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(Ireland) 1,548 autism classes, up from 674 in 2018

July 5, 2022, RTE: Central planning over special school places 'failing', committee told
Teachers are "very concerned" at an "emerging narrative" that blames them for service shortages for children with special educational needs, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Moira Leydon, Assistant General Secretary with the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), was addressing the Joint Committee on Autism….

But Ms Leydon insisted that the real issue is that "central planning is failing".

Blaming individual schools "deflects" attention from a lack of social infrastructure - including schools - arising from developer-led growth, she claimed.

The committee also heard criticism of the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Josepha Madigan after she named four Dublin primary schools, who she said were failing to create spaces for children with special educational needs.

Máirín Ní Cheileachair, Assistant General Secretary of Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), condemned the naming of the schools and called on Minster Madigan to apologise.

Earlier, the Minister told the committee that the Government was left with no option but to introduce legislation to compel schools to create special needs places.

The legislation goes before the House tomorrow with the aim of passing before the Oireachtas rises at the end of next week.

Ms Madigan said she "would have preferred" that schools would "volunteer to open special classes".

"We still have 56 children in Dublin without a special class, and about 49 who don't have a special school place," she noted.

"We don't want to be in a position every year where we are scrambling to try to open special classes at the last minute", the minister said….

The committee heard that, in the State's 3,329 primary schools, there are 1,548 autism and early intervention classes, up from 674 in 2018….

Sinn Féin TD Pauline Tully recounted her experience as a teacher, saying that some schools are known to provide better support for children with special educational needs, and end up dealing with greater demand….

Ms Leydon said that one quarter of students have special educational needs, and 1.5% - or 14,000 students - have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)….


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