Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (80)

Joan Burton


80. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of additional school places secured in existing schools in Dublin 15 for the provision of autism-specific education for the academic year 2019-20; if existing schools cannot provide the necessary number of places, his plans to ensure children do not go without a school place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26590/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am aware of the need for increased specialist education provision in the Dublin area.

The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019. We have significantly increased the availability of special placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, issues remain. There are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to shortages in capacity in the school system.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) wrote to me on 18th April pursuant to provisions now contained in the Education Act through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.

The NCSE identified that provision is required for 40 special school places for students with complex needs, including ASD, in Dublin 15.

As existing special schools could not provide the necessary number of places within the timescale, it is necessary to establish a start-up special school in the area.

Work is well advanced on the establishment of a new special school in the Dublin 15 area.

The NCSE and my Department are actively engaging with education service providers in order to encourage them to address the shortage of places. The NCSE will keep in regular contact with the parents of the children concerned to advise them of progress and identify placements as they become available.

The new power to compel schools to make additional special education provision available has yet to be invoked. While the NCSE and the Department continue to encourage stakeholders to open special classes, the process under the admissions legislation will continue and may lead to interaction with education providers entering a more formal process.

In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for this Government.

Parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local SENO who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.