The National Council for Special education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes. It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a class. In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. In this regard, the SENO may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.
Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.
SENOs are also available to assist and advise schools on special education supports and planning.
The number of ASD special classes in County Dublin have increased from 66 in the 2011/2012 school year to 197 in the 2018/2019, a threefold increase. There are 15 ASD classes in the areas referred to by the Deputy: 2 Early Intervention classes, 8 Primary ASD classes and 5 Post-primary ASD classes.
Special classes for students with ASD are staffed with a pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level (including early intervention classes) and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have a minimum of two SNAs for every class of 6 children, thus providing for 12 places in Early Intervention, 48 places in Primary and 30 places in post-primary ASD classes in the areas.
My Department is aware that the establishment of special provision in some schools and communities can be challenging.
The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 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 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 matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular area, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for direct reply.