Dáil debates

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Special Educational Needs

9:20 pm

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

There is probably no huge reason to elaborate on that, but I will. I first raised this issue in Opposition about three or four years ago. The rate of ASD places nationally is about 94 to 1. For every 94 mainstream class places nationally, there is one ASD place. In Dublin 4, Dublin 6, Dublin 6W and parts of Dublin 16 - Dublin 6, 6W and 16 are in my constituency - that ratio is as high as 650 to 1. For every 650 mainstream class places there is one ASD place. This leads to a disproportionate amount of pressure on schools in Dublin 12, which is also my constituency, and in Dublin 24 to take students and pupils from the other postal districts. As a consequence, it can sometimes lead to these schools turning down students from within their own catchment areas and their own postal code areas. I acknowledge that I did not believe I would be back here but I was at a public meeting recently and the situation at primary school level is becoming acute again. I will not even begin on the post primary level situation.

A grandmother called me yesterday on behalf of her grandson. She was distraught and exhausted and she still has not reached the end of the process in securing a place for her grandson. Her son wrote to me and said:

I am writing to you as we are desperately trying to secure a primary school place in an ASD class for our son... He was diagnosed with ASD in 2019 and is currently attending an ASD preschool class in the Good Shepherd National School in Churchtown. [They speak very highly about the Good Shepherd National School] Unfortunately, they do not have any ASD facilities in their primary school. We have applied to the following schools...

He goes on to outline the following schools, and this is not an exclusive list: Scoil Íosa (rejected); Educate Together, Ballinteer - no place; the Marist school - no place; Educate Together Firhouse - no place [and I know this is becuase they already are taking a disproportionate number of children in their school]; Educate Together Stepaside [which is miles away] - no place; St. Damian's National School, Crumlin - no place; Scoil Mhuire - they already have two ASD classes; St. Kevin's, Kilnamanagh [which is miles away] - no place; St. Clare's National School - no place; the Muslim school in Clonskeagh - no place; Our Lady of Good Hope - no place; Educate Together, Harcourt Terrace - no place; Scoil Naomh Pádraig - no place. The list goes on. I want to be clear that some of those schools are already operating ASD classes but most of them are not in Dublin 6W or Dublin 16.

The father goes on:

We have spoken to the two special educational needs organisers, SENOs, in our area .... and they have provided the names of some of the schools above. They have mentioned numerous times the home schooling option but this is not viable as my wife will need to return to work as we are on a single income at present.

Due to the very long waiting lists and the lack of services in the public sector the family is paying for private occupational therapy and speech and language therapy at the moment, and also had to get a private ASD assessment for their son in 2019 to allow him to obtain a place in preschool.

The letter goes on and on.

9 o’clock

I want to listen to the Minister of State's initial reply before I add some other points to it, but I think he gets very clearly the drift of where I am coming from on this.


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