I propose to take Questions Nos. 463 to 468, inclusive, together.
Enabling students with additional needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is an ongoing priority for this Government.
This year, the Department of Education will invest in excess of €2 billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget in the area of special educational needs support. As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.
Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased from 548 to a current total of 2,148 for the 2021/2022 school year. Of these, almost 1,900 special classes cater for students with autism.
Recognising some of the difficulties experienced by parents in securing appropriate school placements, over the last two year, the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special needs placements ahead of each new school-year. Overall, this intensive intervention has seen an additional 300 special classes, providing 1,800 new places, already opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school-year.
The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide. It has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. NCSE seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
The Department and the NCSE continue to prioritise and support this work.
The Department also recognises that where parents have difficulties in securing an appropriate school placement for their child, particularly a child with additional needs, it can be a stressful experience. The Department is working hard to ensure that there are sufficient school places, appropriate to the needs of all children, available on a timely basis nationwide.
The Department and the NCSE are always grateful to schools who express a willingness to open a special class to meet the educational needs of students in their local communities.
There are Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) located across the country and they have a specific remit in helping and supporting parents in accessing the education necessary for their children, including in identifying suitable school placements.
The NCSE is currently engaging in a process of establishing new classes for the 2022/2023 school year and beyond. The NCSE is looking at local information in relation to projected demand for future special education places, particularly to cater for students with autism who have associated complex needs.
NCSE have been working with stakeholders in the counties referenced by the Deputy for a number of years to meet the identified need in the county. SENOs are currently engaged with parents, schools and Boards of Management in these counties to establish the level of need and to ensure that the necessary arrangements are put in place to meet that need.
I should also state that Budget 2022 has provided funding to the Department and the NCSE for the creation of 287 additional special classes for the 2022/2023 school year. These additional classes will provide over 1,700 new places this year. This additional provision will bring the total number of special classes to over 2,400 in the 2022/2023 school year.
The list of special schools is available on the NCSE website at the following link:
and for special classes at: