Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Ceisteanna (223)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

223. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties facing parents of children with special needs in securing appropriate school places in autism spectrum disorder, ASD, special classes for their children in the Dublin 13 area; the steps he will take to ensure children (details supplied) will secure places in a local ASD class for the beginning of the September 2019 school year; his plans to increase the number of ASD special classes in the area; and the options available to the children if they cannot secure places in an ASD class in the area. [7932/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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.

The NCSE has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs including Autism, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

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.

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 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin. 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.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, SENOs work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 will assist in addressing this issue where the NCSE is of the opinion that there is insufficient education provision for children with special educational needs in an area.

Section 8 of the Act, which commenced on the 3rd of December 2018, provides 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.

As the Deputy's question relates to particular children I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.