My Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of Special Needs Organisers (SENOs), for the development and delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with Special Educational Needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes. There are currently 4 special schools and 75 special classes in mainstream schools in Co. Kildare, including 6 Early Intervention classes, 46 ASD special classes at primary level and 15 ASD special classes at post primary level. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special provision, including special class provision, is required, it is planned and established to meet that need. This process is ongoing.
While it is not always possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in a child’s local school, the NCSE has informed my Department that, in general, they are satisfied that there are sufficient ASD special class placements to meet existing demand nationally. From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional provision is required. In those circumstances, SENOs work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.
Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school placement they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.
My Department is aware that the establishment of special class provision in some schools and communities can be challenging.
The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 when commenced will assist in addressing this issue in areas where the NCSE is of the opinion that there is insufficient education provision for children with special educational needs.
Section 8 of the Act, which commenced Monday 3rd December 2018, will provide the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the NCSE, the Board of Management and the Patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs.
I have arranged for the Deputy's question on emerging need in the Kildare area to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. My Department has no role in making determinations in this area.