04 SES 15 A, Financing Inclusive Education: Implications for the Implementation of Inclusive Education
Ireland’s system of special education has undergone unprecedented change over the last three decades. Following major policy developments in the 2000s which emphasised inclusive education, mainstream schools became more diverse as students with disabilities began attending schools alongside their peers. Despite recent changes to education funding models which reflect a commitment to equity and inclusion in mainstream schools, Ireland continues to operate a parallel system of special education with a particular emphasis on special class provision for students with disabilities. Special education in Ireland is now at a crossroads, however. Since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD) in 2018 the conversation has shifted to how Ireland can move towards full inclusion model and away from the status quo of separate systems of special and mainstream education. In recent years, increase spending on resources for students with additional needs led the Irish government to call for ‘cost control’ and greater transparency and accountability in how resources were distributed in schools. In 2018, Ireland moved away from a traditional, predominantly input model to a new funding model which attempts to provide a more equitable system of resource allocation without the need for diagnosis. The model is a blended funding structure combining input, throughput and output funding. It firstly provides a simple baseline component of additional teaching supports to every mainstream school irrespective of the need for resources. Secondly, the model uses a ‘school educational profile’ where resources are allocated to schools using a weighted funding formula based on information gathered from school principals about the number of students with complex needs, the results of standardised tests, and the social context of the school. This presentation examines the new funding model in Ireland in light of recent discussions around how funding models can help or hinder inclusion in school. It raises the question: can two separate funding streams, one for general education and one for special education ever exist in an inclusive system? Having one funding model for all students, although the logical choice, is the source of much concern among parents and disability advocates in Ireland, many of whom fear it will lead to children with disabilities ‘falling through the cracks’ and used by government as a mechanism to reduce spending overall.
Banks, J. (2020). Examining the Cost of Special Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Banks, J. (2021). "A Winning Formula? Funding Inclusive Education in Ireland". In J. Goldan, J. Lambrecht and T. Loreman (Eds.) Resourcing Inclusive Education (International Perspectives on Inclusive Education, Vol. 15), Emerald Publishing Limited, 7-19. Banks, J., and S. McCoy (2011). A Study on the Prevalence of Special Educational Needs. Trim: NCSE. Banks, J., Frawley, D., and S. McCoy (2015). Achieving Inclusion? Effective Resourcing of Students with Special Educational Needs. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 926-943. DPER (2017). Spending Review 2017 Special Educational Needs provision. Dublin: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. DPER (2019). Spending Review 2019 Monitoring Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes in Special Education Needs Provision. Dublin: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Department of Education. Ebersold, S., Óskarsdóttir, E., and A. Watkins (2019) Financing Policies for Inclusive Education Systems: Final Summary Report. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education.
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