I propose to take Questions Nos. 169, 171 and 173 together.
The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. I have therefore arranged for the Deputy's questions relating to provision at post primary level to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.
SENOs are also a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children or on deciding the most appropriate placement for their child. SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie. The NCSE has published a Guide for Parents and Guardians of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs on Choosing a School. This guide is also available on their website. The NCSE works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services 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. The Educational Welfare Services, Child and Family Agency, can be contacted at 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.
The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents 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. Where a parent seeks to enrol their child in a school and that school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents 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.