Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Health Services Staff
83. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) will be provided with a sensory area, gross motor area, behavioural therapist, occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [59540/21]
As the Deputy is aware my Department opened the school in question this year in recognition of the significant demand for special school places in the local area. The establishment and opening of the school helped to ensure that children who required a special school place could access one, with priority in admissions given to those students who did not have a special school place previously.
The ground floor areas were completely renovated to provide classrooms with associated Assisted Use WCs and Quiet Spaces, staff and admin areas and support spaces to enable the school start up in September 2021. The layout was developed by the Department in consultation with the school and is based on optimising the space available. External secure play area was also provided.
I wish to advise the Deputy that a sensory room has been provided as part of the extensive development undertaken at the school in question. My Department is currently liaising with the principal in relation to the fit out of this room.
Special schools generally cater for children with the most complex needs. Accordingly, these schools have enhanced staffing levels with greatly reduced pupil/teacher and SNA staffing allocations.
In general, speech and language and occupational therapy supports are provided by the HSE.
On an ongoing basis, special schools also have access to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) advisory support service which advises on children with the most complex needs, including behavioural needs.
Special schools in a start-up situation are targeted for specific support. Care is taken in the planning of these schools and the provision of specialist training and support. A bespoke package of CPD and professional learning for the staff of this new school is currently taking place with inputs from my Department, the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the relevant agencies including the NCSE. This school will also continue to be supported by NEPS.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department and the NCSE will continue to prioritise this school for support.