Parliamentary Question for the Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 25/03/2014
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the amount his Department is spending on the provision of supports for students with special educational needs in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to the protection of frontline services for pupils with special educational needs. The level of resources devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained and increased for this school year. Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department – some €1.3 billion – was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2012/13. The provision for the 2013/14 school year is in line with expenditure last year and shows that the overall level of funding for special education has been protected, and increased, despite the ongoing severe financial position. The provision now includes 10,745 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), over 10,700 Learning Support and Resource Teachers, provision for over 740 Special Classes attached to mainstream schools at reduced pupil teacher ratios, enhanced capitation for special schools and special classes and provision for special transport arrangements and assistive technology support.
The policy of my Department is that children with special educational needs should be included in mainstream placements with additional supports provided. All schools and all school places are therefore available for children with special educational needs to be enrolled to. Supports will continue to be allocated to schools to support pupils with special educational needs.
In circumstances where children with special educational need require more specialised interventions, special school or special class places are also available. 740 Special Classes are being provided for mainstream schools for the current school year. This includes 118 new special classes which have been opened this year.
The Deputy will be aware that the previous Government capped the number of SNA posts at 10,575 in December 2010. In December 2013, this Government agreed to increase the cap on SNAs by 390, increasing by 170 posts to 10,745 at the end of 2013, and by a further 220 posts to 10,965 at the end of 2014. These additional posts provided will enable the National Council for Special Education to continue to allocate support to children who need it in order that they may fully participate in and benefit from their education.
The Deputy will also be aware of my decision last June to authorise the NCSE to maintain the level of resource teaching allocations to be provided for students with special educational needs for the current school year to the 2012/13 levels. This decision resulted in the subsequent allocation of an additional 455 posts in October to maintain resource teaching provision at the same levels as last year. The overall level of investment being provided will ensure that provision can continue to be made to provide for the educational requirements of children with special educational needs, enrolled in all schools, to ensure that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to educational facilities in line with their requirements, for the current school year and in future school years.