Tuesday, 18 June 2019
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
201. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the crisis regarding a shortage of school places and autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units for children with autism who are being denied access to school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25260/19]
I am aware of the need for increased specialist education provision in the Dublin area.
The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish 167 new special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 will be new ASD special classes.
124 special schools also provide specialist education for those students with complex special educational needs.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
The NCSE has formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.
This letter is the formal activation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018). This contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.
The NCSE and my Department are actively engaging with education service providers in order to encourage them to address the shortage of places.
Work is well advanced on the establishment of a new special school in the Dublin 15 area.
The NCSE will keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned to advise them of progress and identify placements as they become available.
The new power to compel schools to make additional special education provision available has yet to be invoked.
While the NCSE and the Department continue to encourage stakeholders to open special classes, the process under the admissions legislation will continue and may lead to interaction with education providers entering a more formal process.
In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for this Government.