Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (350)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

350. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason there is a lack of autism spectrum disorder, ASD, special class places at secondary level; the reason there is a lack of year on year funding for ASD special classes in secondary schools in view of the fact that funding is provided for same in primary schools; and if funding will be committed for ASD special classes in secondary schools to the same degree as those in primary. [31580/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Enabling children with Special Educational Needs including Autism to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for Government.

There is now unprecedented investment in special education. The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019. 

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.

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.

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 re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.  Enhanced capitation grants are also payable.

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 ASD classes 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.