Funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training.
My Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.
The greater proportion of children with Autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based on a recommendation contained within a professional assessment and in consultation with the NCSE.
Special school placements are provided for other students with ASD and very complex special needs who wouldn’t manage in a mainstream school even for part of the week.
The NCSE is responsible, through its network of Special Needs Organisers, for the development and delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with Special Educational Needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes.
There are 3 special schools and 66 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Tipperary. Of these, 8 are ASD early intervention classes, 32 are primary ASD classes and 18 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Tipperary have increased from 10 in 2011/2012 to 58 in 2018/2019. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE, in looking to open special classes, must take into account the present and future potential need for such classes, taking particular account of the educational needs of the children concerned. The NCSE will also take account of location and sustainability in looking to establish special classes in certain areas.
Schools may apply to the NCSE to open a special class where a need has been identified in their area. For example where a number of students have professional reports indicating they require the support of a special class.
Before approaching a particular school to request the establishment of a special class, SENOs take into account both present and future potential need within the area and must be satisfied that the class is sustainable and appropriately located.
The NCSE's planning for future projected need for special class provision in all areas of Co. Tipperary, is an on-going process. Should the NCSE identify the need to establish a new ASD special class in the Clonmel area in the future, it will consider all schools in the area in relation to establishing an ASD special class.
As the NCSE is responsible for the establishment of special classes, I have arranged for the Deputy's question on planning for emerging need in Clonmel to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. My Department has no role in such matters.