child remaining in school or otherwise. The right to attend your local school is not the gift of the ASTI or TUI. It is a principle enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and provided for under EPSEN.

We the undersigned, demand the ASTI and TUI to revoke their advice and to engage with in-school planning to meet the needs of students with special educational needs.