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EDUCATION: SEN Requirements

To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which adequate provision continues to be made to meet the requirements as set out by the various school authorities and boards of managements at all primary and second level schools throughout the country and in County Kildare; the extent to which special needs accommodation and classes is likely to feature in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


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).

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

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

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 special class and special school places.

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

A range of strategic initiatives have been put in place with the NCSE in recent years to support and expand SEN provision in schools throughout the country.

These initiatives include enhanced arrangements for the planning and coordination of SEN provision requirements involving my Department, the NCSE and key stakeholders such as Patrons and Management Bodies.  

Our planning utilises the Department’s Geographic Information Management System (GIS) to support a strategic and coordinated approach to the delivery of SEN provision.  This includes “real-time” data on capacity across the school system.

This has resulted in a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special education placements ahead of each new school year.

I am satisfied that this approach is delivering.

This intensive intervention has seen over 300 special classes already opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school year as well as the establishment of two new special schools in Cork and Dublin.

In terms of Kildare,  I can confirm that the NCSE is aware of an identified need for additional special classes for students with autism in primary and post-primary schools.  Work has been underway with stakeholders for a number of years to meet the demand for places.

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

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.

I can assure the Deputy that every support will be made available to progress additional special education capacity, in the shortest possible timeframe, with a particular focus on the 2022/23 school-year.

I also want to reassure the Deputy 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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