Enabling children with Special Educational Needs including Autism to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for Government.
At present, the Department of Education and Skills is investing heavily in supporting our children with special educational needs, with €1.8bn being spent annually, about €1 in every 5 of the education budget.
Investment in this area includes an allocation of over €300 million towards providing additional resources specifically to support students with Autism in schools. Since 2011, the number of ASD special classes has increased by over 260% from 330 in 2011 to 1,196 across the country now. In addition, 124 Special schools provide for children with Autism and very complex special needs.
The number of Special education teachers has increased by 37% from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400, Special Needs Assistants by 42%, from 10,575 in 2011 to 15,000, as well as 83 SENOs.
The greater proportion of children with ASD attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.
Special class placements are provided in mainstream schools for students with ASD and more complex needs, where it has been demonstrated that he/she is unable to learn effectively in a mainstream class for most or all of the school day even with appropriate supports.
Special classes for students with ASD are staffed with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation. There are standard arrangements in place for the funding, design and delivery of these projects.
Other resources which are provided to schools to support children with Special Educational Needs including Autism include the following:
- Professional development for teachers
- The National Educational Psychological Service
- Assistive technology
- Access to the Special School transport scheme
- Access to special equipment and furniture where required
- Enhanced Capitation grants at primary level
- Adapted school buildings/Additional accommodation
- ICT Grant for new classes
- Start Up grant for new classes
- Access to the extended school year scheme (July Provision).
The NCSE has published guidelines for schools on setting up and organising Special Classes, which are available to download from www.ncse.ie . The guidelines include information on resources which may be provided to schools with special classes and links to information on the how funding is allocated.