Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 10 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 5

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Disadvantaged Status

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


62. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if she will report on the roll-out of the expansion of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS; and if she will meet with Opposition Deputies to provide an update on this expansion. [13480/22]

The announcement regarding DEIS arrived yesterday. It is a very important programme that has cross-party support. It has huge potential to make major differences to many children's lives. I very much welcome the schools that were added to that, including several in my own constituency. Of course, like any process such as this, there will always be schools that missed out and are disappointed. St. Maries of The Isle primary school in my constituency made a strong case for an upgrade to DEIS band 1. I understand schools will be able to appeal this decision. When will these appeals open? How can schools apply?

I was very pleased yesterday to be able to announce a major expansion of the DEIS programme. For the first time, we are now seeing a considerable expansion of the programme, which will mean that a significant number of schools will benefit from the €32 million investment. In fact, it will mean that 310 schools will be provided for in the DEIS programme, which will mean that 25% of our schools are part of the programme, facilitating almost 250,000 or one in four students.

Currently, 884 schools and more than 180,000 students benefit from the DEIS programme. As I said, the additions are significant in terms of moving that forward. Supports will be provided to these schools, including a DEIS grant and additional schoolbook grant funding, access to the home school community liaison scheme, access to the school completion programme and priority access to continuous professional development for teachers.

Schools have been identified for inclusion in the programme, and this is important, through the refined DEIS identification model, which is an objective, statistics-based model. This model uses information from the Department of Education enrolment databases and the Pobal HP deprivation index. Schools were not required to apply for inclusion in the DEIS programme and the model has been applied fairly and equally to all schools.

The extension of the DEIS programme to additional schools follows intensive work by the DEIS technical group, which involved valuable input from stakeholders. The refined DEIS identification model builds on the objectivity and fairness of the 2017 version, but now captures a greater breadth of disadvantage and accounts for severity of disadvantage through the application of a weighted process.

It also takes consideration of the significant educational disadvantage experienced by Traveller and Roma learners and students residing in direct provision or emergency homeless accommodation. Using this approach, we can extend the additional targeted supports of the DEIS programme to those schools serving high concentrations of students at risk of educational disadvantage.

I understand that the Minister needs to put these things on the record, but I hope that in her next contribution, she might be able tell us more about the appeals process. As I have said, there will be schools that are disappointed.

The other issue is that the appeals process needs to be a bit more dynamic, perhaps, than the existing process. We are dealing with five-year-old information. When there is an appeal, schools should have the opportunity to put forward things that might have changed in that period or that the criteria might not have taken into account. I raised this at the meeting yesterday. If there are now additional social housing turnkeys in an area, or there has been an increase in the provision of housing assistance payment, HAP, in the area, such things would change the circumstance.

The other issue I will raise with the Minister is co-operation with the Department of Social Protection. We need to get to a stage where every DEIS school has hot meals. We are a distance away from that. Obviously, the hot meals programme has expanded but we are a distance away from it. Will the Minister work towards that as an objective?

I want to finish on the appeals process. I acknowledge that many schools were very pleased yesterday. The Deputy was gracious enough to include a reference to the schools in his constituency. I also appreciate there were schools that did not make the DEIS status yesterday.

I want to be very clear that the model employed, that is, the Pobal HP deprivation index, is very clear and transparent in respect of categorising what we are talking about or referring to in terms of compounded disadvantage, which highlights those schools where the greatest level of disadvantage is being experienced. Those were the schools that were successful yesterday. Notwithstanding that, there will almost certainly be an appeals process. The Department is committed to ensuring that all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which they have been assessed for inclusion in the programme. If a school considers that it should have been identified for inclusion in the programme under the refined model, an appeals process has been developed to allow it to seek a review. That will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

I hope the Minister can tell us more about that as the process goes on.

The Minister also raised the issue of stakeholders. There needs to be a sea change in how the Minister and her Department show co-operation and partnership across the Dáil. We first contacted the Minister on 26 April 2021, which is almost a year ago now, because we wanted to work with her on the new DEIS model.

We have written to the Minister, or an official in her Department, 11 times since then. I raised this again with the Minister in the Dáil on 23 September, 13 October, 20 October, 25 January and 1 February and asked for a meeting, but throughout all that time the meeting was not forthcoming.

