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. This includes taking account of the flow of students from primary into post primary. The NCSE 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 an application to the NCSE to establish a special 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.
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 246 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Cork City and County. Of these, 28 are ASD early intervention classes, 119 are primary ASD classes and 54 are post primary ASD classes. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website at www.ncse.ie
The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish over 175 new special classes of which approx. 165 are new ASD special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year to meet currently identified need, which will include new ASD classes in Cork county and city.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to reconfigure 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.
As the Deputy's question relates to particular areas I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.
My Department will continue to support the NCSE in opening special classes in areas where there is an identified need.