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 special educational needs 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 Classes offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.
The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. This includes taking account of the flow of students from primary into post primary. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
As approximately 1% of the school population require the support of a special class, it is not possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in the every school.
In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. In this regard, the SENO may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.
The Council has informed my Department that they are satisfied that there are sufficient post primary ASD special class placements in Limerick to meet identified need for the forthcoming school year.
The NCSE’s team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs and identify available placements. They also support and advise schools in this area. Parents who are experiencing difficulties in locating a special class placement, should contact their local SENO.
160 new special classes have been opened for the 2018/19 school year, which means there are now 1,459 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.