History Special Needs

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‘A Chance to Learn’

The history of education for children with special educational needs in Ireland has been one of neglect and exclusion. However the past three decades have seen a shift in attitude and policy. A shift which, Professor Desmond Swan has described as a progression in three phases: the era of neglect and denial; the era of the special school; and the era of integration or inclusion . The right to education is recognised in Ireland under Article 42 of the Constitution. However, in 1993 The Special Education Review Committee (SERC) reported: “Ireland has a conspicuous lack of legislation governing much of education but particularly covering educational provision for students with special needs ”

During the 1990’s litigation in the sphere of education emerged as an important agent for change in special education. Since the landmark O’Donoghue judgement of1993, parents have sought the protection of the courts to give practical effect to a constitutional right to an education for their children with special educational needs and forced Government to give legislative effect to this right.

Over the past ten years there have been a number of key legislative developments in education for people with special educational needs. A stated objective of the 1998 Education Act is “to give practical effect to the constitutional rights of children, including children who have a disability”. The Equal Status Act 2000 refers to education in relation to the policies of establishment regarding admissions, access to courses, access to any facility or benefit provided or any other condition of participation in the establishment. In suspected cases of discrimination recourse can be sought through the Office of Equality Investigations. The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 is to ensure school attendance. It provided for the establishment of a National Education Welfare Board. The objective of the Board is to ensure that all children attend a recognised school or...
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