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 in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The NCSE 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 re-configure 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.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of such classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,621 across the country now, of which 1,355 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes. This network includes 134 ASD early intervention classes, 849 primary ASD classes and 370 post-primary ASD classes in mainstream schools.
Special classes for students with ASD provide 6 placements and are staffed with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children.
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.