A National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Working Group published a proposal in June 2014 to improve how schools are resourced to support students with special educational needs (see ‘A Proposed New Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs’at www.ncse.ie)
The proposal consists of a baseline component, which allocates a certain amount of teaching resources based on a school’s total enrolment, ensuring a minimum allocation of resources to all schools. In addition, the model will include a number of other components, to ensure that additional teacher posts are allocated to schools on the basis of each individual school’s need for support. Based on national and international research, the Working Group has identified a set of criteria that indicate a school’s need for additional teaching resources. These include (i) the number of enrolled students with very complex special educational needs, (ii) the number of enrolled students with low levels of academic achievement, and (iii) the school’s socio-economic context. The Department of Education and Skills (DES) asked the Educational Research Centre (ERC) to assist in the collection of data in relation to the third of these.
In September 2014, the ERC began the process of gathering the information required to develop the new model. As part of this process, a social context survey was developed at the ERC for distribution to all primary and post-primary schools. Questionnaires focusing largely on the socioeconomic characteristics of families served by schools were posted to all primary and post-primary schools nationwide in the first week of September 2014. The data gathered subsequently assisted in the development of an educational profile for each school. Other aspects of the educational profile of schools were constructed from information already held by the Department or from information held by the NCSE. For example, standardised test data supplied annually by schools to the DES was made available to the ERC to assist in developing an educational profile for each primary school. At post-primary level, Junior Certificate Examination results were provided by the State Examinations Commission for a similar purpose. Accounts of the survey procedures at primary level (Weir & Denner, 2015) and post-primary level are available (Weir & Denner, 2016). The Centre continues to be involved in combining the different sources of data with a view to exploring various allocation formulae.