Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Special Educational Needs
A number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 have been commenced, including those establishing the National Council for Special Education and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children. In order to ensure that inclusive education can be provided for, very significant investment has been made in the area of special educational needs supports. In 2016, the Department of Education and Skills invested €1.5 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the entire education budget. It reflects our commitment as a Government to help children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential. Total spending on special educational needs has increased from €706 million in 2006 to €1.5 billion in 2016, thus more than doubling in the period.
Under the Programme for a Partnership Government I have committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the Act on a non-statutory basis. At present, all schools are encouraged to use education plans. My Department's inspectorate's advice is that the majority of schools are now using some form of individual education planning for children with special needs. In line with Circular 30/2014, schools are required to put in place a personal pupil plan, including a care plan for all pupils availing of SNA support.
While awaiting the full implementation of the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has published a number of policy advice papers which make recommendations aimed at developing a better or more effective alternative to the current resource allocation model, and which aims to move the system towards ultimate implementation of the EPSEN Act. As the Deputy is aware, I have announced the details of that new model which are being implemented from September this year. That has been piloted successfully and I am confident it will introduce both a better and a fairer way of allocating resources to support children with special needs and ensure that they are able to follow an individual pupil plan within the school. That will be in the context of a whole school and not solely an individualisation approach. Clearly, the whole-school approach is the best model that has been based on the NCSE's experience.