Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Ceisteanna (237)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

237. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools in the western areas of County Dublin asked to provide additional places in accordance with section 37A of the Education Act 1998; the number of these schools that already have special education classes; the number of these schools in DEIS areas; the number of these schools that were provided with additional funding to provide for an ASD appropriate educational environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37573/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them is a key priority for me and the Government.

I am deeply conscious of the stress and anxiety facing parents and their children where difficulties are encountered in securing a school place.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

The legislation provides for a very transparent series of steps which can ultimately lead to the issuing of a legally binding direction to a board of management.

The initial step in the process is for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to inform the Minister that there is a shortage of places in a particular area.

The legislation was formally activated for the first time on April 18th following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

The specific provision required was 8 additional primary ASD special classes providing 46 places and 40 special school places for students with complex needs.

Section 37A outlines a series of transparent steps which can ultimately lead to the issue by the Minister of a binding direction to schools to establish additional classes for children with special needs. The DEIS status of a school or the operation of an existing special class are not determining factors in the legal process.

37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018).

- April 18th - The legislation was formally activated following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

- April 30th - I appealed to schools and patrons to make more provision for children with special education for September 2019.

- May 27th - I wrote to the principals and chairpersons of boards of management in 22 schools in Dublin 15 requesting that they give serious consideration to the need for more special education provision.

- May 28th - The establishment of the new Danu Community Special School, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB, was confirmed, with places for 40 children with special needs for the 2019/20 school year.

- June 27th - The Department served statutory notices under Section 37A (5) on 18 schools and 2 patrons in Dublin 15. These notices communicated my opinion that they should make additional provision for children with special educational needs.

- 30 July & 1 August – Consultations on the need for additional special education provision took place with two patron bodies.

- August 7th - Technical teams began site visits, with 10 schools initially, to carry out first-hand assessments of the accommodation available and consider its suitability for additional provision of special classes.

- August 23rd – Second legal notice served under Section 37A on 6 schools in Dublin 15, one of which has since agreed to establish a special class

- 30th August – consultation with boards of management and principal of the six schools

- 3rd September – site visits to schools completed

- Week commencing 9th September – consideration of representations received from schools who were served S37A notices on 23rd August.

Copies of the notices and representations received from the schools are published on my Department’s website as provided for under the Act.

There is a package of teaching, special needs assistants, training and funding supports available to each school for the new classes. Capital Funding is also available where it is necessary to re-configure existing spaces within the school to accommodate the new class.

As new classes come on stream over coming weeks, the NCSE will keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned and advise them of progress. Funding for the provision of home tuition is available to Parents as an interim measure until the children can enrol in school.