May 30, 2022, Irish Times: Almost 270 children with autism do not have appropriate school places – survey https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2022/05/29/almost-270-vulnerable-children-without-appropriate-school-places-survey/
Almost 270 vulnerable autistic children do not have appropriate school places available for next September, according to a new survey. The poll by autism charity AsIAm, conducted over the past week, indicates that the scale of unmet demand for school places which meet children’s assessed needs is significantly greater than official data.
Campaign groups are now seeking emergency legislation to ensure the rights of children are upheld in time for the new school year.
“While we believe this crisis was foreseeable and preventable, through better planning, communication and a rights-based approach, we believe an emergency response is needed in an emergency situation,” said Adam Harris, chief executive of AsIAm.
Most children in the survey have been assessed as requiring places in special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. Many reported unsuccessfully applying to dozens of schools for such places.
The results also show widespread dissatisfaction among families with education authorities.
Some 90 per cent of respondents say they have not had sufficient support from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is responsible for co-ordinating education provision for children nationwide. In cases where support was provided, it was most commonly a list of schools in the region.
Josepha Madigan, Minister of State with responsibility for special education, has pledged to use legal powers – known as section 37a – to compel schools to open special classes where there is unmet need.
However, campaigners say this process is too bureaucratic and will not deliver places in time for next September.
A new plan, reported in last week’s Irish Times, to create “special educational needs centres” as an emergency response to the shortage, met fierce criticism from families and human rights bodies who described it as “segregation” and a “backwards step for inclusion”.
Disability groups are due to meet Ms Madigan and education officials this week to explore options….
It said it was aware of 130 children in the Dublin area who still required special school or special class places; it said recently announced special education places should cater to the needs of a further 37 children in the Dublin and Cork areas in September. …
Teacher Jason Kelly, with SNA Chantelle Davis and SNA Sandra Keogh, in the special class for children with autism in Cnoc Mhuire Senior School, Killinarden, Dublin. An AsIAm poll indicates the scale of unmet demand for school places is significantly greater than official data. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill