The country's largest second level teachers' union has called for a national training programme for all teachers to support the full inclusion of students with special educational needs in schools here.

The ASTI has also called for stronger administrative structures to co-ordinate school planning for SEN provision.

The union says a survey of its members found that less than a quarter of mainstream classroom teachers have received training in special educational needs in recent years, despite the fact that inclusion in mainstream classrooms is current policy and also best practice.

A new model for allocating teaching resources for such students was introduced two years ago. Under the new mechanism resources are no longer attached to the individual child, but to the school. The needs of individual schools are measured based on a profile that takes a variety of factors - such as socio economic background - into account.

One of the benefits of the new model is that most students no longer need to obtain a professional diagnosis of their condition, but the ASTI says that this generally positive development has placed an additional bureaucratic burden on teachers. 

The union says because most students are no longer coming in to schools with formal diagnoses of their conditions, teachers are now being required to draw up and sign off on teaching plans based on their own assessments of the needs of individual students.

Last December the union advised its members not to co-operate with the drawing up of such plans until its concerns - which include a lack of training -  are addressed.

Today, the union published a survey of 1,300 members which found that just 22% of mainstream class teachers had had any special educational needs training in recent years. In this self-selecting online survey, 49% of respondents said they had been asked to contribute to educational planning for students with SEN in their schools.

It is estimated that up to 25% of students have a special educational need. This can range from a condition such as autism or Down Sydrome to dyslexia or an attention deficit disorder.

ASTI President Breda Lynch said teachers were being expected to sign off on education plans for individual students when often they did not feel competent or comfortable with the task.

"Teachers don't want to commit to paper, plans that they are not trained or competent to draw up", she said.

"Without training and without proper administrative co-ordination it can't be done".

While current policy aims at the integration of students with special needs into the regular classroom setting, withdrawal from regular class for extra support was identified by 89% of teachers as the most common arrangement made in schools to support those students. Two thirds identified large classes as their main barrier towards meeting the needs of special needs students in their classrooms.

The issue of additional training and resources to help teachers support students with special educational needs is one of several that will be debated by ASTI members when they meet in Wexford next week for their annual convention.

ASTI has also said it is seeking a full reversal of and remediation for "draconian" financial punishments that were applied to its members when they took industrial action a number of years ago.

Members of the union had increments frozen and other payments due to them delayed under so called FEMPI measures designed to punish unions who stepped outside of collective bargaining agreements. 

At a briefing in advance of the convention, the union reiterated its dissatisfaction with the fact that its members had been treated differently to nurses. No such measures were applied to nurses as a result of their recent dispute. 

General Secretary Kieran Christie said the treatment of ASTI teachers had been "unnecessary and punitive".

He said ASTI members were still paying the price. 

The FEMPI measures, which were applied to all ASTI members, included the freezing of pay increments.

While this freeze was eventually removed, teachers, especially more junior ones, are still lagging behind in terms of the pay level that they would otherwise be at. It is estimated that this continues to cost thousands of teachers between €1,000 and €2,000 per annum in lost pay. 

The ASTI is looking for the full resoration of those lost increments, and for a return of all pay lost to teachers as a result. 

Mr Christie said ASTI members were "aggrieved" by how they had been treated compared to nurses.

He said while the union supported the fact that nurses had not been targeted with FEMPI measures, the government had taken "a selective view".

He said the view appeared to be that "because the nurses are more popular we will treat them differently to the teachers". 

He described the issue as a "major issue" and "a stone in the shoe" of ASTI members.