Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.
The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at , in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.
In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.
SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.
The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.
The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with.
Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.
As this question relates to a particular school, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.
175. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if and when appropriate medical facilities will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied); if immediate and urgent steps can be taken to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3056/20]
241. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if and when appropriate educational facilities will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied); if immediate and urgent steps can be taken to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3057/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 241 together.
Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased almost threefold, from 548 to 1,618 for the 2019/2020 school year; with 1,353 of these catering for children with autism.
167 new special classes have been established nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 will be new autism special classes, comprising 6 Early Intervention, 100 primary, and 50 post-primary autism classes.
A list of special classes for September 2019 is available on the NCSE website at:
Budget 2020 provided for an additional 265 special class teachers in 2020, which will allow for the opening of additional classes where required.
The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide; has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents; and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, a range of supports, including capital funding, is made available to the school. My Department works closely with the NCSE in this regard.
The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places nationally to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.
Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the NCSE 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.
Last year, the NCSE indicated that parents in Dublin 15, South Dublin, Kildare and Cork were experiencing difficulty securing school places for their children.
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 has been used twice in Dublin to address shortages of special class and school places.
The legislation 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. The Act prescribes a set of steps to follow which includes extensive consultation with schools and their patron bodies.
The initial step in the process is for the NCSE to inform the Minister that there is a shortage of places in a particular area.
The NCSE will only activate the legislation after it has taken all reasonable efforts to get schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide additional special class or school places.
I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.
The NCSE's Local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise both schools and the parents of children with special educational needs in relation to special class provision.
As the Deputy's query relates to a school placement for an individual pupil, it has been referred to the NCSE for direct reply.
The provision of therapeutic supports is a matter for the HSE.