Written answers

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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98. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to deliver additional autism spectrum disorder places across north County Dublin. [29985/20]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government. In this year's budget, more than 20% of the total Education Budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special needs, an increase from €1.9bn last year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. It has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. NCSE seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special education placements.

NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and special school places nationally, to meet identified need. 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.

Notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

As Minister, I have powers under Section 37A of the Education Act to direct a school to provide additional places but this power is only used as a last resort and where all reasonable efforts have failed. However, the experience to date shows that real and practical challenges can be addressed effectively by working together to provide additional special class and special school places.

Through better planning at both national and local level, it is my objective that specialist education places should come on stream to meet emerging demand on a timely basis. However, the active collaboration of school communities is essential in this regard.

In relation to North County Dublin, in addition to existing provision and taking a range of demographic factors into consideration, it is anticipated that additional classes may be required in the next few years to cater for likely future demand in this area. The NCSE, through its network of local SENOs, will continue to engage with the local schools to establish additional classes as and when required.

I can also reassure the Deputy that the local SENOs continue to be available to assist and advise parents of children with special educational needs.


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