148. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) which provides special services for autistic children is oversubscribed; his views on whether the new school that is being built in 2019 can cater for that oversubscription; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19656/18 asked on 08 May 2018)
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 149 together.
My Department provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools, which have enrolled students with special educational needs, including those with Autism in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.
Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of Special Needs Assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
My Department therefore provides for a continuum of provision which includes mainstream school placements with additional supports, or for pupils who require more specialist interventions, special school and special class placements.
This network includes 130 ASD early intervention classes, 635 primary ASD classes and 277 post-primary ASD classes in mainstream schools and 125 Special schools of which 20 are ASD special schools.
Students with ASD should be included in mainstream schools unless this is not in their best interests or the interests of those with whom they are to be educated. Some students with ASD with more complex special educational needs may be supported in a special class in a mainstream school.
Others may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school.
This decision is based a recommendation contained within a professional assessment in consultation with the NCSE.
The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), in consultation with the relevant education partners, is responsible for planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs.
The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year, and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that need.
Parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local SENO who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child. Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE has advised that the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) is continuing to liaise with the parents of the child referred to by the Deputy and has identified a number of suitable school placements in which they may enrol their child for the forthcoming school year.
The school referred to by the Deputy is a special school which provides for the special educational needs of children with Autism who have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school.
The school is due to proceed to tender at the end of this month for the delivery of a new 2-storey 6-classroom base Special Needs school including a General Purpose Hall, all staff and pupil facilities and ancillary spaces.
The NCSE have informed my Department that the additional placements this project will deliver will meet the projected need for students with ASD and complex needs requiring a special school in the area.