For Oral Answer on : 30/06/2022
Question Number(s): 7 Question Reference(s): 34894/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education if her Department plans to establish a new special school in Midleton, County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Enabling children with special educational needs (SEN) to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for this Government.
It is also a key priority for me as Minister for Special Education & Inclusion, for my Department and for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
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.
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 special class and special school places.
The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.
A range of strategic initiatives have been put in place with the NCSE in recent years to support and expand special educational needs provision in schools throughout the country.
These initiatives include enhanced arrangements for the planning and coordination of SEN provision requirements involving my Department, the NCSE and key stakeholders such as Patrons and Management Bodies.
Our planning utilises the Department’s Geographic Information Management System (GIS) to support a strategic and coordinated approach to the delivery of SEN provision. This includes “real-time” data on capacity across the school system.
This has resulted in 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 over 300 special classes already opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school year as well as the establishment of two new special schools, including the new school which opened in Carrigaline.
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 announced a significant expansion of special school provision in Cork and Dublin.
This significant announcement provides for the establishment of a new special school in Cork as well as increased capacity in existing special schools in Cork.
Planning for the establishment and opening of the new special school has begun which includes determination of the size of the school required so that the necessary staff recruitment, school policy development and related arrangements can be put in train. The new school will be located on an interim basis in Rochestown in a premises expected to become available in early 2023.
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 over the medium and longer term. Wherever possible, the Department’s approach is to co-locate special schools on campus sites with other schools to maximise the opportunities for integration.
I can assure the Deputy that every support will be made available to progress additional special education capacity, in the shortest possible timeframe, with a particular focus in Cork on the 2022/23 school-year.