Written answers

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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100. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will review a matter (details supplied); if her Department has any plans to change the criteria for schools; if she will review same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37239/20]

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.  Next year, over 20% of the total Education budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special educational needs.  

This investment will support the provision of over 1,200 additional special class places.

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.

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. The active collaboration of school communities is essential in this regard. 

Currently, my Department does not have a policy supporting the establishment of special classes in fee-charging schools.

In establishing a special class, the NCSE is required to satisfy itself that the class is both sustainable and available to all of the pupils who may need special class placements in a particular area.

As Minister, I also 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.

Parents should be advised to contact their local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) if they experience any difficulty in getting a suitable placement. 

NCSE is also currently undertaking Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs.

This Policy Advice is to be completed and a report submitted by NCSE in December 2020. It will then be considered by my Department.

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