Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ceisteanna (82)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

82. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the provision of autism education in Dublin 7 and 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

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 was used for the first time back in April in respect of the Dublin 15 area. We have made significant progress in a relatively short period with the establishment of Danu Special School as well as six schools offering to open special classes. The new places will help these families and ensure that the children concerned have access to education.

The experience of Dublin 15 shows that real and practical challenges can be addressed by working together to provide additional special class and special school places.

As Minister I am prepared to use the legislation when necessary to ensure that children can access a suitable education. However my preference is for schools to engage with this challenge on a voluntary basis because it is the right thing for the children in their community.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special needs school places in Dublin 7 and 15 for next year and beyond.

As the Deputy's question relates to the NCSE planning in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 for the forthcoming school year, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.