I am aware of the demand for additional special class and special school placements in the North Dublin area.
I have asked the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to provide my Department with a report on current and future identified need in the area so that evidence based decisions may be made on the development of the necessary placements in the area for the short, medium and longer term. The report is expected shortly.
The NCSE is continuing to work with schools, parents, NEPS, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in the North Dublin area for children with special educational needs, to ensure that each child has a school placement appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year and beyond.
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.
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 greater proportion of children with Autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based on a recommendation contained within a professional assessment and in consultation with the NCSE.
Special schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from the age of 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year.
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.
Accordingly, the NCSE advises parents, to seek to enrol their child, by applying in writing, to the school/s of their choice as early as possible. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.
The NCSE is responsible, through it's network of Special Needs Organisers, 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.
124 special schools provide specialist education for those students with the most complex special educational needs, including students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
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 ASD special classes.
There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin. Of these, 17 are ASD early intervention classes, 139 are primary ASD classes and 41 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019. 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 Council identifies local areas where additional provision is required. In those circumstances, SENOs work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.
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 me 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.