I am aware of the need for additional school places for children with special educational needs for school year commencing next September.
Enabling children with Special Educational Needs including Autism to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for me and the Government.
We have significantly increased the availability of special placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.
The number of ASD special classes has more than doubled in the last 5 years from 511 in 2014 to 1,196 across the country now. Provision in special schools has increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year. The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish approx. 156 new ASD special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year to meet currently identified need.
The NCSE has formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.
This letter is the formal activation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018). This contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.
I am not happy with the progress made so far and additional special classes are required. I am therefore appealing to the communities concerned to open their schools to receive children with special education needs into their schools next September.
The NCSE and my Department are available to advise and support school boards of management in making decisions to open new special classes.