Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (345)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

345. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to ensure enough special classes are attached to mainstream schools in order that all children diagnosed with autism who need such facilities and supports can access them; the new such classrooms planned for schools in Limerick city and county at both primary and post-primary levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19459/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes. It is open to any school to make application to the National Council for Special education (NCSE) to establish a special class.

The 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.

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.

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. Of these, 321 are Post Primary ASD special classes, compared to 72 in 2011.

There are 5 special schools and 49 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Limerick. Of these, 5 are ASD early intervention classes, 22 are primary ASD classes and 14 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Limerick has increased from 2 in 2013/2014 to 41 in 2018/2019. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website, www.ncse.ie.

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.

Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs. They also assist and advise schools in making decisions in this area.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved. This process is ongoing and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing ASD classes where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

As the Deputy's question relates to a particular area, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply