Thursday, 4 October 2018
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
90. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the schools in the Dublin 8, 10 and 12 areas that provide ASD units; the capacity of these units; the way in which they are resourced; and the length of the waiting lists to attend these units. [40399/18]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 to 92, inclusive, together.
This government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.
Funding for special education provision in 2018 will amount to some €1.75 billion, up 43% since 2011 and equivalent to 18.7% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training.
The Department's policy is to provide for the inclusive education of children with special educational needs, including Autism (ASD), in mainstream school settings, unless such a placement would not be in the best interests of the child concerned, or the children with whom they will be educated.
The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools and it does not maintain details of waiting lists in schools.
Accordingly, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) advises parents, to seek to enrol their child, by applying in writing, to the school/s of their choice as early as possible. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school for the 2018/19 school year, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.
The greater proportion of children with ASD attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.
Some students with ASD, although academically able to access the curriculum in mainstream, may find it too difficult to manage full-time placement there and placement in an ASD special class is an option for them. ASD special classes are resourced to cater for six pupils with complex educational needs arising from their diagnosis of autism and as such are staffed with a reduced PTR (6:1 Primary and 6:1.5 Post Primary) and two Special Needs Assistants.
Special school placements are provided for other students with ASD and very complex special needs who wouldn’t manage in a mainstream school even for part of the week.
The NCSE is responsible, through its network of Special Needs Organisers, for the development and delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with Special Educational Needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes by over 130% from 548 in 2011 to 1,456 across the country now, of which 1,192 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes. This network includes 129 ASD early intervention classes, 742 primary ASD classes and 321 post-primary ASD classes in mainstream schools.
There are 37 special schools and 235 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Dublin. Of these, 17 are ASD early intervention classes, 138 are primary ASD classes and 40 are post primary ASD classes. The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 195 in 2017/2018. Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie in county order.
The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year in Dublin, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need. I have arranged for the Deputy's question on emerging need to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.
The National Council for Special Education has published Guidelines for Boards of Management and Principals of Primary and Post Primary schools which contain information on setting up and organising special classes, including information on resources which may be provided to schools to establish special classes and are available to download from www.ncse.ie.
My Department has acknowledged that in recent years the establishment of special class provision in some schools and communities has been challenging.
As the Deputy may be aware, I signed a Commencement Order on the 4th of October bringing a number of sections of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act, 2018 into operation.
The commencement order will provide the Minister for Education and Skills with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of the school, to compel a school to make additional provision for the education of children with special educational needs. This power will come into effect on Monday 3rd December 2018.
I has asked the NCSE to engage with the education partners and finalise the procedures in advance of this date.
This new power will build on the work which has been done in recent years to facilitate schools to open special classes.
My Department will continue to support the NCSE in opening ASD special classes in areas where there is an identified need.