This Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019.
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.
Special classes can be established within a school's existing accommodation. In such circumstances the school can apply to the Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.
The NCSE has advised that there will be a total of 1,618 special classes in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2019/20 school year.
The NCSE continues to monitor and review the requirement for special class places in particular areas and has capacity to establish new special classes, retain current special classes where necessary, subject to the willingness of schools to open/retain classes or close special classes which are no longer viable.
The NCSE welcomes expressions of interest from schools in opening special classes to meet the demand for special class provision. In deciding on the location of a special class, SENOs take into account both the present and the future potential need for special class provision, and they must also be satisfied that the special class is sustainable and appropriately located. SENOs liaise with relevant professionals in their area to arrive at an informed decision.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available in tabular form by county on the NCSE website at https://ncse.ie/special-classes.
With regard to school referred to by the Deputy, the NCSE has advised my Department that a special class for children with emotional behavioural disorder will close, as it is no longer sustainable. My Department is not aware of a 'life skills' class/room in this school.
The NCSE has been exploring options with the school for the re-designation of the special class to cater for children with other disabilities. However, to date, no agreement has been reached in relation to this.
Should a local need be identified in the future for a particular special class, the NCSE will liaise with the school on the establishment of such a class.
No child is losing out on education support arising from this change.