Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Autism Support Services
462. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to a situation at a primary school (details supplied) with an attached autism unit in which children in the unit are not being allowed to integrate with their mainstream classmates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28531/20]
I am not aware of an issue with the inclusion of students enrolled in special classes in mainstream classes in the school referenced by the Deputy.
Special classes are part of a continuum of educational provision that enables students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools. They offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.
Students enrolled in special classes should be included in mainstream classes to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities.
This should continue, however in a Covid-19 context the number of mainstream classes with which each special class student integrates should be minimised, in order to maintain pod grouping to the greatest extent possible, and to assist contact and tracing mechanisms, should this become necessary.
At primary school level this may mean each special class pupil integrating with one mainstream class only whereas, at post primary school level, this may mean special class pupils attending only those mainstream classes necessary for their subject participation.