Lack of training, no planning time, large classes key challenges to inclusive education


Thursday 18 April 2019

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Lack of training, no planning time, large classes key challenges to inclusive education

Lack of training, no allocated time for planning and large class sizes are the biggest challenges facing second-level teachers in supporting students with special education needs (SEN).

A RED C/ ASTI survey published today shows that the practice of mainstream teachers* supporting SEN students in mainstream classes is a key inclusion strategy employed by second-level schools. Despite this, only 22 per cent of these teachers have received SEN training in recent years. Workload and lack of access to training opportunities were two key reasons for this.

Inclusion in the classroom

In Ireland it is estimated that up to 25% of second-level students have additional and special education needs. Teachers responding to the RED C/ ASTI survey cited a number of methods they use to assist SEN students in their classes. These include active learning, differentiated teaching, and planning lessons to address classroom diversity. Fifty-five per cent of mainstream teachers who had participated in education planning for SEN students said they found the process time consuming, while 50% said they did not believe they had adequate training to carry out this work.

While co-ordination of SEN planning is sometimes delegated to Assistant Principals, it frequently becomes an unpaid duty for classroom teachers.

Some 68% of respondents said that smaller classes would be better for SEN students. The best ways to assist teachers in the delivery of education to SEN students are smaller classes and access to training, according to the survey.

Commenting today, ASTI President Breda Lynch said the findings confirm that teachers’ commitment to inclusive education is being significantly undermined by a lack of support at national level.

“The survey demonstrates that the vast majority of teachers have received no training in special needs education in recent years. It is also evident that schools lack consistent administrative structures to co-ordinate planning for SEN students. This has resulted in a significant minority of teachers being asked to undertake this role on a non-remunerated basis,” said Ms Lynch.

“The Minister has acknowledged the negative impact of initiative overload on schools and teachers. This initiative overload includes an overly-bureaucratic SEN model which is not backed by appropriate training and supports for teachers. This must change if the government is serious about inclusive education and equality of opportunity for all of our young people.”


Responding to a question on workload, 96% of teachers said their work intensity has risen since the start of the decade. Fifty per cent of teachers said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their job, compared to 77% 10 years ago.

 Click here to read the full survey.

  *Mainstream teachers is used here to describe subject teachers who are not employed as Special Education Teachers.

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