Written answers

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Mark WardMark Ward (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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847. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a post-primary ASD unit for children in north Clondalkin, Dublin 22; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14363/21]

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.

This year, over 20% of the total Education budget or €2bn will be invested in supporting children with special educational needs.  As a result, the numbers of special education teachers, SNAs and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

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.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide. NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and special school places nationally, to meet identified need. This process is ongoing.

Notwithstanding the extent of the investment in special education and the supports which have been put in place, I am also very conscious that there are some parts of the country, including the area referenced, where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

I can assure the Deputy that the NCSE is acutely aware of these concerns and is continuing its engagement with schools, patron bodies, parents and other stakeholders to bring the required additional special education placements on stream.

I understand that the NCSE has specific plans in place to open additional special classes in post primary schools for the 2021/22 school year both in Dublin 22 and other nearby areas including Dublin 20.

I am also advised that NCSE is currently engaged with other schools in the immediate and adjacent areas with a view to supporting them in opening new special classes to cater for the identified needs of students in the community.

Families can be reassured that as soon as schools notify NCSE of vacancies within their specialist class provision, SENOs work locally to ensure parents are made aware of these places.

Information on the availability of special class places can change as the school year progresses. Parents of students seeking special class placements are therefore advised to maintain contact with their local SENO whose contact details can be found at: .

My Department will continue to support the NCSE and schools through the provision of the necessary funding and capital investment to ensure all children are successful in accessing an education and I want to reassure you that the delivery of the necessary additional provision is being progressed as an absolute priority.

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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848. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if clarity will be provided on the requirements for a specialist autism unit (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14372/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Special class provision in mainstream primary and post primary schools is a central element of the continuum of education provision in place to support children with special educational needs.  This continuum extends from full-time placement in mainstream classes and special classes through to full time enrolment in special schools with a number of options in between.

My Department supports this continuum through a range of dedicated supports in line with the needs of the child.  These supports include the provision of teachers, special needs assistants and psychological support from the National Psychological Service.  In addition, there are specialist supports provided by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) including extensive professional development programmes for principals and teachers and advice for schools, parents and families.

The overall aim of the continuum is to ensure that every child is supported in the journey of realising their potential through education in an inclusive and caring school environment.

I am keenly aware of the huge contribution made by all Principals, including teaching Principals, in supporting this continuum.

Currently, the allocation of an administrative principal to a school is on the basis of a school's enrolment on the previous 30th September, as set out in Appendix B of the staffing schedule.  The enrolment required for the appointment of an administrative principal is currently 176, 143 and 116 in ordinary schools, DEIS Band 2 schools and DEIS Band 1 schools respectively.  Where schools are operating 2 or more Autism Special Classes, the required enrolment for the allocation of an administrative principal is reduced to 113 for ordinary and DEIS Band 2 schools and 81 in DEIS Band 1 schools.

There are no plans to change these arrangements at this time. 

As part of the additional funding to schools this year, €10.2m has been allocated specifically to support Principals and Deputy Principals who undertake teaching duties in primary schools.  This funding will provide each teaching principal with a minimum of one release day per week, and release days for Deputy Principals in those schools that have an existing administrative principal for this school year.  More than 1,700 primary schools with teaching principals have benefitted from the increase in release days. 

Teaching Principals in schools with special classes are allocated a further 4 release days, in addition to the 37 allocated to each school with a teaching principal.

There are arrangements in place for schools to cluster their principal release days into a full-time post which will assist teaching principals to more effectively plan their release days for the benefit of the school.


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