Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (256)

Thomas Byrne


256. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills when an application for a place in an ASD unit will be processed for a person (details supplied). [44992/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs. The numbers of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels. Nationally, 167 new special classes opened for the 2019/20 school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011. Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Council has well established structures in place to plan and coordinate special education provision throughout the country. This includes identifying the need for and establishing special class placements in various geographical areas where they are required. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents/ guardians of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools.

The NCSE team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist parents/guardians to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs.

The NCSE works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency which is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child or can offer assistance where a child is out of school. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available at http://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. The selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to publish its enrolment policy.

It should be noted that where a parent/guardian seeks to enrol a child in a school and that school refuses to enrol the child, the school is obliged to inform the parents/guardians of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

As the deputy's question refers to a specific child, the question will be forwarded to the NCSE for direct reply.