I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 257 together.
Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes. It is open to any school to make application to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to establish a special class.
The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), in consultation with the relevant education partners, is responsible for identifying the need for and sanctioning the resourcing of special classes and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased from 548 to 1,459 this year. Of these 1,196 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.
Provision in special schools has increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.
There are 2 special schools and 52 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Wexford. Of these, 3 are ASD early intervention classes, 28 are primary ASD classes and 14 are post primary ASD classes.
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. This process is ongoing and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing special class and special school parliaments where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.
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.
Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.
As the Deputy's question relates to special class and school placements in a specific area, I have forwarded it to the National Council for Special Education for direct reply.