Written answers

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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137. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the secondary schools that currently provide classes and supports for secondary school children who are on the autism spectrum in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32625/16]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to ensuring that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

In respect of children with ASD who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education, they may be enrolled in special classes or special schools where more intensive and supportive interventions are provided.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support students with Special Educational Needs, including Autism. It is also the role of the NCSE to make appropriate arrangements to establish special classes in schools in communities where the need for such classes has been identified.

Special classes for children with ASD within mainstream schools are intended for children who, by virtue of their level of Special Educational Needs, cannot reasonably be educated in a mainstream class setting, but who can still attend their local school in a special class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have Special Needs Assistant support normally amounting to 2 Ss for a class of 6 children.

Progress in developing this network has been significant and in addition to the special school placements there are currently 1,153 special classes throughout the country at primary and post primary level of which 889 are for children with Autism.

There are 4 special schools and 66 special classes attached to mainstream schools in County Kildare for 2016/17 school year (up from 64 in 15/16): 59 classes are for students with ASD, including 6 Early Intervention Classes for children who are not yet school going age, 41 primary school classes and 12 at post primary level in mainstream schools. 2 of these classes are new classes due to open in September 2016, 1 at primary level and 1 at post primary level.

The NCSE, in consultation with the relevant education partners, must take into account the present and future potential need, location and sustainability in looking to establish special classes in certain areas. In this regard the NCSE has advised that they are continuing to engage with schools in the area referred to by the Deputy in opening special classes where there is an identified need for special class provision.

The NCSE recently launched guidelines for Boards of Management and Principals of Primary and Post Primary schools which provide information on setting up and organising special classes. These guidelines are available to download fromwww.ncse.ie.


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