I thank the Chairman and committee members. At the outset I wish to thank the committee for its invitation to officials from the Department of Education, including the National Educational Psychological Service, and from the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, to meet with its members today. With their agreement, I will share my time for the opening statement with Ms Mary McGrath, head of operations at the NCSE.
We are also joined today by a number of other officials, including Mr. Eddie Ward, principal officer of the special education section, Mr. Brendan Doody, assistant chief inspector of the Department's inspectorate division, Ms Anne Tansey, director of the National Educational Psychological Service, and Mr. Eamonn Murtagh, director of the Department's planning and building unit.
The committee in its invitation has set out a number of topics to discuss today, including the funding and resourcing of special education supports. The Department of Education continues to prioritise investment in supports for pupils with special educational needs. Last October, a range of new investments in the area of special education was provided for as part of the budget 2021 measures. The State, this year, will spend over €2 billion, or over 20% of its total educational budget, on providing additional supports for children with special educational needs. This represents an increase of over 50%, in total expenditure, since 2011.
Budget 2021 provides for vital additional teachers and school staff in the area of special educational needs, including more than 400 extra special education teaching posts and almost 1,000 additional special needs assistants. It also provides funding for important reforms in the area of special education, such as the further roll-out of the school inclusion model.
In terms of staff resources for special educational needs, the provision for 2021 delivers for mainstream classes, special classes and special schools. Four hundred additional teachers have been provided in this area for 2021, including 145 additional special education teachers being provided for mainstream schools. Special education teachers provide additional teaching support for pupils with special educational needs who are enrolled in mainstream classes.
To limit the extent of allocation disruption for schools this year, in a year where there has already been a great deal of disruption due to Covid-19, the existing special education teacher allocations will be maintained for mainstream schools for the forthcoming 2021-22 school year.
No school will see a reduction to its current level of special education teaching supports next year. However, additional allocations of special education teachers will continue to be made for new schools which open for the first time; developing schools which are achieving significant demographic growth; and exceptional circumstances arising in schools, pending the next re-profiling process for schools.
Two hundred and thirty-five additional special class teaching posts have also been provided, which will facilitate the establishment of an additional 1,200 special class and special school placements this year. These classes will support pupils who have been assessed as requiring a special class placement for them to be able to access an education appropriate to their needs.
Special classes are part of a continuum of education provision that enables students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools. The extra teachers being provided will ensure that the new special classes, including new classes to support pupils with autism, can be opened in areas where there may be currently a shortage of provision or in areas which have been achieving significant levels of demographic growth and where additional special class placements are needed.
Up to 200 new special classes are planned to be opened for September 2021 meaning that we will have over 2,000 special classes, compared to 548 special classes in 2011.
Twenty-three additional teaching posts are also being provided for special schools to meet expected increases in pupil numbers in special schools due to increasing enrolments and demographic trends in 2021. Providing an appropriate school placement for every child is a top priority for the Department and the NCSE.
Almost 1,000 extra SNA posts are also being provided for in 2021. The extra posts will ensure that we can continue to provide additional SNA supports for new special classes that open in 2021; new enrolments to special schools; and additional SNA allocations for mainstream schools. They are part of our planning process to develop a general allocation for allocating SNA support to mainstream schools. The provision of almost 1,000 extra SNA posts to the school system in 2021 will mean that the number of SNA posts will have increased by almost 70%, from 10,575 in 2011 to over 18,000.
In addition to this planned additional investment, the Department has provided for a range of measures to support pupils during a second period of school closures, in 2021, and also to support children with special educational needs to return to school. The Department has recognised that school closures can have a particular impact on children with special educational needs and, accordingly, it has prioritised children with special educational needs for the earliest possible return to in-school teaching and provided specific guidance and supports to schools, including additional IT funding, to support continuity of learning for the affected children during the school closure period. A supplementary education programme is being provided for children with special educational needs who have missed in-person education. A significantly expanded summer education programme for children with complex special educational needs was provided last year. It aimed to prevent regression among children with special needs, and planning is under way to provide for a similar summer education programme this year.
Yesterday, Monday, saw the return to in-school learning for all school students for the first time since we closed for the Christmas break. Overall, a package of more than €630 million has been provided to support the reopening of schools, including funding for personal protective equipment, additional teaching posts, sanitiser, enhanced cleaning and much more. As part of the package of supports, additional teachers have been provided to support the reopening of primary schools to provide enhanced substitution and eliminate the need to mix classes when a teacher is absent.
It is acknowledged that this has been a very challenging and demanding year for the education sector, particularly for children with special educational needs and their parents. Recognising this, the Department has sought to support the well-being of school communities during this Covid-19 period. In addition to its normal work in supporting schools and students, the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has developed a range of resources to support the well-being of children and young people in line with the Department's Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice. These include well-being guidance, webinars and toolkits, including a targeted toolkit for school staff, Supporting the Wellbeing of Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) Returning to School: Strategies and Resources.
I thank the committee for our invitation. I will hand over to Ms Mary McGrath from the NCSE.