I propose to take Questions Nos. 263, 338 and 339 together.
My Department does not hold information in relation to the number of children with a recommendation for ASD specific placements.
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 in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
When the NCSE sanction the establishment of a special class or the expansion of special school provision in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.
Special classes for students with ASD provide 6 placements and 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.
The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special class provision, is required, it is planned and established to meet that need.
Since 2011, the number of ASD special classes has increased by over 260% from 330 in 2011 to 1,196 across the country now.
There are currently 25 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Laois. Of these, 4 are ASD early intervention classes, 17 are primary ASD classes and 3 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Laois has increased from 4 in 2011/2012 to 24 in 2018/2019 thus providing for 144 places.
The NCSE has sanctioned the establishment of 3 new special classes in Co. Laois to date, this means there will be 28 special classes for the forthcoming school year. Of these, 4 are ASD early intervention classes, 20 primary ASD classes and 3 post primary ASD classes.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie.
As the Deputy's question relates to identified need for specialised placements, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply.