Written answers

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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102. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills given the shortage of special needs and ASD school places in Kildare South, when he anticipates the ASD unit in a school (details supplied) will be ready to accept pupils; the timeframe surrounding it; if he has plans in place to cater for the parents children needing places, should the opening of the unit be delayed who have nowhere else to send their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23694/23]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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I would like to thank the Deputy for the question and would like to advise the following:

Enabling children with special educational needs (SEN) to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government.

It is also a key priority for me as Minister for Special Education & Inclusion, for my Department and for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).  The vast majority of children with special educational needs are supported to attend mainstream classes with their peers. Where children with more complex needs require additional supports, special classes and special school places are provided.

For 2023, the spend by my Department on special education will be substantially increased by over 10% on last year, meaning that for 2023 my Department will spend over €2.6 billion providing supports to children and young people with special educational needs and their schools.

This level of educational funding and support is unprecedented and represents in excess of 27% of the Department’s total allocation for 2023.

This includes funding to support children with SEN in mainstream classes; funding for new special classes and new special school places; additional special educational teachers and special needs assistants. 

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.

Over the last two to three years, my Department and the NCSE have introduced a number of strategic initiatives to plan for and provide sufficient special class and special school places.

These initiatives are bearing fruit with over 600 new special classes sanctioned at primary level, almost 300 new special classes sanctioned at post-primary level and five new special schools established over the last three years.

My Department is engaging intensely with the NCSE in relation to the forward planning of new special classes and additional special school places.  This work involves a detailed review of statistical data in relation to forecasting demand for special class places, consideration of improved data sharing arrangements and a particular focus on the provision of special classes at post-primary level. 

As a result of this forward planning, on the 12th of April, Minister Foley and I announced the establishment of 2 new special schools for the 2023/2024 school year, with further capacity being expanded in 11 other special schools.

Along with the two new special schools, 305 new special classes – 197 at primary and 108 at post-primary level – have been sanctioned by the NCSE for opening in the 2023/24 school year, with more to be confirmed in the coming weeks. 

Of these new classes, 5 are in Co. Kildare, with 3 at primary level and 2 at post-primary level. These new classes will bring the total number of special classes in Co. Kildare to 109, 81 at primary and 28 at post-primary.

In relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, my Department's Planning and Building unit has approved a new extension, however, is currently awaiting a revised stage 1 report from the school authority.  Until this is received my Department cannot progress with the building. 

My Department and the NCSE are committed to ensuring that sufficient special education placements will be available for children for the coming school year 2023/2024.

Parents seeking special class placements for their children are advised to contact the NCSE locally so that their needs can be taken into account for planning purposes. The local special educational needs organisers (SENOs) remain 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-servic. 

Information on the list of schools with special classes, the types and locations of these classes is published on the NCSE website and is available at 

I want to reassure you 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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