Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (131)

Bernard Durkan


131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which adequate school places exist or are being provided for children with autism or other special needs at primary and second levels throughout County Kildare in line with requirements as set out by school authorities and parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5209/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this government. To this end my Department has allocated SNA support to over 12,000 extra pupils since 2011 and provided extra resource teachers to meet the expansion in children in need of teaching support.

Since 2011, the increase in SNAs has been 3,545, including an additional 2,080 posts in the last two years bringing the current number to some 13,990.

The number of resource teachers has increased by 3,660 since 2011, including 1,600 additional posts in the past two years bringing the current number to 13,400.

The number of special classes has risen by 712 since 2011, including 277 new classes in the past two years bringing the current number to over 1,300.

In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education. This represents an increase of almost 43% since 2011 and amounts to almost 20% of the Department’s overall Budget.

My Department's policy aims to ensure that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with Autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

Some students, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there. This can be due to significant difficulties in areas such as behaviour or sensory needs which have not been ameliorated, even with appropriate intervention, in mainstream.

Other children may have such complex needs that the recommendation in their professional reports state that they are best placed in a special school.

The NCSE is aware of emerging need in County Kildare from year to year, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.

There are currently 70 special classes in the County, including 62 ASD special classes. A further 282 students, including students with ASD, are placed in 4 special schools in Kildare.

The NCSE continues to progress the planning process to ensure that all students in with Special Educational Need in Kildare can access school placements appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year and beyond.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children in Kildare who will require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities.

In this regard, Special Needs Units (SNUs) are currently under construction at 2 post primary schools in Kildare South including St Conleth’s Vocational School, Newbridge and Ard Scoil na Trionoide, Athy. The SNU in St Conleth’s is expected to be completed and ready for occupation by September 2018 at the latest.

Major building projects for a number of Post Primary schools in Kildare are included on the Department's 6 Year Construction Plan, and Special Needs units (SNUs) will be included in these Developments. The schools in question are:

- St Paul’s Secondary School, Monasterevin

- Naas Community College, Naas

- Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen

- Athy Community College

- St Farnan’s Post Primary, Prosperous

- Patrician Post-Primary, Newbridge

The projects, when completed, will represent a total investment in excess of €100 million.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 130.