Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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106. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of special needs assistants for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23813/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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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.

The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme is designed to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated.

It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

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

In relation to school in question the NCSE have confirmed that the schools current SNA allocation is 8.83 posts. There are 4.5 SNAs allocated to 2 ASD Special Classes and there are 4.33 SNA posts allocated to mainstream.

The NCSE state the school applied for an SNA exceptional review in June of 2021 – this application was incomplete and the school as advised accordingly on 10th of June 2021. The school applied for another SNA exceptional review in June 2021. This application was reviewed by a SENO and deemed invalid an outcome letter was issued to the school and the ticket was closed on the 9th July 2021.

The school submitted an appeal of the outcome of the Exceptional review, this was processed in line with NCSE procedure and the appeal was not upheld.

The NCSE have confirmed that the school has submitted 5 requests for support in the past 2 years. Support calls/visits were completed for all of these with the exception of the most recent one which was submitted in April 2022 and currently has an Advisor assigned who will engage with the school in due course.

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 in order to observe the current deployment of SNA support in the school setting.

The timeframe for concluding a review can vary depending on the school context or the nature of the information provided.

Where a school is dissatisfied with how their exceptional review has been processed or is dissatisfied with the outcome of their exceptional review they can appeal. Applications for Appeal may be submitted through the NCSE Schools Portal: ncse.ie/school-support.

All schools have the contact details of their local SENO, and the SENO is available to offer assistance and advice to the school. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I hope the above is of some assistance to you.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
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107. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is only one secondary school in Tallaght with an autism class; the steps that she is taking to ensure that secondary schools in Tallaght have the training and resources necessary to meet the needs of all children with autism in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23803/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.

This year, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing a wide range of schemes and supports for children with special educational needs.

This includes additional teaching and care supports.

As a result, the number of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide.

Over the last two years, my Department and the NCSE have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special needs placements ahead of each new school-year

I am satisfied that this more joined up approach is delivering. Through this intensive intervention, we have seen over 300 special classes, providing over 1,800 new places, opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school-year.

I also acknowledge that notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

In terms of the Tallaght area, I can confirm that the NCSE is aware of an identified need for additional special classes for students with autism in this area. This is also the case in the broader South Dublin region where work has been underway with stakeholders for a number of years to meet the demand for places.

NCSE has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

NCSE is continuing to engage with schools regarding the establishment of additional special classes for 2022/23 and beyond. There are specific plans in place to open additional special classes and every support will be made available to progress their opening in the shortest possible timeframe with a particular focus on September next.

It is of course open to any school to engage with the NCSE to establish a special class.

The Deputy will also be aware of increased special school provision generally with two new special schools opened in Carrigaline and Crumlin in the current school-year and further expansion planned in 2022/23 which Minister Foley and I were pleased to announce in March.

We have also secured funding for the opening of 287 new special classes from September next.

My Department is committed, in conjunction with the NCSE, to continue to work with parents, schools, patrons and all stakeholders to ensure that there are sufficient appropriate places for students with additional needs and to support all students to achieve their potential.

I want to reassure the Deputy also that 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.

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