Written answers

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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50. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of ASD units and multi-disability classrooms in County Clare. [35276/21]

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, just under 25% 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.

For the coming school year there will be over 13,600 Special Education Teachers allocated to mainstream schools, who will support class teachers to address the special educational needs and learning needs of pupils who attend mainstream schools.

This year we are also providing for two new special schools and 269 new special classes. We will have a total of 2,118 special classes in 2021/22, which is the largest number of special classes that we have ever had, and compares to 548 classes available in 2011.

18,000 Special Needs Assistants will be available to support the care needs of pupils with special educational needs in our schools.

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. 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.

Planning for future needs takes into consideration the current availability of such places and focuses on those locations where additional provision is required. However, the active collaboration of school communities is essential in this regard.

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.

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

I also wish to clarify for the Deputy that in the case of all new schools, it is general practice within my Department to include a Special Education Needs Base (SEN Base) in the accommodation brief for new school buildings, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required. Typically, a two classroom SEN Base is provided in new primary schools and a two or four classroom SEN Base is provided in new post primary schools.

Special classes can also be established within a school's existing accommodation. In such circumstances, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation for special needs purposes, should the school’s existing accommodation not be capable of hosting a special class.

In relation to details on the current status of school building projects, my Department publishes this information on its website and this information is updated regularly. Details of school building projects completed since 2010 are also published on the website.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to prioritise investment in special education.

The local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise parents of children with special educational needs. Parents may contact SENOs directly using the contact details available at: ncse.ie/regional-services-contact-list..


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