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.
We have significantly increased the availability of specialist placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.
The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016. The report acknowledges that there has been substantial investment in the education of students with autism over the 14 years since the publication of the last major report on autism in 2001. The report set out 11 recommendations for further improvement and outlines a range of associated actions to give effect to its recommendations.
My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered and that a timetable for implementation is prepared.
The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.
A number of the recommendations in relation to school aged provision have been substantially implemented, including those on the development of additional primary and post primary provision, admissions to schools, operating of special classes, additional release days for teaching principals and the use of evidence-informed interventions.
Work is continuing on recommendations relating to on developing teacher knowledge, skills and understanding. My Department intends to publish comprehensive inter agency Good Practice Guidelines on the education of children with Autism by the end of the year.
It is expected that recommendations will be made shortly concerning a revised July provision scheme which would be implemented next year at the earliest. Before any changes are made, there will be consultations with stakeholders.
The NCSE estimated that implementing the school based recommendations in the report will cost an additional €20m per annum.