New Study Reveals Challenges in Special Needs Education in Irish National and Special Schools.

Posted on: 08 May 2009

The first comprehensive nationwide study of national and special needs schools, reviewing education for primary school children with mild general learning disabilities and detailing the adequacies and shortcomings of the present system, was recently launched in Trinity College Dublin.

The book, entitled Inclusion or Illusion, is a comprehensive study of pupils with mild general learning disabilities, who are educated in mainstream and special classes in national schools and designated special needs schools throughout Ireland . These students form the largest section of Ireland ‘s special needs education population. Authors, Professor  of Education, Mona O’Moore of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Education and Dr Paul Stevens, School Principal of Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa, Castletownbere, Co Cork, gathered data from over 900 teachers between 1989 and 2007 for this research.

The study illustrates improvements in school facilities, educational resources and an increase in the number of special needs teachers all directly attributable to government investment. Equally, the study identifies serious difficulties within the education sector, associated with systemic issues of inadequate capacity, structural deficiencies and unaddressed anomalies which are multi-faceted, intangible and complex. These include poor levels of inclusive practice, inappropriate pupil placement, and a severe lack of access to appropriate support services.

Based on teachers’ own experiences and combined with a history of state policy in the area of special needs education the book assesses the developments that have been made in this field so far, what the barriers are to progression, and what can be done to overcome these. 

“Special education is currently a key issue for society and the Government. The aim of this book is to provide readers with an understanding of educational provision in Irish primary schools for children with Mild General Learning Disabilities (MGLD)”, stated Professor Mona O’Moore. “More than half of the school-going special needs population falls into this category making this book an invaluable resource for teachers, student teachers, policy makers as well as educational and support professionals.”