This Government is committed to ensuring 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.
In respect of children with ASD who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education, they may be enrolled in special classes or special schools where more intensive and supportive interventions are provided. Special classes are for students who have a recommendation for a special class placement in their professional reports.
The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports as required, once a child has been enrolled in a school. The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need, including the establishment of special classes in mainstream primary and post primary schools.
Special classes within mainstream schools are intended for children who, by virtue of their level of Special Educational Needs, cannot reasonably be educated in a mainstream class setting, but who can still attend their local school in a special class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have Special Needs Assistant support normally amounting to 2 SNAs for a class of 6 children.
With regard to Co. Clare, there are currently 21 ASD special classes in the County of which 3 are ASD Early Intervention classes, in which a total of 15 pupils are currently enrolled. Fourteen are ASD classes attached to mainstream primary schools in which 73 pupils are currently enrolled and 4 are ASD classes attached to post primary schools. The NCSE are planning to open 3 new classes in County Clare in the forthcoming school year.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs, including those in County Clare, are available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE, in looking to open special classes, must take into account the present and future potential need for such classes, taking particular account of the educational needs of the children concerned. The NCSE will also take account of location and sustainability in looking to establish special classes in certain areas.
In addition, the NCSE will consider:
- the school’s accommodation and accessibility
-the number of special classes, if any, already in the school.
Should the NCSE identify the requirement for additional special class placements in an area they will contact schools in the area in relation to establishing an ASD special class.
In order to identify need in any area for the forthcoming school year, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) refer to professional reports indicating students require the support of a special class. In this regard parents/guardians of students with ASD seeking a special class placement should provide the relevant professional report to their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) to inform the planning process.
The report must state that:
- S/he has ASD
- S/he has significant learning needs that require the support of a special class setting and the reasons why this is the case.
Parents/Guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement, including special class placement, should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.
The Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children who require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities.