23 August, 2019 - Statutory Notices served on six schools in Dublin to provide for additional special education places

The Department of Education & Skills has today (Friday August 23rd) announced that letters have been sent to six schools and their patron in the Dublin 15 area setting out the need to make more places available for children with special educational needs.

This is the second statutory notice that has been sent to schools in the area after shortages were identified.

The letter states that Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh believes that these six schools should make additional places available for children with special educational needs.

The notice follows a series of steps that have been followed under strict rules set down under Section 37A (2) of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018).

 

:: April 18th - The legislation was formally activated following a report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) outlining insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

:: April 30th - Minister McHugh appealed to schools and patrons to make more provision for children with special education for September 2019.

:: May 27th - Minister McHugh wrote to the principals and chairpersons of boards of management in 22 schools in Dublin 15 requesting that they give serious consideration to the need for more special education provision.

:: May 28th - The establishment of the new Danu Community Special School, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB, was confirmed, with places for 40 children with special needs for the 2019/20 school year.

:: June 27th - The Department served statutory notices under Section 37A (5) on 18 schools and 2 patrons in Dublin 15. These notices communicated the Minister’s opinion that they should make additional provision for children with special educational needs.

:: 30 July & 1 August – Consultations on the need for additional special education provision took place with two patron bodies.

:: August 7th - Technical teams began site visits, with 10 schools initially, to carry out first-hand assessments of the accommodation available and consider its suitability for additional provision of special classes.

Minister McHugh said: “Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them for the new school year is a key priority for me and the Government.

“I am deeply conscious of the stress and anxiety facing parents and their children as we work to secure more places. It is a priority issue for the Department.

“I wish to thank schools and patron bodies for their help and support where they have already provided additional school places for children with special needs.

“I would prefer to see children welcomed into a school without the need for legal compulsion.

“The Education Act provides for a very transparent series of steps which can ultimately lead to the issuing of a direction to a board of management requiring it to make additional places available. The issue of the notices to the six schools today is another step in that process.

“I am determined to do my utmost to ensure every child is allocated a suitable school place.

“It is my hope that this issue be resolved in this area in the coming weeks.”

Our schools have a strong record of the inclusion of children with special educational needs. Since 2011, the number of special classes in mainstream schools has increased from 548 to 1,621 for 2019/2020 school year. The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019. 

Since the pressure on places for children with special education needs was identified in Dublin 15, there has been very intensive engagement between the NCSE, the Department, patron bodies and schools to address this issue.

All of the notices that have been served and all the representations received from schools are published on the Department’s website.

-          In total 22 schools in the Dublin 15 area were initially written to about the need for more special education provision.

-          Subsequently 18 of these 22 schools were written to outlining the need for increased provision of special education.

-          Site visits by a technical team from the Department of Education have taken place at 10 of these schools. Site visits are being planned for another three schools.

-          Eight schools have now been discounted from the process as they were deemed not to have necessary accommodation for increased special needs provision.

-          The Department is satisfied that seven schools have the necessary available accommodation for the immediate establishment of a special class.

-          One of these seven schools has agreed to establish a class so no further action is required in this case.

In the absence of the written agreement of the board of management of six schools to date, the further notice is being served on them and their patron under section 37A (6) of the Education Act 1998.

The notice confirms the Minister’s opinion that the schools should make additional education provision available and outlines the steps to be taken, together with information on the supports available.

The schools and the patron have 14 days in which to make representations to the Minister on foot of this notice.

Notes for editors

All correspondence and documentation in relation to the activation of the legislation can be found at this link: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Supports-for-Pupils-with-Special-Needs/section-37a-notices/

The Department works closely with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which has responsibility for working with families and schools and for the provision and coordination of an adequate number of specialist educational places to meet local demand throughout the country.

It is open to any school to apply to the NCSE to open a special class for children with special educational needs. There is a package of teaching, special needs assistant, training and funding supports available to assist schools.

Section 37A (2) of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) provides the Minister with power to direct schools to provide additional specialist places in areas of shortage. The legislation outlines a series of steps to be followed before a direction can be issued.

The NCSE team of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs), who are locally based, continue to be available to assist and advise schools and parents whose children have special needs. 

Funding for the provision of home tuition is available to parents as a short term arrangement for children who cannot secure a suitable placement.