Wexford & Waterford ETB Schools project makes “the invisible visible”.

Schools under the remit of Waterford and Wexford Education & Training Board (WWETB) are participating in a groundbreaking project, the initial results of which were presented at a national Leading Inclusive Education event in Portlaoise this week [16.04.2024]. Provision Mapping, an evidence-based process to evaluate student supports, strategically cost and plan provision, allocate resources, and identify staff professional learning needs, is now underway in 140 ETB schools across the country, including Waterford & Wexford.

“Inclusive Special Education is all about making the invisible visible in our schools” said project lead, Education & Training Boards Ireland’s Dr Johanna Fitzgerald, “and provision mapping supports all students, including those with special education needs (SEN), by working with all teachers in schools to examine teaching, learning and assessment approaches that make a difference to students’ outcomes. Our initial project findings indicate that provision mapping is having a positive impact on student learning and staff understanding, awareness in schools and ETBs.”

Other findings include:

· Most important benefits include increased school wide awareness and understanding of inclusive and special education.

· 95% of participants surveyed indicate they wish to continue implementing the process.

· Additional qualitative feedback indicated that the strategic leadership nature of Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) role needs to be formally recognised and resourced in schools to develop and embed a schoolwide approach to teaching, learning, assessment and reporting for students with additional needs in schools.

“We believe everyone deserves excellence in education.” ETBI General Secretary Paddy Lavelle told over 150 ETB school representatives at the event. “Supporting children and young people with special education needs and their families is a priority for our schools and requires wholesale investment and commitment across the education system. That’s why we’re working hard with all our education partners to ensure that schools are resourced to provide the best possible opportunities for our students.”

Led by Dr Fitzgerald in partnership with Mary Immaculate College, the provision mapping project was initially piloted across 6 schools in Limerick and Clare ETB in 2016, followed by a national pilot across 33 schools in 2020, and is now being implemented in 140 ETB Schools across sixteen ETBs.

Research commissioned by ETBI in 2023 and conducted by Opinions, has also shown that all parents consider providing for students with special education needs as highly important, ranking it third overall when asked to identify ‘important aspects when choosing a school’.

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