There is an extensive range of supports and resources available to schools on the provision of an inclusive education for children with special educational needs. These are available to access on the websites of both my Department and the NCSE.
The Deputy will also be aware of my belief that children with special needs should receive their education in placements which are appropriate to their needs alongside their peers wherever possible unless such an approach would be inconsistent with the best interests of the individual child or other children in the school. This approach is consistent with the provisions of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004.
The Roadmap to Support the Full Reopening of Schools continues to be implemented in schools. The Roadmap includes specific guidance and a dedicated financial package for the Special Education Sector. Pupils in special classes should continue to interact, or integrate, with mainstream classes and move between classes. The Guidelines do not prevent this. Schools continue to do their best in the interest of all students.
Special class provision in mainstream primary and post primary schools is a central element of the continuum of education provision in place to support children with special educational needs. This continuum extends from full-time placement in mainstream classes to full time enrolment in special schools with a number of options in between including access to a range of additional supports and for those children whose assessment of need includes a recommendation, access to special class provision.
My Department supports this continuum through a range of dedicated supports in line with the needs of the child. These supports include the provision of teachers, special needs assistants and psychological support from the National Psychological Service. In addition, there are specialist supports provided by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). The Council has published Guidelines for Setting Up and Organising Special Classes for Primary and Post-Primary Schools. The guidelines advise that students enrolled in special classes should be included in mainstream classes, to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities. The Council provides extensive professional development programmes for teachers and advice for schools, parents and families
The overall aim of the continuum is to ensure that every child is supported in the journey of realising their potential through education in an inclusive and caring school environment.