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Matthews Criticises Proposed SENs

Deputy Stephen Matthews, Green TD for Wicklow has strongly criticised the proposed introduction of Special Education Centres as an interim solution to the lack of school places for children who require additional special education needs. This proposal includes the introduction of 5 Special Education Centres across Ireland to be run by the Education and Training Board. It is proposed that these centres will open in September and will operate separately from mainstream schools. If implemented, these education centres will each cater for 24 students, split into 4 classes.

Discussing the proposal, Deputy Matthews said:

“When I first heard this plan, it raised a series of questions and concerns in relation to the wellbeing of children who require this additional support and their families. I wrote to Minister Madigan to express my concerns following a series of emails from understandably worried parents in Wicklow.

“Prior to the information becoming publicly available, it is my understanding that the Minister did not adequately engage with relative advocacy groups and stakeholders on this issue, and I have asked Minister Madigan to meet with these groups as a matter of urgency.

“As a point of principle, I have huge concerns in relation to the proposed segregation of students away from mainstream classes and schools as well as being separated from their peers. Which is in clear conflict with best practice in child welfare.

“In recent days I have had the opportunity to meet with Wicklow based school principals and experts in this field that shared my concerns about the fast-tracked introduction of these centres. The information available to date from the department has not been clear and I hope the Minister can engage with her department officials as soon as possible to alleviate the genuine concern of families.

“I understand that the Minister is proposing this as a short-term interim measure, but even at that, this is something that I cannot accept. We should be encouraging inclusion as much as possible in our education system and I believe that alternative solutions must be found. Segregating children for any reason, highlighting them as different in an isolated site away from their peers is highly detrimental to their wellbeing and is unfair on the students and their parents.

“I will continue to work on this issue on behalf of concerned parents in Wicklow. I will also be raising this with my green party colleagues who share many of my concerns. If any families have any concerns about this issue, I would encourage them to get in contact with me directly and I will help in any way I can, concluded, Deputy Matthews.




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