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(Ireland) Ed Minister promises a place for every special needs student this fall

July 13, 2023, 2023, Independent: Norma Foley ‘confident’ that every child with special needs will have a school place in September

Education Minister Norma Foley said today there will be a place in a special class or a special school in September for any child who has sought one.

The minister said the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was “very confident” that they have ”well prepared” for all the children with special needs about whom they have been made aware.

Recent years have seen parents struggle to get a place for their child, whether in a special class or a special school.

Then, it is often the case that when parents get an offer of a place, it is outside their area and children have to travel a distance to take it up.

There has been a drive to open more places to meet demand, but some schools have argued that they did not have the capacity to do so.

However, a strengthening of the law in the past year, has given more powers to the minister for education to compel schools to provide spaces for children with special needs in a timely fashion….

Extra resources made available this year has seen a 20pc increase in the number of mainstream schools, and a 50pc rise in the number of special schools offering the programme.

While welcoming the significant increase in uptake this year, Ms Foley said they would like to see more schools participating….

It is of great benefit for children with special needs who enjoy keeping the connection with the school routine over the summer, while also an opportunity for playful learning for children at risk of educational disadvantage . …

Parents of children with complex special educational needs may access a home-based programme if they cannot find a place in a school.

But parents also value the socialisation dividend that comes with a school-based programme and while a grant is available for a home-based arrangement, they often find it difficult to find a tutor.

Participation in summer programmes has been growing, from 13,000 in 2019 to 42,000 in 2022, although 14,000 of last year’s participants were on home-based programmes through grants paid to parents to employ a tutor.

While more schools are involved this year, the final figures for student participation will not be known until after the programme concludes.

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