Speaking recently in the Dáil, I questioned the Department for Education regarding autism specific education in Dublin 15 & Dublin 7 for children at primary and secondary level.
I asked the Minister about the promises he made regarding an autsim specific school. He had previously agreed that there is a need for special school for children who are severely affected by autism spectrum disorder, ASD. Many of them also have serious behavioural disorders, with the result that children as young as six years of age are being excluded from primary school, which all can agree is nonsensical.
I informed the Minister of the very large public meeting in Tyrrelstown that I recently attended, at which I heard in detail the concerns of parents whose children are affected by ASD. On behalf of these parents, I asked if the Minister had a definite agreement with the Government to launch the special school? When the school will be complete? And if it will open on a temporary basis for the upcoming academic year?
The Minister in his reply said:
“I want to assure the Deputy that concerns regarding a shortage of appropriate school places for next September are being taken very seriously. The National Council for Special education (NCSE) has formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.
“I wrote to the local parents committee on the 26th April and my Department, the NCSE and the Office of An Taoiseach were represented at a meeting with Parents to discuss this issue on the 29th April. My Department, the NCSE and school patrons are actively engaging to address this issue. As a result of these efforts, three special classes catering for 18 students are on track to open in September 2019.
“In addition, the NCSE met with stakeholders, including education providers, in the Dublin 15 area on 30 April and further engagement with the objective of opening further special classes is ongoing. If existing schools, including special schools, cannot provide the necessary number of places, then other arrangements will be made following any necessary consultation with parents and schools.
“To this end, I can advise that options are currently being examined and scoped out, in relation to establishing additional special school places to cater for the needs of children in Dublin 15. My Department officials are engaging with patron bodies including Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board with regard to suitable space which may be made available immediately for the purpose of providing the required placements. The NCSE will keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned to advise them of progress and identify placements as they become available.
“A scoping exercise is being carried out to see whether there is additional capacity in any other schools. I acknowledge that far more than 18 students are affected by this issue, as has been publicly articulated at the meetings and elsewhere, as well as privately. I am reaching out publicly today to schools which believe they can provide additional capacity. That is one route which can be pursued, but it is not an overall solution for all of the students concerned, which is why we are seeking a solution in conjunction with the ETB.”