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Special Educational Needs

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 12 May 2022

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Ceisteanna (87)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

87. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education if she will provide an update on an autism class in a school (details supplied). [23575/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.

It is also a key priority for me as Minister for Special Education & Inclusion.

This year, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing additional teaching and care supports for children with special educational needs.

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

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country, including Dublin, where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of special class and special school places.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.

Over the last two years, my Department and the NCSE have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special education placements ahead of each new school year.

I am satisfied that this approach is delivering.

This intensive intervention has seen over 300 additional special classes already opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school year as well as the establishment of two new special schools.

This targeted approach will continue in identifying and meeting demand for special education placements throughout the country.

A range of measures to meet additional SEN capacity demands have already been put in place including the utilisation of spare capacity in existing schools and delivery of additional SEN capacity within the scope of existing building projects.

Additionally, it is general practice to include a SEN Base in the accommodation brief for new school buildings.

I can also confirm that the NCSE is aware of an identified need for additional special education placements for students with autism in the South Dublin area. As previously referenced with the Deputy, work has been underway with stakeholders for a number of years to meet the demand for places in this area.

I am grateful to the majority of schools in the area who have opened special classes. The NCSE is continuing to engage with a number of schools regarding the establishment of additional special classes in the shortest possible timeframe. Every support is being made available to these schools, a number of which have building and refurbishment projects underway, with a particular focus on places becoming available in September next.

I can confirm that the school specifically referenced by the Deputy is part of this ongoing NCSE engagement.

The Deputy will also be aware of increased special school provision generally with two new special schools opened in Carrigaline and Crumlin in the current school-year and further expansion planned in 2022/23 which Minister Foley and I were pleased to announce in March.

We have also secured funding for the opening of 287 new special classes from September next.

My Department is committed, in conjunction with the NCSE, to continue to work with parents, schools, patrons and all stakeholders to ensure that there are sufficient appropriate places for students with additional needs and to support all students to achieve their potential.

I would like to again assure the Deputy that every support will be made available to progress additional special class and school capacity, in the shortest possible timeframe, with a particular focus in Dublin on the 2022/23 school-year.

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