Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
275. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to offer special education classes to children from Ashbourne, County Meath that cannot avail of them despite there being six primary schools in the town. [11286/20]
Ensuring that every child has a suitable school placement is a key objective of my Department. Significant resources are allocated each year to ensure that appropriate supports are available for children with special educational needs.
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.
The National Council for Special Education (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.
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.
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.
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.
As Minister, I have power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed. This legislation has been used to good effect in the recent past.
The NCSE is aware of an identified need for special classes at both primary and post-primary levels in the area and adjoining areas referred to by the Deputy. The NCSE is currently engaging with schools in this area with a view to accommodating students who require special class placements in those areas for September.
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. Parents may contact SENOs directly using the contact details available at: