Thursday, 23 September 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
108. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to improve supports for children with special needs and to ensure that such supports are put in place in a timely manner and eliminate delays in sanctioning posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45434/21]
I understand the Deputy is referring to the arrangements for the allocation of SNAs to schools.
The provision of education for children with special needs is an ongoing priority for Government. The numbers of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels.
The Department will spend approximately €2 Billion, or over 20% of its total educational budget on making additional provision for children with special educational needs in 2021.
This represents an increase of over 50% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 Billion per annum was provided.
For the 2021/22 school year 2,118 special classes have been provided. This is an increase of 269 classes from the previous school year and will ensure that approximately 12,700 special class places will be available this year, including 1,600 new special class places.
Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased by almost 386% from 548 to 2,118 for the 2021/2022 school year.
Budget 2021 provided for an additional 990 additional SNAs for allocation to schools, bringing the total numbers to 18,000 by December 2021.
This allocation of SNAs is to meet the care needs of pupils in 2021 and will enable the establishment of new special classes, creation of new places in special schools, support children in mainstream classes for the 2021/22 school year.
This will represent an increase of increase of 70% in the number of SNAs provided since 2011 at which point 10,575 SNAs were available.
The NCSE have published the SNA allocations on their website www.ncse.ie.
Where circumstances change during the course of the 2021/22 school year that materially increase the level of care need in a school to the extent that the school can clearly demonstrate that it cannot be met within the existing SNA allocation, the school may apply to the NCSE for a review. Detailed information on the NCSE exceptional review process is published on the NCSE website ncse.ie/for-schools.
The NCSE manages the exceptional review process and handles each case individually. Some review requests can be concluded as an office based exercise, whilst others require a school to be visited. The timeframe for concluding a review can vary depending on the school context or the nature of the information provided.
The NCSE has responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs including the allocation of SNAs and reviews. The Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations. Accordingly, the question has been referred to the NCSE for direct reply.
109. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans for increasing of ASD places in the Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 6W areas; the timeline on the delivery of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45449/21]
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.
The level of investment in special education, at almost €2 billion, is at an all-time high.
An additional 269 special classes are being opened this school-year. This will bring the total number of special classes nationally to 2,118. The new classes provide 1,600 additional places, spread right throughout the country.
Two new special schools are also opening this year, one in Dublin and one in Cork.
Despite this unprecedented increase, I am very aware of the need for further specialist education places in a small number of areas, mainly concentrated in Dublin.
Currently, there are fifteen special classes for students with autism attached to mainstream primary and post-primary schools in Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 6W, ten of which opened this September. This also includes an Early Intervention class, providing placements for students in the area.
I acknowledge that any delay in securing a suitable school placement can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.
Delays can happen for a variety of reasons including, for example, assessment reports for children becoming available over the summer period while schools were closed. In other cases, parents may change their preference for a class placement and request that their child move from a mainstream class to a special class.
My Department and the NCSE have therefore put in place new planning structures and procedures to ensure sufficient places become available to meet local need. As new need emerges, there is a cohesive response available to ensure places become available in a timely and targeted way.
The willingness of school communities to open special classes is central to ensuring that every child can obtain a suitable placement. My Department and the NCSE can provide the necessary funding, teaching and SNA resources, professional supports and training so that the required special class places can be provided as soon as possible.
Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) are working closely with parents and schools to address the needs of the Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 6W areas. My Department will support their work in any way necessary to ensure the required number of school places become available as quickly as possible.