Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Special Educational Needs
I am very pleased to be able to discuss this matter along with my colleague, Deputy Bruton, and I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House.
The difference between the provision of supports for children with special educational needs in their schools and their having to go somewhere else after the school day finishes is transformative for the children, for their convenience, for how natural it is for them to stay in their own school environment and for the comfort with which they can access additional services. Anything we can do to make children more comfortable and less different, whether in terms of special educational needs, support services or play therapy for any child in school, and to the extent that we can support them within the familiar environment of their own school, we should do to make things better.
There is so much really good work being done in this area, and I thank the Minister of State for all her work and engagement. In my area, Dún Laoghaire, we have had 11 additional special educational needs classes, bringing the number up to 43. That is a huge increase since the general election. I thank not only the Minister of State for her work on that but also all the schools in my area, which have engaged with the Department and come up with creative solutions. We have more in train. This has made a significant difference for parents, particularly parents of three- and four-year-olds, who have been struggling to know where they will send their children and how they will be able to get them class places. It has taken an awful lot of pressure off them and made a massive difference, as has the additional number of special needs assistants. We have now had an additional 2,165 in this two-year period, and I thank the Minister of State for her work in securing the budget to deliver that.
As my colleague, Deputy Bruton, said, this pilot model is a real opportunity to deliver services in a much more natural and convenient and, I believe, effective way. We would love to hear an update on the pilot, how the Minister of State thinks it is going, the prospects for its roll-out into other areas and, indeed, nationally for further testing, and any possible timeline for that.