Special needs provision in Ireland has evolved since the founding of the state in 1919. Until the early 1990s practically all education and care of children were carried out by the religious orders in Ireland. The government therefore had little need for policies or legislation surrounding education and care.
Ireland established its education system in 1831 while under English rule. This made it mandatory for children between the ages of six and fourteen to attend school. The Department of Education was established in 1924. However, the government did not consider that the education of children with special needs was necessary as their needs were seen as purely medical. It was considered more appropriate for them to be sent to hospitals, asylums and county homes.
With the decline of religious orders in Ireland, the situation regarding education and care changed. Many schools and institutions were taken over by the state. This with an increased awareness of how special needs provision had fallen behind other countries resulted in a change in government policy and legislation.
In 1947, St Vincent’s Home for Mentally Defective Children became recognised as an official school by the state. This school along with others like it reinforced the belief that children with special needs should not be educated with ‘normal’ children. At this time in Ireland, County Clinics assessed children with special needs which resulted in them being put into institutional care or at best some sort of training.
In 1959, the first inspector for special education was appointed by the Department of Education. In 1960 the Minister for Education announced more provision for mentally handicapped children. From this time until the mid 1980s a number of special schools were established throughout the state to cater for children with physical, mental and sensory impairments.
A report (Commission of Enquiry on mental handicap) in 1965 accepted... [continues]
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