There has been such a level of non-co-operation, to be frank, that I had to resort to a freedom of information request to get basic information on how the DEIS allocation was progressing. The meeting yesterday, while it was welcome, was happening while the decision was ultimately made. I asked the Minister how many schools were included in DEIS band 1. The Minister said the process will evolve and that she will keep us posted. The Minister had the list. It is not good enough. She talks about stakeholders and co-operation but the stakeholders on this side of the House had no role in it. What is done is done but I want to see a serious improvement in how we co-operate across the floor.

I ask the Minister to conclude.

I thank the Deputy. I want to be very clear at the outset that the consultation actually predated me. There has been and, even in my own term, there continues to be engagement with the partners in education and the stakeholders of education.

I am not finished yet. I gave an absolute commitment to the Deputy that he would be fully briefed in advance of me making any public announcement in relation to DEIS. That was facilitated yesterday. It was facilitated by experts and by officials from my own Department. Indeed, I was there also.

On the availability of information, every step of the way the information has been made available through parliamentary questions, etc. about the model and the work that was ongoing at that time. In fairness, we have benefited greatly from the stakeholder engagements with the managerial bodies and the teaching unions, etc. in the entire process. In fairness, in terms of all the other operations in the Department of Education, the Deputy has been involved. I did give the commitment that he would be fully briefed and informed of what was happening prior to any public announcement-----

I did not want to be just briefed. I wanted to play a part. I wanted to help.

-----and that the model would be perfectly and expertly explained to him. All of that did happen in advance of any public announcement.

That is not good enough.

Please, can we let the Minister respond uninterrupted?

School Textbooks

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin


63. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education the status of the pilot free book scheme as announced in budget 2022; and when the scheme will be rolled out to all students. [13508/22]

The Minister will know that I have been raising the issue of a free schoolbooks scheme for many years now. I want to see one in this State that mirrors the one that is available in Northern Ireland, where no parent pays for a schoolbook. The Minister has initiated a pilot scheme. At what point can we expect to see a free schoolbook scheme in every school in the country at primary and secondary level?

The Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post-primary schools within the free education system in order to provide assistance for books, including book rental schemes. Under this scheme, my Department provided funding of €17.2 million in 2021 to all of these schools. Schools that are participating in the Department's DEIS programme receive an enhanced rate of book grant. Schoolbook rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of schoolbooks for parents and guardians. In order to support the establishment of book rental schemes, the Department provided €15.7 million seed capital in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to all primary schools. From the information available to the Department, approximately 96% of all primary schools and 69% of all post-primary schools currently operate a book rental scheme. It is a matter for the board of management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of book rent funding in the school. Schools are expected to adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books for use in their classes. The current arrangement relies on the local knowledge of the school in order to ensure a fair allocation of funds to those students most in need.

Additional funding of €1 million was provided for in budget 2020 to provide free books in DEIS primary schools on a pilot basis. This funding was allocated to 102 DEIS primary schools for a pilot programme for the 2020-21 school year. This funding continued for the 2021-22 school year. The aim of this pilot is to provide free schoolbooks for students in the schools involved and to support these schools in eliminating the cost of schoolbooks for parents. It will continue to run for the 2021-22 school year. Its effectiveness and impact will be monitored and evaluated before any decision is made regarding its possible extension or continuation. It is my intention to complete this process as soon as possible.

Under circular 46/2013, DEIS primary schools receive a book grant of €21 per pupil, which is important to note as well. We have seen that the present pilot has been successful. Indeed, it is important to us that we would take the opportunity to evaluate its strengths, and consider where we might be able to improve, prior to taking any further action.

I can tell the Minister where the strengths are. She just has to look across the Border. Anybody from the North who comes to live in the South will tell her that it is ridiculous that they have to go scrambling around looking for a book list and trying to get schoolbooks for the new school year. They just do not think it is their role. All of these conversations at school community level about buying books and book rental schemes are replacing conversations about education or child development. There is an opportunity for the Minister. A sense of vision should creep into the Department of Education. It should say that it will work towards a situation where there are free schoolbooks for every child in the State. This would cost €20 million at primary level and €20 million at secondary level as well. The sort of administrative burden that has been placed on schools because of book rental programmes, whereby they have to chase down the book money and put an onus on parents to go and get the books, would all be eliminated by such an investment. Every school in the country and every child in the country would have schoolbooks as a right for free.

