Deputy Heydon will be aware that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, is responsible for organising and planning provision for children with special educational needs, including the establishment of special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools. Special classes offer a supportive learning environment to students with ASD who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day. Special classes are for students who have a recommendation for a special class placement in their professional reports.
The NCSE continues to engage with schools in opening special classes where there is an identified need for special class provision.
Progress in developing the network of special classes has been significant and there are currently 1,153 special classes available, of which 889 are ASD special classes. As I noted to Deputy Durkan, this represents an increase of more than 100% since 2011.
With regard to Kildare in particular, there are 942 students with ASD attending schools in the county. Of these, 520 students attend mainstream schools and are accessing in-school supports including resource teachers and SNA support in the mainstream class. A total of 322 students are attending 59 ASD special classes, including six early intervention classes, 41 primary ASD classes and 12 post-primary ASD classes. A further 100 students with ASD are placed in four special schools. The number of ASD classes has increased in the area by 24% since the 2013-2014 school year.
My Department's building unit has advised that special needs units are currently under construction at three schools in County Kildare. In addition, major building projects for a number of schools in Kildare are included in the Department's six-year construction plan and special needs units will be included in these developments.
The NCSE has indicated that it is currently satisfied there will be sufficient ASD special class placements available to meet demand in the region for the forthcoming school year.