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Education | To ask the Minister for Education the availability of special needs teachers and accommodation in all primary and second-level schools throughout the country

To ask the Minister for Education the availability of special needs teachers and accommodation in all primary and second-level schools throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


The provision of education for children with special educational needs (SEN) is my top priority.

This is also an ongoing priority for Government as evidenced by the number of new special classes opened, as well as the increase in the number of special education teachers (SETs) and special needs assistants (SNAs), all of whom are working today in our schools at unprecedented levels. 

The State currently spends in excess of 25% of its annual education budget on supporting children with SEN and this represents an increase of over 60% in total expenditure since 2011.  

In Budget 2022, the Government committed to providing an additional 620 new Special Education Teacher posts for special education this year. 

This new investment is being provided to support the needs of students with SEN enrolled in mainstream classes (both primary and post primary) and in new and developing schools.  

This will bring the total number of Special Education Teachers in the mainstream school system to 14,385 in 2022 

The funding of 14,385 Special Education Teachers as at 31st December 2022 will represent an increase of 48% since 2011 when 10,575 were funded. 

Along with this, an additional 380 teachers are also being provided to support students to be enrolled in new special classes and new special schools for the 2022/2023 school year. This support will allow for the establishment of places in 287 new special classes in 2022.  Since 2011, the number of special classes has increased by 386%.  

 In relation to the issue of availability of Special Education Teachers, I wish to advise the Deputy that all teachers are qualified with the skills and competencies to support children with SEN and the new Teaching Council’s Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education further strengthens this with inclusive education as one of the core elements for all Initial Teacher Education programmes. 

My Department and the education partners are undertaking a range of actions to match the demand for teachers with supply, including in the area of SEN.  

At primary level, where the main teacher supply challenge is filling substitute positions, the measures include the significant expansion of primary substitute teacher supply panels. At post primary level, a number of higher education institutes have put in place Initial Teacher Education undergraduate programmes in priority subject areas as well as programmes to upskill registered teachers in targeted subjects. 

In order  to meet the accommodation needs of students with SEN, my Department has close engagement with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide.  When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class, or, to construct additional accommodation.  Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.  

The NCSE has additionally provided my Department with projections of future requirements for classes for students with special education requirements.  These are informing my Department’s advance planning for special class accommodation.  

This advance planning is building on the significant work to date in delivering additional classrooms for students with SEN.  Such classrooms for pupils with SEN are included as standard in the accommodation brief for new school buildings and major extension projects, unless local circumstances indicate that they will not be required. Typically, two classrooms for pupils with SEN are provided in new primary schools and four classrooms are provided in new 1,000 pupil post primary schools, with pro-rata provision for schools of other sizes.  The overall accommodation suite for students with special education needs would also generally include ancillary accommodation such as a Central Activities Space, Multi Activity Room and Quiet Spaces, as well as an outdoor Secure Play Area and Sensory Garden.  



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