This Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019. This includes an allocation of over €300 million towards providing additional resources specifically to support students with Autism in schools.
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 Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs).
My Department's policy is that children with special educational needs should be included where possible and appropriate in mainstream placements, with additional supports provided.
In circumstances where children with special educational needs require more specialised interventions, special school or special class places are provided for.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local SENOs, in consultation with the relevant education partners, is responsible for identifying the need for and sanctioning the resourcing of special classes and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, there is a range of supports including capital funding available to the school.
There are now 1,459 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011, including 1,196 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD – 131 Early Intervention, 743 Primary and 322 Post-primary.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have advised that for the 2019/20 school year there will be a total of 1,618 special classes of which 1,353 will be for children diagnosed with autism.
124 special schools also provide specialist education for those students with complex special educational needs.
There are currently 2 special schools and 60 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Wexford. 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 7 new primary ASD classes and 1 post-primary ASD class in Co. Wexford.
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.
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.
As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular school, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.