I wish to advise the Deputy that the policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, in order to ensure that as many children as possible can be educated with their peers within their own community. My Department therefore provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.
Children with special educational needs may be enrolled in a mainstream school and attend all mainstream classes and receive additional teaching support through the learning support and/or resource teacher, they may enrol in a mainstream school and attend a special class or they may enrol in a special school. The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school.
My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.
In addition, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE also recently published a Guide for Parents and Guardians of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs on Choosing a Schools. This guide is also available at www.ncse.ie. Finally, where a parent seeks to enrol their child in a school and that school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.