Thursday, 28 January 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
24. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools here equipped with special autism units; the number and location of schools still awaiting such provision; the extent to which it is expected to meet this requirement in line with submissions received by his Department from the various school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4228/10]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The 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. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local special educational needs organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special educational needs. I attach, for the Deputy’s information, a list provided by the NCSE of schools approved for ASD classes. When a school is approved for an ASD unit, and its existing accommodation does not meet this need, the school may apply to the Department for funding for such accommodation. All such applications are afforded a high priority. I can confirm to the Deputy that all schools establishing new ASD classes in September 2009, and that applied to my Department for funding, were provided with funding to enable them to do so. In some cases, as it was not possible to carry out a major extension to the school in the time available, temporary accommodation was put in place. Major projects involving the provision of ASD facilities are assessed under the prioritisation criteria for large scale projects and, where appropriate, assigned a band 1.2, reflecting the high priority attached to such projects. Consideration is also given to the inclusion of ASD facilities in all new school buildings based on advice from the NCSE. A band rating of 1.2 is assigned not only to ASD units but to special schools and projects with any element of special needs provision. The Department currently has in the order of 75 applications with a band rating of 1.2 and a further 17 such projects in architectural planning. A number of projects with a higher band rating of 1.1, assigned to projects in rapidly developing areas, also include ASD units. The Government is committed to ensuring that all children with special educational needs have access to appropriate facilities and, as such, will continue to prioritise the provision of funding to capital projects providing facilities for such children.
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): I wish to advise the Deputy that the allocation for 2010 for the special education initiatives subhead reflects the level of expenditure expected under the various initiatives during 2010. The provisional outturn details that the total spend in 2009 on the various initiatives concerned was less than €12 million. The allocation for 2010 exceeds €12 million.
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