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Challenges and tendencies - Ireland

Since 1998, Departmental policy, and the legislation underpinning it, has led to an unprecedented demand for individual assessments, in order to establish the need for additional resources for individual children. Although the policy of providing a General Allocation of teaching resources to schools does not require individual psychological or professional assessment, it is a challenge for schools and professionals to move from a reactive model of demand for individual assessments, to a proactive model, where they work together in consultation to develop inclusive policies and practices which allow for early identification and intervention within the school. 

Many requests for assessment result from a need to identify a particular disability in a child. The challenge here is to ensure that the assessment reports also identify the special educational need arising from the disability, the level of support for the child that will be required and the main components of the educational plan.

Teachers and schools

Empowering teachers to take ownership of the continuum approach to assessment and intervention with pupils with special educational needs is a challenge which requires the embedding of this approach in schools so that assessment for learning is adopted for all pupils, including those with special educational needs. 

Parents

It is also important that parents are informed about the school-based approach to assessment and intervention so that they understand its value and are part of the process, rather than focussing on securing an external diagnosis of disability as a means of meeting the needs of their child. It is important that parents are aware of the opportunities provided for them in the EPSEN Act and get the support and information they require to participate to the fullest in the process. 

Continuity of provision

Because of the complexity of legislation and the number of agencies involved in assessment, there is a challenge for the system to achieve a seamless provision of assessment and intervention, particularly at the time of transfer from one type or level of educational provision to another. The Special Educational Needs Organisers have a key role in facilitating the transfer of pupils with special educational needs, including the transmission of relevant assessment information. This is particularly important at transition points such as school enrolment, transfer to second level and out of second level.  It is also important in the case of traveller children and detained children, who may transfer more frequently to different education settings.  

Language issues

Because of the size of the Irish population, few assessment instruments have been standardised in Ireland in either Irish or English. This is a professional challenge for psychologists when interpreting test results. It makes it yet more important to use all sources of information, especially observations from parents and teachers, as part of the assessment process. 

Demographic issues

Another issue particular to Ireland is the high proportion of small schools, many of which are in isolated locations, and some of which offer education in the Irish language. There is a challenge for professionals and agencies working outside the school to manage time and provision of personnel in order to allow for consultation or assessment, as needed, to these schools in both Irish and English.  

On-going curricular demands

Changes in the primary curriculum and the introduction of alternative second level programmes, both accompanied by appropriate national assessment procedures, mean that the vast majority of students could be catered for within the national framework and can aim to leave school with State certification. However, development of appropriate and varied curricula is an ongoing challenge, particularly for small schools.  Factors affecting small, isolated schools at second level are also an issue.  National examination certification for pupils with low achievement and very significant special educational needs continues to be a challenge.

 

Abbreviations: 

  • EPSEN Act - Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act
  • IEP - Individual Educational Plan
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