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For Written Answer on : 22/11/2023
Question Number(s): 84 Question Reference(s): 51285/23
Department: Education
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
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QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Education when she expects the new special school announced by her Department for Carrigtwohill, County Cork, to open; the proposed location of the school; the number of students who will be able to attend the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


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, for my department and for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).


The vast majority of children with special educational needs are supported to attend mainstream classes with their peers. Where children with more complex needs require additional supports, special classes and special school places are provided.


For 2023, the spend by my department on special education has been substantially increased by over 10% on last year, meaning that for 2023 my department will spend over €2.6 billion on special education. Further progress has been made in Budget 2024 where 26% of my department’s budget will be dedicated to providing supports for children with special educational needs, representing a 5% increase on Budget 2023.


This includes funding to support children with special educational needs in mainstream classes; funding for new special classes and new special school places; additional special educational teachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and funding for the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).


In 2023, the number of teaching and SNA posts in our schools will increase with an additional 686 teachers and a further 1,194 SNAs. In 2024, a further 744 teachers, and 1,216 SNAs will be added to deliver up to 2,700 new places for children with special educational needs. This will mean we will have over 41,500 qualified and committed people in our schools who are focused wholly and exclusively on supporting children with special educational needs.


The NCSE has the responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs.


Over the last number of years, my department and the NCSE have introduced a number of strategic initiatives to plan for and provide sufficient special class and special school places.
These initiatives are bearing fruit with almost 1,300 new special classes sanctioned and seven new special schools established over the last four years.


My department engage intensely with the NCSE in relation to the forward planning of new special classes and additional special school places.  This forward planning work is well underway ahead of the 2024/25 school year.  This work involves a detailed review of statistical data in relation to forecasting demand for special class places, an analysis of available school accommodation, consideration of improved data sharing arrangements and a particular focus on the provision of special classes at post-primary level.


As a result of this forward planning, earlier this year, Minister Foley and l announced the establishment of two special schools for the 2023/24 school year, with further capacity being expanded in 11 other special schools.


Along with the two new special schools, 387 new special classes – 253 at primary and 134 at post-primary level – have been sanctioned by the NCSE for opening in the 2023/24 school year.


In relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, Carrigtwohill Community special school has completed their enrolment process and appointed a new school principal. The school is progressing the recruitment of teaching and SNA staff. Building works to complete the school are also progressing. Work is ongoing to open the school as soon as is possible once recruitment is progressed and building works are completed.


The school under the patronage of Cork ETB, will open initially in available accommodation on a new campus development in Carrigtwohill. A longer-term location for the school is being progressed by the department. The school has initially enrolled 18 students for this school year. This is the third special school under the patronage of Cork ETB.


Parents seeking special class placements for their children are advised to contact the NCSE locally so that their needs can be taken into account for planning purposes. Local special educational needs organisers (SENOs) remain available to assist and advise parents of children with special educational needs. Parents may contact SENOs directly using the contact details available at: www.ncse.ie/regional-services-contact-list 

My department and the NCSE are committed to delivering an education system that is of the highest quality and where every child and young person feels valued and is actively supported and nurtured to reach their full potential.