Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
403. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the role her Department plays in ensuring the opening of an autism classroom in which a school has been sanctioned by the NCSE for such a class. [62798/21]
404. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of autism classrooms and multi-disability classrooms in Dublin 2, 4, 6, 6W, 8 and 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62799/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 403 and 404 together.
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.
The State currently spends in excess of 25% of its annual education and training budget (€9.2 Billion) on making additional provision for children with special educational needs.
This includes funding for a wide range of schemes and supports including special classes, special school places, SNAs and teachers.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide.
In the Dublin postcodes referred to by the Deputy, there are currently 48 special classes attached to mainstream schools (36 Primary and 12 Post Primary) providing special class placements for students. 17 of these special classes were newly opened in 2021.
The NCSE through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) are engaging with parents who are seeking assistance in identifying available places in mainstream schools with appropriate supports, special classes or in special schools.
The NCSE are aware of a specific identified need for special class and special school placements in South Dublin post codes and have been working with stakeholders in the South Dublin area for a number of years to meet the identified need in the area.
Individual school authorities are responsible for the establishment of special classes and it is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a special class.
As a result of ongoing engagement, the NCSE have specific plans in place to open additional special classes in schools in the post codes referred to, and are engaged in consultation with schools in these areas.
The NCSE offers additional supports and advice to schools opening special classes through seminars, Teacher Professional Learning and in school support through their network of Advisers. My Department also provides additional supports in the form of staffing, accommodation and financial resources.
A new special school, Our Lady of Hope, opened in the 2021/22 school year in Crumlin, Dublin. This new special school caters for students with autism and general learning disabilities.
My Department works in close collaboration with the NCSE to ensure that the necessary provision is put in place on a timely basis throughout the country.
Finally, I can reassure the Deputy that the local SENO's continue to be available to assist and advise both schools and the parents of children with special educational needs. Parents may contact SENOs directly using the contact details available at: ncse.ie/regional-servic.