Skip to content

Education | Special Needs programmes availability

To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which special needs’ classes and special needs’ teachers continue to be available in all schools through the country given the need to ensure a universal right to education for those children requiring special teaching; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


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).
For 2022, my Department will spend in excess of €2.3 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing a wide range of schemes and supports for children with special educational needs.
For 2023, this spend will be substantially increased, by over 10%, meaning that my Department will spend over €2.6 billion on special education.
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 for new special classes, new special school places, additional special educational teachers and special needs assistants.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.

As of 31st October, there have been 393 new special classes open for the 2022/2023 school year, bringing the total of special classes to 2,545 opened nationwide. The 393 new special classes for 2022/23 is broken down by 260 at primary level and 133 at post primary level

Budget 2022 provided for an additional 620 special education teachers which brings the total provision to 14,385 in 2022.
Budget 2023 provides for an additional 206 new SET posts in special education.  This new investment is required to meet the needs of students with special educational needs enrolled in mainstream classes.  
This will bring the total number of SETs in the mainstream school system to 14,591 in 2023

Provision for 14,591 SET’s as at 31st December 2023 will represent an increase of 49.8% since 2011 at which time 9,740 were provided.
The Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.
Under the allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.
The SET allocation model has been in place since 2017. The allocation model, which was recommended by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), is designed to distribute the total available number of Special Education Teachers across primary and post primary schools based on the relative need of each school, as evidenced by a number of key indicators.
Special Education Teachers provide additional teaching support for students with special educational needs enrolled in mainstream classes in primary and post primary schools.
The SET model is a fairer and more transparent way of allocating teaching resources to schools.
The SET Model represented a significant shift in the way that students with SEN are supported in mainstream classes.  Previously, students needing additional teaching support required a diagnosis in order to access support which caused delays in providing the support and also imposed a burden on both schools and parents. The change in policy was welcomed by both schools and parents. The Model is based on the principle that those students with the greatest need receive the most support.
The model encourages schools to support students with SEN in mainstream classes alongside their peers.  In fact most students with SEN are enrolled these classes. This approach is also consistent with the EPSEN Act
When the SET model was introduced it was designed to be updated on a regular basis so as to distribute the total available resources across the school system based on profiled need. Because the level of student need may change in a school over time, some schools will gain under this distribution, with these gains balanced by equivalent reductions in schools where the model indicates reduced need. Re-profiling is the means of ensuring that new or increasing need in schools is met by transfer/redistribution of teaching resources from other schools whose need has reduced as shown by the model.  
Schools are frontloaded with resources, based on each school’s profile. The allocations to schools include provision to support all pupils in the schools, including where a child receives a diagnosis after the allocation is received by a school, or where there are newly enrolling pupils to the school.

The additional Special Education Teaching (SET) Resources which are provided to a school under the SET model cannot be used for mainstream class teaching, or to reduce the pupil teacher ratio in mainstream classes, or to provide additional subjects for pupils who do not have special educational needs.

Schools must ensure that the additional Special Educational Needs Teaching supports are used in their entirety to support pupils identified with special educational needs, learning support needs, and additional literacy needs.

The SET resources provided to schools is based on special education needs of the pupils enrolled in the school and the resources must be utilised to ensure that students with special education needs are supported so that they can achieve the best possible educational outcome.
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 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: