QUESTION NO: 105
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton)
by Deputy Mattie McGrath
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 18/01/2017
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the efforts being made to ensure that children that are currently attending an ASD unit at preschool level will have their needs met in their communities at primary school level; his plans to develop ASD Units at primary level in Clonmel, County Tipperary; his further plans to develop an ASD unit at second level which is accessible for girls in Clonmel, County Tipperary; the detail of the current need for such units based on the number of children diagnosed with autism in Clonmel, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to ensuring that all children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.
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.
In respect of children with ASD who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education, they may be enrolled in special classes or special schools where more intensive and supportive interventions are provided.
There are approximately 14,000 students with ASD in the school system.
• 63% are educated in mainstream classes
• 23% are educated in special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools; and
• 14% are educated in special schools
The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support students with Special Educational Needs, including Autism. It is also the role of the NCSE to make appropriate arrangements to establish special classes in schools in communities where the need for such classes has been identified.
Special classes for children with ASD within mainstream schools are intended for children who, by virtue of their level of Special Educational Needs, cannot reasonably be educated in a mainstream class setting, but who can still attend their local school in a special class with a lower pupil–teacher ratio of 6:1 at primary level and 6:1.5 at post primary level, and also have Special Needs Assistant support normally amounting to 2 SNAs for a class of 6 children.
Progress in developing this network has been significant and in addition to the special school placements there are currently 1,153 special classes throughout the country at primary and post primary level of which 889 are for children with Autism. Of these, 127 are ASD early intervention classes, 525 are primary ASD classes and 237 are post-primary ASD classes.
There are 42 ASD classes in Co. Tipperary, including 8 Early Intervention Classes for children who are not yet school going age, 20 primary school classes and 14 post primary level classes in mainstream schools. This results in the provision of 48 places in early intervention classes, 120 places for primary school pupils and 84 places for post primary pupils in Co. Tipperary. There are currently 5 ASD special classes at primary level in Clonmel.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs, including those in Co. Tipperary, are available on www.ncse.ie in county order.
The NCSE, in consultation with the relevant education partners, must take into account the present and future potential need, location and sustainability in looking to establish special classes in certain areas. In this regard the NCSE has advised that they are continuing to engage with schools in the area referred to by the Deputy in opening special classes where there is an identified need for special class provision.
The NCSE recently launched guidelines for Boards of Management and Principals of Primary and Post Primary schools which provide information on setting up and organising special classes. These guidelines are available to download from www.ncse.ie.