Again, I want to say very clearly that many of the points the Deputy makes are being acknowledged by the Department. There is a strong vision within the Department. Hence, we have a very significant roll-out of the pilot scheme. It is only right and proper that before we would advance, we would have a significant pilot in place and we would have an opportunity to evaluate it so we can see where we are at.

Equally, in terms of the breadth of vision in the Department, I am very pleased to say that there was a €20 million allocation in the budget this year to provide for free books or resources for reading within our schools. This is significant. It is the first time we have done such an initiative. It underpins the value of reading and access to the power of language and words in whatever type of book might appeal to a child, whether it is poetry, artistic or whatever the case might be. There is a strong commitment to the provision of supports for children’s textbooks or reading books in the school environment. This is being supported financially by the Department.

I will make a prediction for the Minister. In years to come, people will think it is ridiculous that we had this debate about children having free schoolbooks because it is such a basic provision. It is provided in so many European countries for free. You only have to go across the Border to witness it. I will ask the Minister a blunt question. When will the pilot be done and when will the expansion begin? It is clear to anybody who is listening to this debate that of course a pilot scheme whereby children get free schoolbooks will be successful. It will replace many conversations about books, acquiring books, book money and book rental schemes with conversations about child development and education. As I have said, all those other discussions should be happening. I have a simple question. When will the pilot end and when will the expansion begin?

I reiterate that the pilot runs for this school year. At that point, we will take a look at how the pilot has worked. In conjunction with that, we will roll out €20 million into our schools to make additional books and reading supports available in our schools. There is a significant book rental scheme. I know the Deputy has not taken the value of that on board. I think it is a significant resource for our schools. There is a book rental scheme also. It is operating-----

I know about it because the Labour Party introduced it.

No, I just want to conclude. We know that more than 96% of our primary schools are availing of the book rental scheme. That is a significant provision in our schools. It is actually being supported by the Department of Education from a financial point of view as well. I want to be clear that there is no single measure being offered within the schools. There is a multiplicity of measures and supports being provided. There is a wide breadth of vision in terms of how to support our families and our children going forward. The Department is providing for them. The current pilot will conclude, and we will take a look at how it has worked.

Special Educational Needs

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


64. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the steps she is taking to ensure the equitable distribution of special needs assistants, SNAs, across the school system with particular regard to new and developing schools; and the status of the roll-out of the front-loaded allocation model. [13481/22]

Regardless of the announcement every year of additional SNAs in each budget, there just never seems to be enough. This is particularly concentrated in particular types of school. There is also the combination of the roll-out of the front-loading model and indeed the freeze on SNA allocation. What this means in particular is that fast-developing schools or new schools are finding it very hard. While 1,000 SNAs are announced every year, and I always welcome that, thousands of children across the State who need an SNA cannot access one. What can be done to ensure that every child who needs SNA support can access it?

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the new graduates of the SNA programme in UCD. This programme of training was advised by the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, in 2018. Some 3,500 students will take that course over the next three years.

To get back to the Deputy’s specific question on SNAs in general, we have increased the number of SNAs by 81% since 2011. We can all agree that that is a significant increase on what was originally there. That is not to deny that schools will occasionally need additionality.

There is the process of exceptional review where a school requires an additional SNA.

The front-loading allocation model does not relate to special classes or schools, given they are outside of that. An SNA is allocated to a special class or school depending on the type of disability. In respect of mainstream classes, the front-loading allocation was frozen during Covid. We felt it would have been too great a burden on schools if we were to try to change that. The SNA allocations for existing and mainstream classes, including in new and developing schools, were maintained as of 30 April and were rolled over into the 2021-22 school year, and SNAs who are in position can remain so for the school year. Applications from developing and new schools were prioritised. The 1,165 SNAs who were allocated in budget 2022 will be allocated as a priority to developing and new schools. I accept the Deputy's point in that context. Nevertheless, a diagnosis is no longer needed to access an SNA in mainstream schools.

