The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to ensuring that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.
Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
There are approximately 14,000 students with ASD in the school system.
- 63% are educated in mainstream classes;
- 23% are educated in special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools; and
- 14% are educated in special schools.
We now have the highest level of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, Resource Teaching allocations and Special Class provision that we have ever had, which will ensure that children with special educational needs including Autism can continue to participate in education and be supported in a manner appropriate to their needs.
I announced on the 14th June, 2016 that 860 additional Special Needs Assistants will be available for allocation to schools from September 2016, which is a 7% increase on the existing availability.
This will bring the total number of Special Needs Assistants to 12,900 at a total gross annual cost of €425 million. This increase reflects the growing participation of children with Special Needs in education and will support their full participation and progression within the educational system.
The NCSE advised all schools of their allocations for SNA support for the 2016/17 school year on 14th June, 2016. Details of the allocations which have been made to schools have now been published on www.ncse.ie.
In addition, there are currently over 11,800 learning support and Resource Teacher posts in mainstream primary and post primary schools providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs. About 25% of all resource teaching posts are allocated for ASD.
In respect of children with ASD who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education, they may be enrolled in special classes or special schools where more intensive and supportive interventions are provided.
The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support students with Special Educational Needs, including Autism.
It is also the role of the NCSE to make appropriate arrangements to establish special classes in schools in communities where the need for such classes has been identified.
Special classes within mainstream schools are intended for children who, by virtue of their level of Special Educational Needs, cannot reasonably be educated in a mainstream class setting, but who can still attend their local school in a special class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have Special Needs Assistant support normally amounting to 2 SNAs for a class of 6 children.
Progress in developing this network has been significant and in addition to the special school placements there are currently 1,153 special classes throughout the country at primary and post primary level of which 889 are for children with Autism.
Of these there are 145 ASD classes in Cork City and County, comprising 24 Early Intervention Classes for children who are not yet school going age, 80 primary school classes and 41 at post primary level in mainstream schools. 18 of these classes are new classes, 11 in primary schools and 7 in post primary schools.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs, including those in Cork City and County, are available on www.ncse.ie in county order, with new classes identified.