I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed. The legislation provides for a very transparent series of steps which can ultimately lead to the issuing of a legally binding direction to a board of management. The initial step in the process is for the NCSE to inform the Minister there is a shortage of places in a particular area.
The legislation was formally activated for the first time on April 18th following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15. The specific provision required was 8 additional primary ASD primary special classes and 40 special school places for students with complex needs. There has been very intensive engagement between the NCSE, the Department and patron bodies and schools to address this issue. To date, this has resulted in the establishing of the new Danu Community Special School in Dublin 15, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB catering for up to 40 students.
In addition, 4 ASD special classes have also been approved in mainstream primary schools in the Dublin 15 area leaving a total of 4 classes still required. On 23rd August, my Department issued a second statutory notice to six schools and their patron in the Dublin 15 area setting out the need to make more places available for children with special educational needs. The notice confirms my opinion that the schools should make additional education provision available and outlines the steps to be taken, together with information on the supports available. The schools and the patron have 14 days in which to make representations on foot of this notice. All of the notices that have been served and all the representations received from schools are published on the Department’s website at the following link:
The notice follows a series of steps that have been followed under strict rules set down under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018)). Further to the Section 37A notice dated 22 August which issued to 6 schools, these schools had a consultation with Department officials on 30 August. Subject to the agreement of the schools to establish a special class, a pactage of support is available to each schools which includes the following:
1 teaching post and 2 SNAs for every ASD special class of 6 children;
Additional SNA resources if required for students in special classes through NCSE;
Funding for accommodation adaptation that may be required;
Enhanced professional supports from NEPS and NCSE.
There is a legal process now in process with these schools. Schools have 14 days to make representations from the date of receipt of the S37A Notice. My officials had a consultation with boards of management and the principal under the Act. Accordingly, there are no plans to meet further with the schools concerned.