For Oral Answer on : 10/03/2022
Question Number(s): 84 Question Reference(s): 13272/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 149 of 1 February 2022 and with reference to the establishment of a new special schools in Cork for the 2021-2022 school year, if she has considered the need to support the establishment of an additional special school in the Cork area ahead of the 2022-2023 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.
It is also a key priority for me as Minister for Special Education & Inclusion.
This year, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing additional teaching and care supports for children with special educational needs.
As a result, the number of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and special school places are at unprecedented levels.
I also acknowledge that notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country, including Cork, where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.
Over the last two years, my Department and the NCSE have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special education placements ahead of each new school year.
I am satisfied that this approach is delivering.
This intensive intervention has seen an additional 300 special classes already opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school year as well as the establishment of two new special schools.
This targeted approach will continue in identifying and meeting demand for special education placements throughout the country. In terms of the area specifically referenced by the Deputy, I can confirm that the NCSE is aware of an identified need for additional special education placements for students with autism in Cork.
The Deputy will be aware that Minister Foley and I have secured a significant expansion of special school provision in Cork for the current school year and beyond. This includes the establishment of a new special school in Carrigaline as well as increasing capacity in other special schools to meet the needs of students in the Cork area.
My Department is committed, in conjunction with NCSE and the network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), 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 can assure the Deputy that every support will be made available to progress additional special class and school capacity, in the shortest possible timeframe, with a particular focus in Cork on the 2022/23 school-year.