The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
There are currently 4 special schools and 75 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Kildare. The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish 167 new special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 will be new ASD special classes. This includes 2 new primary ASD classes and 1 post-primary ASD class in Co. Kildare.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) wrote to me on 18th April last formally informing me of their view that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15, and special class capacity in County Kildare for September.
This letter is the formal activation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018). This contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.
While progress has been made, some further issues remain to be addressed in the Kildare area.
A working group chaired by the NCSE and involving relevant sections of my Department has been convened to put in place a protocol to ensure that there is effective pro-active planning of specialist educational places for students in special classes and special schools.
The resulting protocol will clarify roles and responsibilities, provide for the exchange of data and information, identify timeframes and cover the short, medium and longer term.
The protocol will support the operation of Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 which empowers the Minister to direct a school to make additional provision for children with special educational needs. A protocol has been drafted and is expected to be finalised shortly.
The NCSE is currently undertaking Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs. This Policy Advice is to be completed and a report submitted to the Minister no later than June 2020.