I propose to answer Questions Nos. 250 and 251 together.
Ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government.
My Department's policy aims to ensure 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.
Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.
Other children may have such complex needs that the recommendation in their professional reports state that they are best placed in a special school.
The NCSE is aware of emerging need in the north Dublin area from year to year, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.
The enrolment of a child in 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 and the NCSE has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools.
In this regard, where Parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school placement, for the 2018/19 school year, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie
The NCSE is continuing to work with schools, parents, NEPS, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in the North Dublin area for children with special educational needs, to ensure that each child has a school placement appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year.
The NCSE published guidelines for Boards of Management and Principals of Primary and Post Primary schools which provide information on setting up and organising special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools. These guidelines are available to download from the website www.ncse.ie .
During the Committee Stage debate of the School Admissions Bill, I outlined my intention to include a provision that will provide, based on reports and advice from the NCSE, a power for the Minister to require a school to open a special class or increase the number of special classes in schools identified by the NCSE. My Department officials are currently engaging with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on the development of legislative proposals on this matter which they hope to bring forward to Government for approval.