Special Needs Education Places: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Thomas Byrne on Wednesday, 25 September 2019:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— many parents of children with special needs are facing considerable difficulties in securing school places for their children, despite the school year having started already;
— of the 1,622 special classes in place, 849 are primary autism spectrum disorder (ASD) classes while only 370 post-primary ASD classes are in mainstream schools;
— removing the Home Tuition Grant, when school places are unsuitable for special needs children with other medical complications, can be unfair;
— some special schools have been awaiting a new building for up to 13 years;
— 384 children are in receipt of the Home Tuition Grant, many because they have not been able to secure a school place;
— the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has already informed the Minister for Education and Skills that parents in South Dublin and Cork are having trouble securing school places for their children;
— in the Dublin area, the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) schools, provide a disproportionate number of school places by comparison with non-DEIS schools;
— in the neighbouring regions of Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 6 West, the ratio of available places to children with ASD is 1:782, while the national average is 1:100;
— in all areas of the country there are children who travel very long distances to secure suitable school places; and
— the Home Tuition Grant scheme application forms were published a full two weeks later in 2019 than the previous year;
further notes that:
— there are no official figures on the number of children with special needs who do not have an appropriate school place;
— 22 per cent of special schools are on a list for large-scale projects by comparison with 9 per cent of mainstream schools;
— according to a recent survey 84 per cent of parents of children with disabilities believe that their children do not get the therapies that they need due to long waiting lists or unfilled positions;
— many parents are frustrated by the information made available by the NCSE;
— the Minister for Education and Skills has the power under the Education Act, 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed;
— many applications for home tuition remain to be dealt with for this school year; and
— many appeals in respect of reduced SNA provision remain to be dealt with;
agrees that:
— the advice of clinicians and the wishes of parents should be a priority for the delivery of education to children with special needs;
— no child should experience a delay in the start of their school year because of administrative issues;
— even in the Dublin 15 area where the Government believes it has resolved the issue, schools and special classes remain unopened;
— teachers should be provided with the resources and training they need to uphold every child’s right to an education;
— DEIS schools should not be tasked disproportionately with providing special classes; and
— the failure to collect information on the educational outcomes of children with special needs across all outcomes is not the right policy to follow and has led to a lack of oversight;
and calls on the Government to:
— urgently resolve the issues which have been officially identified in Cork and South Dublin;
— commit to an appropriate amount of special classes in each administrative area and to publish an implementation plan as urgently as possible;
— urgently engage with unions to ensure that all Individual Education Plans are in place for every child;
— produce a rationale for the gap which exists in funding for children with special needs at primary and secondary level schools and commit to closing that gap;
— prioritise the construction of special schools on the Department of Education and Skills project list;
— issue a circular outlining the financial resources and staff training available to schools who wish to open a new special class;
— produce a five year forecast of the current and future need for special needs education places in the catchment area of each school and to communicate this demand to schools within each area and within six months;
— publish a list, by school, each June of all available school places in ASD units for the coming school year;
— commit to using the powers contained within the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 where implementation plans deem it necessary;
— have an appropriate inspection regime in respect of special classes; and
— commit to the publication of an annual report on the number and circumstances of students with special educational needs, and the number whose needs are not being met by the education system and why.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "calls on the Government to:" and substitute the following:
"— provide all necessary resources and training to urgently resolve issues which have been officially identified in Cork and South Dublin;
— commit to an appropriate amount of special classes in each administrative area and to publish an implementation and resourcing plan as urgently as possible;
— implement the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 in full, and urgently engage with unions and the education partners to ensure that all Individual Education Plans are in place and fully resourced for every child with assessed special educational needs;
— produce a rationale for the gap which exists in funding for children with special needs at primary and secondary level schools and commit to closing that gap;
— prioritise the construction of special schools on the Department of Education and Skills project list;
— issue a circular outlining the financial resources and staff training available to schools who wish to open a new special class;
— produce a five year forecast of the current and future need for special needs education places both across the State and also in the catchment area of each school and to
communicate this demand to schools within each area and within six months;
— publish a list, by school, each May of all available school places in ASD units for the coming school year;
— commit to using the powers contained within the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 where implementation plans deem it necessary, giving a minimum notice of
six months to schools affected;
— have an appropriate inspection regime in respect of special classes and ensure that there are an adequate number of inspectors to facilitate this;
— commit to the publication of an annual report on the number and circumstances of students with special educational needs, and the number whose needs are not being
met by the education system and why;
— provide adequate budgets to ensure that special schools have proper provision of therapies to support their students;
— provide for greater flexibility in the School Transport Scheme for children attending special schools or ASD units, that may not be the nearest special school, but were
unable to obtain a place in the nearest special school or ASD unit; and
— immediately establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Autism, as set out and supported by all groups in the motion agreed by the House on World Autism
Awareness Day, 2nd April, 2019, and for this Committee to develop and publish a comprehensive autism empowerment strategy within a six month period of its
establishment."
-(Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to amendment No. 1, tabled by Sinn Féin, to the Fianna Fáil motion re special needs education places. On Wednesday, 25 September, on the question, "That the amendment to the motion be agreed to," a division was claimed. In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), that division must take place now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 84; Níl, 39; Staon, 0.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Denise Mitchell; Níl, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.40 p.m. and resumed at 2.20 p.m.