I am not making this up. This week, the principal of St. Columba’s, Douglas, Cork, had to write to parents explaining to them that because of the cutbacks in the employment of substitute teachers and supervision, he may not be able to provide immediate cover on the first day of substitution if a teacher does not come to work because of illness. That creates a number of problems, not just in a specific school but across a multitude of schools inCork and throughout the country.
It now behoves Government to admit it made a mistake. Before Christmas, the Minister, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, said he had found an additional €2.5 million but this is not mainstream education. I am talking about special needs education.
The circular should be rewritten to include a specific exemption for special needs education. It is imperative that is done. I acknowledge that at a time of plenty the provision of special needs assistants became a welcome part of the education lexicon. However, in this time of financial difficulty, those who most need our help to be educated deserve to be treated with the respect they are entitled to from the State. I ask that children in special needs classes be exempted. The Minister can insert one line in the circular to the effect that an exemption is being given to special needs classes.