Education | Special needs education in primary and secondary schools
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which primary and second level school places as well as adequate special needs classes continue to be made available in such numbers as to meet the demand; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy will be aware, for school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System to anticipate school place demand. Information from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and information on residential development activity is used for this purpose. Additionally, Project Ireland 2040 population and housing targets inform my Department’s projections of school place requirements.
It is important to note that where enrolment pressures arise, it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:
- Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area.
- School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area.
- Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school, they are not available to all pupils.
- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area.
My Department is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues across school planning areas through ongoing discussions with the relevant school patrons and authorities.
This close engagement will allow my Department to identify at an early stage particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.
Under Project Ireland 2040, the education sector will receive a total of approximately €4.4 billion capital investment over the period 2021-2025. This significant investment allows us to move forward with certainty on our ambitious plans and deliver high quality building projects, with a real focus on sustainability, for school communities across Ireland.
Approximately 1,200 school building projects under the Large Scale and Additional Accommodation Scheme are currently in progress across the various stages of planning, design, tender and construction – most of which are expected to be either under construction or completed in the period up to 2025. The current status of large-scale projects being delivered under Project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department’s website at, www.gov.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.
School place needs across all school planning areas will continue to be kept under review, using refreshed Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and other updated information as they become available.
In regards to Special Needs places The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide.
My Department and the NCSE are working closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process to ensure a targeted approach to meet demand for special needs placements ahead of each new school-year and is committed to delivering an inclusive educational environment for all pupils.
My Department and the NCSE continue to work closely in planning for the delivery of new places required to meet forecasted demand.
Through this intensive intervention, for the 2022/2023 school-year we have seen 383 new special classes open, bringing the total of special classes to 2,535 opened nationwide for the 2022/23 school-year. The 383 new special classes for 22/23 is broken down by 253 at primary level and 130 at post primary level.
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