To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps her Department is taking
to address the significant shortage of post primary school places for children
with autism in north west Kildare for September 2015; her views that
transporting children upward of 50km for suitable post primary school places is
unacceptable for children on the autism spectrum; the plans in place to
adequately provide for the significant number of children, who will progress
from primary school autism units in north west Kildare to post primary level
beyond September 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– Anthony Lawlor.
Minister Jan O’Sullivan
The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to ensuring that all
children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism, can have
access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school
settings through the primary and post primary school network.
Such placements facilitate access to individualised education programmes which
may draw from a range of appropriate educational interventions, delivered by
fully qualified professional teachers, with the support of special needs
assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.
Young people with autism transitioning from primary school placements have a
number of alternative options including mainstream placement in post primary
school with support, placement in a special class in a mainstream school or
placement in a special class in a special school.
The Deputy will also be aware that the National Council for Special Education
(NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs
Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs
assistants to schools to support students with Special Educational Needs,
including Autism. It is also the role of the NCSE to make appropriate
arrangements to establish special classes in schools in various geographical
areas as required.
SENOs engage with schools annually in order to plan for, and to open, new
special classes each year in order to ensure there are sufficient special class
placements available at primary and post primary school level to meet demand in
a given area.
For young people with autism who continue to require special provision in a
post-primary school there are special classes established across the area
referred to by the Deputy. There is also special provision in bordering areas.
The NCSE has advised that special classes are established where possible to
avoid long commutes for children and to try to keep children within their
community. However, not all schools are in a position to establish such
provision at a particular point in time. SENOs, on behalf of the NCSE, are
actively engaging with schools to establish additional provision where needed.
This includes classes at post primary level for pupils with autism based on
current and predicted demand.
The NCSE is currently considering applications by schools to establish new
special classes for the coming 2015/16 school year. The NCSE has advised that
there are additional classes planned to commence in September 2015 in the area
referred to by the Deputy.