For Oral Answer on : 24/11/2022
Question Number(s): 139 Question Reference(s): 57677/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education the progress that has been made by her Department in the establishment of a special school specific to the east Cork area; 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 2022, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing a wide range of schemes and supports for children with special educational needs.
For 2023, this spend will be substantially increased by over 10%, 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.
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.
In 2023, there will be a significant investment in the expansion of the National Council for Special Education, with a total full-year investment of €13 million, in over 160 additional staff. This investment is being undertaken so that the NSCE can respond effectively, compassionately and quickly to the increased need in our education system so that children and their families are fully supported and achieve the best possible education outcomes.
My Department and the NCSE continue to work very closely in planning for the delivery of new places required to meet forecasted demand.
I am satisfied that this approach is delivering. As of 31st October, there have been 393 new special classes open for the 2022/2023 school year, bringing the total of special classes to 2,545 opened nationwide. The 393 new special classes for 2022/23 is broken down by 260 at primary level and 133 at post primary level.
For 2023, a further 370 special classes will open, taking the total number of special classes to over 2,900 in 2023. Funding is also being provided for additional special school places.
My Department is engaging intensely with the NCSE in relation to the forward planning of new special classes and new 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.
The Deputy will also be aware of the significant expansion of special school provision in Cork in recent years, and which includes the establishment of a new special school in Rochestown, Cork and increased capacity in other special schools.
There has been a growing demand for special school placements in Cork in recent years.
Cork Education and Training Board, as patron body, in conjunction with the NCSE and the Department of Education continue to advance planning for the opening of the new Rochestown Community Special School.
The school will cater for an initial enrolment of up to 30 students and, on a phased basis is expected to grow its capacity to provide up to 64 school places, pending a new permanent school building being provided.
The admission process has recently been completed with places prioritised for children who had no offer of a special school place for the 2022/23 school year.
Staff recruitment, school policy development and related arrangements are all underway with the school expected to begin the transition of students to school in early 2023.
The Department continues to consider strategic locations for special school provision, including the eastern side of Cork City, with a view to continuing the expansion of special school capacity as necessary.
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.