Special education teachers must be deployed to address the needs of students with special educational needs in schools. An important aspect of the revised allocation model is that additional teaching supports are deployed according to identified needs, rather than being based on a diagnosis of disability. This gives schools greater autonomy and flexibility in how they allocate special education teaching resources. Schools may deploy special education teachers in a variety of ways in order to effectively meet students’ needs (for example, in-class support, group withdrawal).
Effective communication and engagement with parents is critically important in moving towards a needs-based approach to the allocation of additional teaching resources. This is enhanced when parents are consulted in relation to their child’s needs, support plan, and are involved in regular reviews of progress.
When allocating teaching resources, schools should be mindful of the benefits of early-intervention programmes and should allocate teaching resources as required, based on identified needs and school context. Schools should also aim to provide additional targeted support to students within the context of a mainstream subject lesson through team-teaching, through group or individual withdrawal or, through a combination of these modes of intervention.
Importantly, the level and type of support should reflect the specific targets of individual students as set out in their support plans and be informed by careful monitoring and review of progress. In this way, following a period of intervention, some students may no longer require additional teaching supports, some may require the same level, while others may require more intensive supports. Accordingly, the groupings timetabled for withdrawal may change over time.
When deploying teaching resources, schools need to maintain time for co-ordinating, planning and reviewing activities to ensure effective and optimal use of supports. Co-ordination time should, however, be kept to a minimum in order to ensure that teaching time is maximised. Additionally, flexibility in terms of resource allocation is required to allow for emerging needs during the school year. School leaders should also take into account the professional development record and acquired expertise of teachers when allocating teaching roles and supports.
It is advised that a core team of teachers be allocated timetables dedicated to special education duties. Schools should adopt a flexible approach to timetabling to ensure that extra capacity is available to address changing needs during the year. Accordingly, some members of the special education team may be allocated flexible timetables with inbuilt capacity to respond to additional needs. In deciding their approaches to timetabling, schools are advised to consider the following:
- The overall school timetable should be designed carefully to make appropriate provision for students with special educational needs
- Members of the special education support team should be consulted when the timetable is being developed
- A core special education team should be developed in order to provide greater stability and continuity of support
- Provision should be made for the special education teachers to support subject teachers through team-teaching/in-class/co-operative teaching and joint planning
- Provision should be made for the withdrawal of students for focused individual and/or group intervention where warranted. Targeted small-group interventions, using evidence-informed programmes for students with similar needs, can be an effective way to use resources
- The impact of withdrawal on students’ access to the curriculum with their year groups should be considered
- Timetables should be flexible to cater for the specific needs of students. For example, it may not be appropriate for all students who are exempted from Irish to be grouped for special education needs provision due to the diversity of their presenting needs
- A continuity of support to address the special educational needs of students in the senior cycle should be provided
Planning the allocation of special education teaching supports
In planning the allocation of additional teaching supports, the over-riding principle is that resources are deployed to address identified needs of students. Importantly, those with the highest level of need should have access to the greatest level of support. In addition to literacy and numeracy difficulties, many students will have specific needs in such areas as communication, social interaction, behaviour, emotional development and application to learning.
To guide the allocation of teaching supports, schools are again referred to the 6 Principles to guide the implementation process.
A planning template is provided to assist schools in the allocation of special education teaching. Planning Template to Guide the Allocation of Additional Teaching Supports (Post-Primary Guidelines, p.22)
In addition, a school provision planning template is provided in Appendix 2 of the Guidelines to support schools in planning and documenting provision for students with special educational needs at whole-school level. School provision plan for pupils with special educational needs (Post-Primary Guidelines, Appendix 2, p.35-36)
A case study from a pilot school is provided in Appendix 3 as a demonstration of how the revised allocation model was used to meet the diverse needs in that school.
Appendix 4 of the Guidelines provides contextualised guidance for the implementation of the revised allocation model in Irish medium post-primary schools.