This Government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.
Funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training.
The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs), for the development, delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with Special Educational Needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special provision is required in an area it is planned and provided for.
The NCSE sanctioned a new special class in the school referred to by the Deputy to meet the identified needs of students in Kildare and the relevant teaching and SNA support has been allocated to the school.
To this end, my Department is providing a stand-alone extension to the school. My Department devolved the project for delivery to the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB).
When a building is completed, certifications for the constituent components are required to be registered with the Local Authority for the purposes of demonstrating that the building complies with building control regulations. This was done on the 22 of October last. The Local Authority is required to turn this around within three weeks. Assuming that there are no issues with the documentation submitted, the building can be occupied once the Local Authority signs off on the documentation. This means that every child with special needs who is waiting to occupy the new building in St. Conleth’s Vocational School should be able to do so within a three-week timeframe.
KWETB, supported by my Department, has always been focussed on ensuring that every child with special needs who is waiting to occupy the new building in the school could do so as soon as possible.
KWETB also continues to engage with the NCSE, parents and our education partners to explore temporary measures that may be put in place to ensure that each child has educational provision appropriate to their needs.
In the interim my Department’s Home Tuition Grant Scheme can provide funding towards the provision of 20 hours home tuition per week for these children as a compensatory educational service until a school placement becomes available.
I want to reassure the Deputy that we are all continuing to strive to achieve these objectives. While we are close to the opening of the building, neither we, the NCSE nor KWETB will stop working until all the children who are waiting for the opening of this building are in it.