Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Special Educational Needs

9:30 am

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. I welcome the work that is being done. It has been a scramble, but I will wholeheartedly support every expansion of special needs places. Having said that, there is a big difference between announcements and delivery. Even in Dublin 7, we have seen a delay in the opening of a new special school. These things happen. As adults, we can wait, but children cannot. Weeks and months matter, not least for a child with an additional need.

We need to ensure their families will be helped to at least find those places, and that process is not working at the moment . There needs to be a clear message from the Department of Education to the National Council for Special Education and to SENOs throughout the country - indeed, to the Department itself - that we need to do better. We need to ensure there will be active management of the places that become available with the families who need them. All too often, families come to me and tell they are being left in the dark. It is not good enough that a family has to go to the effort of applying to 20-plus schools. That is a complete waste of time.

I sincerely ask that in this window between when there is a shortage of supply and a mismatch between where supply is coming on board and where the children are on the one hand and the expansion of places to every school in the country on the other, a process of active management of those places be put in place, because parents are not experiencing that on the ground.


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