Education | Access to special needs school places at primary and second level schools
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which special needs school places are available at primary and second level schools throughout Kildare North and the rest of the country; if sufficient accommodation in this regard has been made for September next and thereafter; 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 to receive an education is a priority for this Government.
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 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 additional teaching and care supports. It also includes funding for the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) for an additional 54 psychologists to provide services to special schools and special classes.
In 2022, funding for an additional 980 teachers and 1,165 special needs assistants was provided. For 2023, the number of teaching and SNA posts in our schools will increase with an additional 686 teachers and a further 1,194 special needs assistants in our schools next year.
For the first time ever we will have over 19,000 teachers working in the area of special education and over 20,000 Special needs assistants. Together we have almost 40,000 qualified and committed people in our schools who are focused wholly and exclusively on supporting children with special educational needs.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children 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 and almost 300 new special classes sanctioned at post-primary level.
We have seen 392 new special classes open for the 2022/23 school year, bringing the total of special classes to 2,544 opened nationwide for the 2022/23 school-year. The 392 new special classes for 2022/23 is broken down by 259 at primary level and 133 at post primary level.
There are a total of 105 special classes in Co. Kildare. Of these, 79 special classes are at primary level and 26 are at post primary level. 20 new special classes at primary and 9 new special classes at post-primary have been provided in Co. Kildare over the last 3 years.
My Department is engaging intensely with the NCSE in relation to the forward planning of new special classes and additional special school places for the next school year 2023/2024. This work involves a detailed review of statistical data in relation to forecasting demand for special class and special school places, consideration of improved data sharing arrangements and a particular focus on the provision of special classes at post-primary level.
At local level, the NCSE is continuing to engage with schools regarding the establishment of additional special classes in both mainstream and special schools for the next school year 2023/2024. Every support will be made available to schools to progress the opening of special classes in the shortest possible timeframe.
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 www.ncse.ie
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 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.
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