Thursday, 22 November 2018

Questions (87)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

87. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the recently proposed legislative change will be enacted which will compel schools to open specialised ASD special educational needs classes in circumstances in which it is needed; the way in which this legislative change will be enforced once formalised in view of the fact that there has been resistance from schools in the past to open and provide these ASD classes, particularly in the Dublin 6, 6W and 12 areas, which are poorly served in relation to the provision of specialised ASD classes at primary level when compared to other areas with similar enrolment numbers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48777/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes by over 150% from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now.  The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019.

Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.

While most schools fully embrace an open and inclusive policy, some students with Special Educational Needs continue to experience difficulties in securing enrolment. My Department has acknowledged that in recent years the establishment of special class provision in some schools and communities has been challenging.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 when fully commenced will assist in addressing these issues. 

The Deputy will be aware that, on the 3rd October 2018, my predecessor Minister Bruton, commenced a number of sections of the Act. On that date the Minister also announced the commencement of Section 8 of the Act, from Monday 3rd December 2018, which will provide the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs.

This power will come into effect on Monday 3rd December 2018. The NCSE is engaging with the education partners and finalise procedures in advance of this date. This new power will build on the work which has been done in recent years to facilitate schools to open special classes.

Section 67 of the Act will provide certain powers to the NCSE to designate a school placement for a child in circumstances where a child is experiencing difficulties in securing enrolment.

A number of the remaining sections of the Act which have not yet been commenced including Section 67, require regulations and procedures to be drafted, and will require consultation with the Education Partners prior to commencement.

I intend to have the other remaining sections of the Act commenced in time for admissions to the 2020/21 school year.