Clare Senator Tony Mulcahy has proposed that the legal starting age in the Irish education system for a child be reduced to three years of age in order to extend special education support services to preschool-going children.
Senator Mulcahy was speaking in Seanad Éireann this week in response to an address to the upper house by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan in which she outlined the proposed introduction of a new inclusion support service to assist schools in supporting children with special educational needs.
Administered by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the service will include the special education support service which provides training for schools in how to assist pupils with special educational needs,as well as the national behaviour support service which provides guidance and support to schools in dealing with behavioural issues. Until now these support services have been managed separately within the Department of Education.
“No one in society should be denied the right to go to preschool because they cannot get the special education support services they need,” Senator Mulcahy said in response to Minister O’Sullivan’s address.
“We have children in preschools with challenging behaviour getting six hours of special education support services, provided by HSE, meaning that they must stay at home for three out of five school days each week. Once a child enters the educational system, there should be a line from start to finish which they follow as part of the education process. A child with special needs requires 24 hours, seven days a week support,” he added.