The Minister of State, too, has probably had these conversations with schools. Indeed, I recently saw her engage with the school in County Louth outside Leinster House. In schools that do not have enough SNAs, the SNAs are run from pillar to post, the children feel let down and their parents are frustrated that the children are not getting the supports they need. It harms the children’s development and their ability to thrive in school and to reach their full potential.

We have an issue with recruitment and retention. Every year, an allocation of 1,000 is announced but we never get there. In budget 2022, an allocation of 1,000 SNAs was announced, yet on budget day, 175 SNAs from the previous year's allocation still had not been allocated to schools. That is part of the problem. Some of it relates to their terms and conditions and how attractive the job is. People go into other jobs, they do not sign up to be an SNA and that is having an impact, even though the funding is available, on how many SNAs get into schools. Therefore, the children end up losing out. That is a big part of the problem and the Department needs to confront it.

Work is under way in respect of the new allocations for schools and they will issue as soon as possible. There will be consultation with stakeholders in advance. It is primarily the job of the NCSE to assess each school and its allocation. It is up to each school to allocate its SNAs as it sees fit. For mainstream classes, as I said, no diagnosis is required. The criteria for the front-loading allocation are clear. There is a baseline number of enrolments and account is taken of the number of children with complex needs, the gender of the children, whether it is a delivering equality of opportunity in schools , DEIS, school, and the educational attainment of the children. As Minister of State with responsibility for special education, I want every school to be adequately resourced with SNAs. The Deputy will be aware I have spoken previously about the school inclusion model and how that will benefit our children into the future.

Perhaps it is the NCSE that applies the criteria, but the buck stops with the Minister of State in terms of policy and the terms and conditions and pay of SNAs. They have a significant impact on whether we can get SNAs through the system, that is, whether we can recruit and keep them. She mentioned that in the case of new and developing schools, the allocation has been frozen, but that is precisely the problem. There is a degree of additionality but nothing near what is required. There are schools that are growing year on year which, at the start of Covid, may have had only two year groups and that have expanded well beyond that. The additionality they have been able to get is nowhere near enough. New schools that are growing fast are at the sharp end of this. They do not have anywhere near enough, in most instances. The Minister of State mentioned the course in UCD and there have always been issues with its accreditation. We need to start showing SNAs more respect if we want to keep them in the system in order that we will have the SNAs we need to support children.

I assure the Deputy that the Minister and I take the role of SNA very seriously. SNAs are valued greatly for the assistance they give to children with additional needs who, quite simply, would not be in a position to function in any real way in classes without them. The SNA's role to increase the independent living skills of children with additional needs is to be commended and admired. In regard to the course in UCD, as I have always said, we want to examine and evaluate the outcomes. The first step is to get training, which is what the National Council for Special Education recommended, and we can then consider accreditation and other matters in the future. We had to get the training done in the first instance. There will be conversations we can have in that context in the future. The front-loading allocation is a more objective and fairer way of allocating teaching care supports to schools, and it will help developing and new schools as well.

Legislative Programme

Gary Gannon


65. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the status of the Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021; and if she will expedite the work on the Bill. [13664/22]

What is the status of the Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021 and will the Minister make a statement on the matter to update us on the work that has been ongoing since it was brought to the House five months ago? If possible, will she expedite the Bill?

Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students, and it is equally important that this education meets the needs of students in their day-to-day lives and reflect best practice. The Department continues to work closely with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, to give effect to the commitment in the programme for Government to develop inclusive and age-appropriate relationship and sexual education, RSE, and social, political and health education, SPHE, curriculums at primary and post-primary levels, including through an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary. The NCCA draws on the report on the review of relationships and sexuality education in primary and post-primary schools, which was published in December 2019.

As the Deputy will be aware from the Second Stage debate on the Private Members’ Bill he tabled, arising from recommendations in that report, the NCCA has been following a twin-track approach in this work. First, the NCCA has a focus on developing support materials for teachers for publication online as part of an online guidance toolkit. The toolkit supports teachers in their engagement with the current SPHE-RSE curriculum in a confident and holistic manner, and in a comprehensive way that meets the needs of young people today. Separate toolkits, which are being used by schools, are available for the primary, junior cycle and senior cycle curriculum areas.

