Post-school Transitions for Students with Intellectual Disabilities in the Republic of Ireland

Limited guidance for children with intellectual disabilities impacting progression into the workforce and further/higher education.

1st March 2021

The Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities, and the School of Education have today (March 1st) published a research report entitled  ‘Post-School Transitions for Students with Intellectual Disabilities’. This research found that there is limited guidance for children with intellectual disabilities attending mainstream second level schools in Ireland as they prepare to leave school, contributing to a significant underrepresentation within the workforce and further and higher education in the State.

The report highlights a number of contributing factors, including the lack of a consistent approach in schools and a need to identify clear professional roles in terms of who is responsible for supporting young people with intellectual disabilities to seamlessly transitions out of school. Typically, this would be the role of guidance in education, however, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator/Teacher often steps into this role.

Additionally, the report expresses concerns that there are not enough appropriate supports in further/higher education to support students with intellectual disabilities. Policy recommendations include the implementation of a whole-school approach to guidance provision and a whole-school approach to “inclusion” as a whole. The authors recommend an expansion of post-school options from traditional health-based settings to further and higher education and training opportunities that lead to meaningful career opportunities for our citizens with intellectual disabilities.

The research was conducted during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the initial closure of schools in March 2020. The report draws comparisons between the uncertainty of students with intellectual disabilities who have limited formal guidance for their post-school pathways in any given year, to the uncertainty experienced by the Leaving Certificate class of 2020, and their families, who were the focus of many media outlets at the time.

Des Aston, Co-Author of the research and National and Schools Coordinator, Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities said: 

“We hope this research will highlight the importance of a whole-school approach to inclusion. Inclusive education isn’t just about accessing an academic curriculum, albeit an integral part. We need to make sure that inclusive education encapsulates everything that a school experience should include – from the social life to guidance for adult life. Access to appropriate guidance and information, coupled with inclusive leadership and strong student support teams are some of the steps needed at school level. While further and higher education providers also have a duty to ensure equity of access and supports are made available to support seamless post-school pathways.”

Research has consistently highlighted the importance of formal career guidance and transition planning for students, as they prepare to leave post-primary education and enter further or higher education, training, employment, and adult life.

Jennifer McKenzie, Director of the National Centre for Guidance in Education said:

It is incumbent on those of us in the provision of education, training and guidance supports to carefully reflect on the recommendations of this report and consider their implications for future policy and the provision of more suitable progression options for these young people, so that they too, just like their school friends, can aspire to achieve their own life goals.

“The one key message threaded throughout this report is the genuine concern of school management, personnel and parents to support young people with Intellectual Disabilities to make suitable transitions which will allow them achieve their potential. Realistically however, the report indicates a recognition and acknowledgment by relevant personnel that school policies and further professional development are required to ensure that school management, guidance counsellors and special education needs co-ordinators have the appropriate knowledge and competences required to work collaboratively to provide transition and progression planning and supports and for students with Intellectual Disabilities.”

The research was conducted by Mr Des Aston, Dr Joanna Banks and Professor Michael Shevlin and the findings are based on a national survey of Irish post-primary school principals and qualitative interviews with school personnel responsible for the transition planning and guidance provision for students with disabilities in their school.

Virtual Symposium: Inclusive Learning in Higher Education (April 7th and 8th 2021)

About this event

NUI Galway’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CELT) has partnered with its Inclusive Learning project team to offer a virtual Symposium on Inclusive Learning on April 7th and 8th 2021.

As student populations become increasingly diverse, what can higher education institutions do to create a truly inclusive learning environment? How can we listen and respond to the needs and concerns of our students, while supporting staff to navigate an increasingly complex teaching and learning landscape?

This two-day symposium aims to raise awareness of issues of equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education, and will highlight the importance of centering the student voice. It will also showcase and share inclusive pedagogies, practices and approaches.

Speakers include:

  • Julie Rattray (Durham, ENG)
  • Jesse Stommel (UMW, US)
  • Henriette Stöber (EUA)
  • Hamsavani Rajeswaren (QUB, NI)
  • Ebun Joseph (UCD)
  • Tracy Galvin (QUB, NI)

The event is free and fully online and is open to anyone with an interest in these issues in a higher education context. Students are welcome to attend and to contribute actively to the discussions.

Photo by Nicolas COMTE on Unsplash

IASSIDD – “Some teachers were wonderful, some were a complete disgrace”: Voices of students with intellectual disabilities on inclusive education

Webinar: “Some teachers were wonderful, some were a complete disgrace”: Voices of students with intellectual disabilities on inclusive education

IASSIDD Inclusive Education SIRG Webinar Series

Date: February 10, 2021

Start: 15.00 UTC/10.00 am EST/23.00 ACT (Length: 90 minutes)

Co-sponsored by: IASSIDD Academy – Certificates of Attendance will be provided.


The Experiences of Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Inclusive Schools in Ghana

Christiana Okyere (Michigan State University)

What do students with intellectual disabilities prefer? Mainstream or Special Educational Settings?

Cristina Nieto (University of Seville)

“It will take a while for me to get to the top of the mountain.” Transition stories: voices of school leavers with Intellectual Disability.

Geraldine Scanlon (Dublin City University)

Skills for Life Virtual Open Day (Tralee, Co. Kerry)

Skills for Life Virtual Open Day

Wednesday 27th of January 2021

11 am – 12 pm 

Are you finishing school in 2021? 

Would you like to know more about the skills for life rehabilitative training programme located in the Munster Technological University campus Tralee and run by Saint John of God Kerry Services? 


If you have an interest in joining, please contact staff for zoom link information. 



Sophie Casey:

Phil McSweeney:


The Power of Disability

AHEAD and the Union of Students in Ireland are happy to present the Power of Disability Conference 2021, kindly supported by the Higher Education Authority.

This two day event will include discussions, presentations and feedback sessions encouraging students with disabilities to be leaders on their own campuses and provide information for students and Students’ Union officers on the issues facing students with disabilities.

Day 1 of the conference will focus on disability in education. This day will feature sessions sharing research in the area of disability, workshops on disclosing a disability and looking at Universal Design for Learning. 

Day 2 of the event focuses on empowerment and constructive advocacy. We are delighted to welcome Minister Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to address the conference as part of this schedule. 

Registration is free to attend, but registration is limited so you must book a spot in advance. 

IASSIDD Webinar – International Perspectives on Transitions in Education and Students with Intellectual Disabilities

International Perspectives on Transitions in Education and Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Date: 16th December


Time: 09.00 Eastern Standard time/ 14.00 Coordinated Universal Time/ 24.00 Australian Eastern Standard Time

Please note the webinar will be approximately 1.5 hours duration.   You will receive the Zoom webinar link via email prior to the event




Moving on, moving out

Ruth Faragher (Brisbane, Australia)

Transitions to postschool settings for students with intellectual disabilities in Ireland.

Michael Shevlin,  Des Aston & Joanne Banks (Trinity College Dublin)

“I’m considering stopping his schooling so that the father teaches him any job”: Navigating the transitions of disabled children in Africa.

 Karisa Amani (University of Cape Town, South Africa)