I propose to take Questions Nos. 492 and 493 together.
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. Next year, over 20% of the total Education budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special educational needs.
This investment will support the provision of over 1,200 additional special class places.
Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. Through better planning at both national and local level, it is my objective that specialist education places should come on stream to meet emerging demand on a timely basis.
The NCSE is actively working with schools in Louth to establish special classes. It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE to open a special class. The active collaboration of school communities is vital to the effective inclusion of students with special educational needs.
The NCSE has advised that there are currently 25 ASD classes in primary schools and a further 12 at post primary level giving a total of 37 ASD classes supporting students with autism in Louth. Information on special class provision can be found on the NCSE website at:
Parents should also be advised to contact their local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) if they experience any difficulty in getting a suitable placement. SENO contact details are on the NCSE website at: https://ncse.ie/regional-services-contact-list.