I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 110 together.
My Department's policies focus on ensuring that all children can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.
A range of placement options for pupils with special educational needs is provided, in order to ensure that all pupils can receive a school placement. Many pupils with special educational needs will be able to attend a local mainstream school, whereas for pupils who have needs which require more specialist interventions, special class and special school placements are provided for.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required and for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.
The NCSE welcomes expressions of interest from schools in opening special classes to meet the demand for special class provision. In deciding on the location of a special class SENOs take into account both the present and the future potential need for special class provision and they must be satisfied that the special class is sustainable and appropriately located. SENOs liaise with relevant professionals in their area to arrive at an informed decision.
The NCSE continues to monitor and review the requirement for special class places in particular areas and has capacity to establish such new special classes where necessary, subject to the willingness of schools to open classes. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents are encouraged to liaise with the local SENO to discuss placement options for their child.
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 and access to Special Needs Assistant support.
The criteria by which SNA support is allocated to pupils is set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014. In considering applications for SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The NCSE has confirmed to my Department that the child to which the Deputy refers has never had access to SNA support allocated by the NCSE.
Details on the numbers of special classes and SNA allocations in each school per county for the 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 school years are available on the NCSE's website at http://ncse.ie/special-classes and http://ncse.ie/statistics respectively.
The number of special classes in Co Cork increased from 73 in 2011/12 to 221 in 2017/18 while the number of SNA posts increased from 1,454 in 2011/12 to 1807 in 2017/18.
The 2011/12 figures for special class numbers and SNA allocations are unavailable at the links above, therefore, I will arrange for the NCSE to reply directly to the Deputy with this information.