Disability and Education: The Facts DFI Factsheet - Education

Issued on June 1 2017

Government investment in the first six years of a child’s life reduces social inequality and enables children to lead a happier life.[1]

Children with disabilities are more likely to come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds compared to the rest of the population.

Education and Disability

It is estimated that a quarter of children in Ireland have special education needs (SEN).[2]

  • SEN is defined as any “restriction in the capacity of a person to participate in or benefit from education.”

Completion of Education

43% of people with disabilities have not got beyond primary education, in comparison with 19% of all adults.[3]

Only 24.5% of people with disabilities have completed third-level education, compared to 38.7% of the general population.[4]

Government Intervention

The Disability Act 2005 provides an assessment of need for all children. This is an assessment of the full range of the child’s needs associated with his or her disability.[5]

  • There were a total of 3,960 applications for assessment of need overdue for completion at the end of 2016.[6]
  • Parents who can afford a private assessment are more likely to get special education resources than other parents.[7]

Only parts of the education of Persons with Special Education Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 have been implemented and key provisions remain outstanding.[8]

  • The Individual Education Plan provision is still not implemented.[9]

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 24 of the UN CRPD ensures that people with disabilities ‘are not excluded from the mainstream education system on the basis of disability.’[10]


[1] OECD (2009) Doing better for children.

[2] A Study on the Prevalence of Special Educational Needs: NCSE Research Report No. 9 J. Banks and S. McCoy ESRI, 2011

[3] Census (2011) Profile 8. Our bill of Health

[4] Census (2011) Profile 8. Our bill of Health

[5] Assessing your child’s need under the Disability Act 2005 http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/disability/Disability_Assessment/

[6] Parliamentary Question Finian McGrath 3, May 2017

[7] Duncan, P. (2015) Affluent areas get more special needs teaching hours

[8] Parliamentary question Finian McGrath November 2016

[9] Sinn Fein manifesto 2016 https://www.sinnfein.ie/files/2016/GE2016ElectionManifesto.pdf

[10] UN CRPD Article 24