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Not Going To School Next Week: ‘our Children Are Slipping Through The Cracks’(photo

Nigeria Student Forum / Educational News / Primary/Secondary / Not Going To School Next Week: ‘our Children Are Slipping Through The Cracks’(photo

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Emmanuel Fikayo

300Level, Nigeria.
No Child 2020 is an ongoing initiative by The Irish Times, providing a sustained focus on child welfare and children’s issues. We explore the problems facing children in Ireland today and offer solutions that would make this a better country to be a child. For more see irishtimes.com/nochild2020
Tadhg Reardon should be starting his first day of school next week.
He turns six soon, and all the other children in the neighbourhood have their new school uniforms, school bags and lunchboxes.

But Tadhg has no school place. His mother Sharon has applied to more than 20 schools in the north Dublin area over the past year or so. He has been rejected by all of them. Some say they won’t have a place next year either.

“It’s heart-breaking,” says his mother, Sharon. “He’s come on so well during pre-school . . . he does so well with structure and routine. He’s a happy boy, loves singing, dancing. If he hears Gangnam Style, he’ll be dancing around the room.

“He loves nursery rhymes. Ads from the telly. Funny noises. And Minions – he’s obsessed with them.”
Tadhg has autism and a moderate intellectual disability. It requires more specialised schooling to meet his needs.

But any special schools within a 30km-40km radius are oversubscribed many times over, while mainstream schools with special classes say they are either full or do not have the resources to meet his needs.
Now, his only option for the coming year is a home tuition grant.

It will pay for a tutor for four hours a day – which his parents must find – but he will be on his own and isolated from his peers.

“This should be such an exciting time of year, but it’s awful,” says Sharon. “Now our big fear is that he’ll regress and lose all the progress he’s made. He’s much more social now.
Before, he didn’t acknowledge he even had a little brother. That’s all changed. He can make eye contact.”
The most frustrating thing, she says, is the window to make most progress in tackling his condition will close soon and that he will be robbed of meeting his full potential.

“All you hear is the importance of early intervention. And now this. You’re stuck in limbo. Everything is made so hard. Everything is a struggle.
You need to fight to get an assessment, then a diagnosis, then a school place. Surely it should be the opposite.”
Hundreds of children such as Tadhg find themselves excluded from the education system.
They are children who have been diagnosed as requiring an appropriate education but cannot find a school place.

Many of the State’s 134 special schools are oversubscribed many times over, while hundreds of children are on waiting lists for special classes attached to mainstream schools.
Many parents who have managed to secure places in special classes often find the system isn’t able to meet their children’s needs.

In some cases, parents have been forced to withdraw their children in the absence of appropriate supports to help their children learn. Some say their children are on reduced timetables or have been advised to seek home tuition instead.
Others have either been suspended or expelled from schools that say they cannot cope with behaviour of pupils with complex needs.

These children are invisible because they are not recorded in official statistics as being out of the education system.
Hundreds of others have been given home tuition grants in the absence of any other alternative, latest figures show.
Yet there is primary constitutional right to education.
Article 42.2 of the Constitution obliges the State to provide for free primary education for all children – regardless of their level of disability – in as full and as positive a manner as for all other children.

“There aren’t many fundamental rights like this,” says Linda Comerford of the Enough is Enough campaign group. “Yet for children who require access to special schools and ASD [autism spectrum disorder] classes, their rights are being clearly violated.”

Official advice is that early intervention is crucial in helping children with conditions such as autism.
Not Going To School Next Week: ‘our Children Are Slipping Through The Cracks’(photo - Primary/Secondary

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