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(Ireland) BUDGET: "370 new special classes next year, covering 2,000 additional places"

SEPT 28, 2022, IRISH EXAMINER: Increased funding for SNAs to 'respond quickly' to growing need for school places
The independent body responsible for allocating resource hours and special needs assistants (SNAs) for children with special educational needs is to see its annual funding significantly increase.
As part of Budget 2023, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), is to receive €13m [$12.7M] to recruit more than 160 additional staff members.

This will include 121 frontline and admin posts to support families, as well as a further 40 new posts for a scheme to support deaf and hard of hearing students for whom Irish sign language is their first language.

Josepha Madigan, the Minister of State for Special Education, said this funding is so the NCSE can “respond effectively, compassionately and quickly” to the increased need for school places.

Every year, children with special educational needs struggle to find appropriate school places in their local area, and further beyond.

This summer, emergency legislation was drafted to give the minister and the NCSE more power to compel a school to open a special class after up to 130 children were left without appropriate school places. …

Budget 2023 also includes funding to open 370 new special classes next year, covering 2,000 additional places, she added. There will also be an additional 250 special school places, and an increase in special education teachers (SETs) and SNAs.

“I do think the funding given today will radically help and we obviously have the emergency legislation that was brought in over the summer as well.”

“If we need to trigger the Section 37a process in the future we will, but I think it's important to stress that most special classes are opened outside of that process, and through collaboration with the NCSE, the department, and the schools.”

For 2023, the special education budget will increase by a further 10%, with overall spending estimated to hit €2.6bn [$2.5B].

This includes an additional €20m to keep the summer programme open for students at risk of educational disadvantage due to the Covid pandemic, bringing total funding to €40m. Other features of the overall education budget include:

• €8m to address the impacts of Covid-19 and increase retention rates of students in schools; • €2m to progress work on the Senior Cycle reform programme; • €2m for the assistive technology scheme; • €12m for additional teachers supporting children with special educational needs; • €3m in 2023 will be provided for social inclusion measures. With the Department of Education expected to publish an updated 'Action Plan on Bullying' in November, a further €1m will be provided to schools for anti-bullying measures.


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