News & Media

ASD places are still a problem for parents in South Kildare

19 May 2020

Statement by Senator Mark Wall
Spokesperson on Defence, Tourism and Sport

Senator Mark Wall has urged the Minister for Education to engage further with all schools in South Kildare  and to provide additional ASD units and places. Senator Wall was commenting after the Minister responded to a Dáil question on the issue.

"In his reply the Minister told us that there are at present 77 special classes in Co Kildare. Out of those, 18 are at post primary level and all are ASD, while 59 classes are at primary level. Out of those 59 primary classes, 6 are ASD early intervention and 48 are ASD. The Minister has said that last year's Budget provided for an extra 265 special class teachers this year.  went on to state that “Budget 2020 provided for an additional 265 special

The Minister also said in his response “Last year, the NCSE indicated that parents in Dublin 15, South Dublin, Kildare and Cork were experiencing difficulty securing school places for their children”. He concluded his reply by stating “that as Minister he has a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed”. However he only uses this power where all consultation with the school providers and the National Council for Special Education has ended.

Senator Wall concluded by stating that he is dealing with a growing number of parents who are finding it more difficult to find an ASD place for their child.

"I am very much aware of the terrific work that many schools in South Kildare are offering to children on the spectrum but their facilities are limited in many cases and they need the assistance of the Minister.

"It is a fact that there is not enough places available for those that need them and the Minister has already identified this area as an area of difficulty.

"As the Government plan to re-open our schools in the coming weeks, I urgently ask the Minister to use his powers to engage with the educational providers in the area and assist those families who are deeply concerned about where their young children will start or continue their education .

ENDS

For more please ring Mark on 0833341488

Full reply to Dáil question tabled on behalf of Senator Mark Wall:

Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased almost threefold, from 548 to 1,618 for the 2019/2020 school year; with 1,353 of these catering for children with autism.
167 new special classes have been established nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 156 are new autism special classes, comprising 6 Early Intervention, 100 primary, and 50 post-primary autism classes.

There are currently 77 special classes in Co Kildare, of which 18 are post primary, all ASD and 59 are primary of which 6 are ASD early intervention and 48 are ASD.
A list of special classes for September 2019 is available on the NCSE website at:

https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NCSE-List-of-Special-Classes-for-September-2019.pdf 

Budget 2020 provided for an additional 265 special class teachers in 2020, which will allow for the opening of additional classes where required.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide; has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents; and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, a range of supports, including capital funding, is made available to the school. My Department works closely with the NCSE in this regard.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places nationally to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required.  However there are some parts of the country where the NCSE has faced challenges in getting schools and their patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

Iknow that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved. Last year, the NCSE indicated that parents in Dublin 15, South Dublin, Kildare and Cork were experiencing difficulty securing school places for their children. 

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed. The legislation has been used twice in Dublin to address shortages of special class and school places.

The legislation contains a procedure through which the NCSE can test the capacity of schools in an area to provide more special education places and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education places available. The Act prescribes a set of steps to follow which includes extensive consultation with schools and their patron bodies.

The initial step in the process is for the NCSE to inform the Minister that there is a shortage of places in a particular area.  

The NCSE will only activate the legislation after it has taken all reasonable efforts to get schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide additional special class or school places.

I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

The NCSE's Local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise both schools and the parents of children with special educational needs in relation to special class provision.