In tandem with this work on the online toolkits, the NCCA is progressing the broader redevelopment and update of the SPHE curriculum, with an initial focus on the junior cycle. The Department is also examining means to support teachers through the provision of enhanced continuing professional development, CPD. A review of the current junior cycle SPHE course has been approved by the NCCA and forms the basis for the work of the subject development groups in formulating an updated junior cycle SPHE specification. A draft revised junior cycle specification is due to be agreed by the NCCA in advance of the summer, with a public consultation to follow. The final revised specification is due to be completed by the end of 2022 and rolled out in schools from September 2023. Preparatory work will commence in 2022 in respect of senior cycle specifications as the next area of focus.

I would like an update on the Bill, which was delayed by nine months. We are more than halfway through that period, at five months. Is it the Minister's intention to bring the Bill back on Second Stage, as was agreed to when the Bill received cross-party support in November? Will it be brought back before or after the summer?

I might highlight some of the issues that were raised during the debate on the Bill. This week, we marked International Women's Day. The Minister for Justice is working on a Government strategy to tackle male and gender-based violence. It will have four pillars, namely, prevention, protection, prosecution and policy co-ordination. It is difficult to separate prevention from education. Has the Minister's Department engaged with the Department of Justice, therefore, on what could be included in any revised RSE models at primary level and in the junior and senior cycles to combat male violence against women?

As I outlined earlier and as was outlined during the debate on the Bill, it is important that the NCCA, which has undertaken a significant body of work on specifications for the junior cycle this year, moving ahead with the senior cycle subsequently, be given time to complete the development work in this significant area.

That is why, on Second Stage of the Bill, as the Deputy will be aware, Government tabled a timed amendment that the motion be read in nine months. The Department will continue to work closely with the NCCA to assist in completion of this work as a matter of priority.

I made clear at the time I am absolutely committed to this being delivered as a matter of priority. It is important, as I have articulated, that students have the information available. It is the right of every student to have the information available to him or her.

It is also important that we are conscious of models of best practice. Indeed, in terms of the work of the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, the Deputy will be aware that a cross-departmental approach is being taken and the Department of Education very much will be involved in all of that.

Has the Department of Education been involved to this point? What are the timelines for the involvement of the Department with the Minister, Deputy McEntee's cross-departmental approach to combating men's violence against women? Can the Minister, Deputy Foley, update us on that particular work? Specifically, what role has the Department of Education had to this point? Will this feature in the work of the NCCA? Can we see a progress report?

The NCCA has taken the broadest view of models of best practice in terms of the information that should be available to the students. I reiterate there is absolute clarity and commitment on the part of the Department. Indeed, there is recognition on all sides of the importance of the correct and factual information being not only made available to but readily accessed by the students. In tandem with that, it is important that the school staff are supported in the delivery of it. When we talk about various approaches, we are talking about not only the curriculum but also adequate and significant supports being available for the delivery of the curriculum. Underlying and underpinning everything that is in the curriculum, at the heart of it will be meeting the needs and the challenges that children and young people face today and that they would have the information.

In terms of working with other Department, I reiterate there is an absolute commitment on our part to work on a cross-departmental level. Whether with the Minister for Justice or the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy Roderic O'Gorman, we will take that collaborative and co-operative approach.

Special Educational Needs

Joan Collins


66. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education the opening date for autism classes in schools (details supplied) in Dublin 12; the reason for the delay in opening the classes; and if they will be open for September 2022. [13665/22]

My question is to ask the Minister the opening date for autism classes in schools in Dublin 12, the reason for the delay in opening the classes and if they will be open for September 2022. This is a follow-up question to the question I asked on the previous occasion regarding the capacity of schools in the Dublin 12 area when the Minister of State felt there was capacity in the area. I met with the campaign for Dublin 12 autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units. They asked me to resubmit this question to give more information to the Minister of State.

I thank the Deputy, who has raised this issue with me previously.

When we are talking about special classes in general, we have to look at it in the context of the journey that we have been on. That is not to say that we still have a great deal of work to do but we have increased the number of special classes by 386% since 2011 and that is quite significant.

