Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (320)

James Browne


320. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children with a disability awaiting a school place in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31883/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I want to assure the Deputy and Parents that concerns regarding a shortage of appropriate school places for next September are being taken very seriously.

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. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

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

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 advice parents whose children have special needs.  Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.

SENOs are also available to assist and advise schools on special education supports and planning.

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 special classes and special school where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

As a result of these efforts, I expect progress will be made in the coming weeks in ensuring that every child has a placement available to them from September.

I have asked the NCSE to keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned and advise them of progress.

In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for me and my Department.