Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Department of Education and Skills
I am aware of the need for increased specialist education provision in the areas across South Dublin.
The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.
Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.
In Dublin alone, there are now 251 special classes and 37 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.
The extent of new classes being opened in recent years shows the willingness of schools to open special classes and normally this is the case.
However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.
I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.
As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.
The legislation was activated on the 29th October, 2019 following a report by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which identified a shortage of special school and special class places right across south Dublin.
The NCSE has identified 82 children needing special education school places for this or next year in south Dublin.
This is the second time the power under section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) has been used.
The law contains a procedure through which the NCSE can test the capacity of schools in an area to provide more special education places and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education places available.
Home Tuition is provided is available as an interim measure for children whom a placement in a recognised school is sought but not available.
SENOs are available at a local level to assist and advise families seeking a suitable placement.
As the Deputy's question relates to an individual child, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.