At the end of December, we will have 2,437 classes opened. Three hundred of those are new classes this year. We are creating approximately 1,700 special class places.

We are making progress but, as the Deputy will be well aware, there are pinch points in certain areas, particularly in cities such as Dublin and Cork.

The majority of schools in Dublin 12 have opened special classes, including four new classes in the current school year. The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, is continuing to engage with other schools. At present, in Dublin 12, there are 21 special classes. Fifteen are primary, including two early intervention classes, and then there are six post-primary. Out of four of these, three are primary and one is post-primary. They are all newly established as well this year: Loreto Senior National School, Loreto Junior School, St. Damian's National School on Clogher Road and City College.

There are also schools, as the Deputy will be aware because she has raised it with me in the past, that have ongoing building projects or proposed building projects in train. There will be a new ASD class in Holy Spirit, Greenhills in 2022-23. The building work has commenced. Scoil Úna Naofa is employing a consultant to oversee building works with a view to starting up a new class there. The NCSE is liaising with Drimnagh Castle school. They do not have the space at present but we are looking to see whether schemes are available there. There is the additional accommodation scheme and there are other works that can be done to try to facilitate special classes in these particular schools.

The autism community and myself are well aware of the good work that has gone on to date. There has been an increase in classes. We welcome that but, as the Minister of State said, there are still pinch points.

Holy Spirit Junior Primary School has been out to tender for an autism class for the past number of years, yet there is still no movement on it. I welcome that the Minister of State is saying that will open in 2022-23. Will she provide verification that Scoil Úna Naofa is on course to open an autism class in September 2022? They have just sorted out the asbestos problem. We want to move on that.

I will come back on Drimnagh Castle in my next contribution because there are issues around that that we should be aware of. Hopefully, we will be able to move to getting a class there as well.

To reassure the Deputy, there is intensive ongoing engagement with all of these schools by the local special educational needs organisers, SENOs, in the Dublin 12 area and I am consistently briefed on what is happening when I ask.

Scoil Úna Naofa is employing consultants, as I said, to oversee building works and we hope that it will happen as soon as possible. The aim is to open for September. I will never stand here in the Dáil and give an absolute guarantee or make a promise about anything but I know that the best endeavours are being made. It takes a great deal of work from the schools to do it.

Many of these classes were opened under the section 37 process, as the Deputy will be aware, which has been a success. We can also mention the special school, Our Lady of Good Hope in Crumlin, which has opened. That is providing 48 places. It has 36 at present but it will be in a position to take in 48 pupils at some point.

There are many ongoing discussions with patron bodies and local stakeholders around making sure that we have full capacity in the area.

I welcome those few points the Minister of State made about Scoil Úna Naofa.

With regard to Drimnagh Castle, an NCSE report a number of years ago stated:

The school had reported that it does not have the physical space to accommodate any new classes, and therefore has advised the NCSE that it is not in a position to establish ASD Special Classes. School management report that there are currently 14 SET Teachers using 6 rooms. The Patron advises this school has available land on which the school could expand.

That is certainly an area, and the Minister of State mentioned that the NCSE is looking into that. The NCSE stated recently that there is no capacity and, therefore, that has changed.

The land referred to was bought by the Romanian Orthodox Church but the land that the school sits on belongs to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust. They are the trustees and the archbishop is the patron. I am sure that, after opening Our Lady of Hope in 2021, they would want to continue being inclusive in regard to opening a class in Drimnagh.

I met the archbishop in Our Lady of Good Hope and we had a conversation around special schools and special classes. They are very active and really want to try and provide that inclusivity where they can. We can all accept that sometimes there are legitimate reasons where schools do not have the capacity and, in those circumstances, we can either try to provide that building work where they can facilitate special classes or we must accept the fact that they cannot and try to find additional capacity elsewhere. That is the job of the NCSE and its SENOs.

There are many conversations going on in the Dublin 12 area because we are always aware of the fact that there is an increased demographic. We must make sure that we have a proper forecasting model in place and that we use the geographical information system from the building and planning unit to liaise with the NCSE to ensure no child who requires one is without a placement, in particular, in the Dublin area.