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(Ireland) Shocking lack of SPED places; problem expected to get worse

Oct 29, 2019, Irish Times: Children without school places: ‘It’s heart-breaking and a national disgrace’ https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/children-without-school-places-it-s-heart-breaking-and-a-national-disgrace-1.4059028 Almost 500 special needs children are in receipt of home tuition because they do not have a school place. Is the problem set to get even worse? …Jack has autism and when he was in sixth class, his mother Marguerite, Wilson, contacted dozens of schools with special classes within a 40km radius of their home in Cork city – but every school gave the same answer. “It’s full, it’s full, it’s full,” Wilson says, “I didn’t know what to do.” When September came, Jack was at home with no tuition and no support of nay kind. She was told by authorities to get all the school refusal letters on paper before she could begin to apply for home tuition for her son. “Jack was at home with nothing... yet it was completely different ball game with his older brother James, who goes to mainstream. It all happened automatically. “But there’s a huge gap for young people with special needs going to secondary. You have to fight for everything ...” Eventually, six months into the school year, Jack’s tuition was granted and the 20 hours a week commenced in February 2018. Home tuition, though, is no replacement for a school setting where children can socialise with their peers, she says. “He missed out on the social side of school, the whole teenage experience, and it has affected his confidence,” she says. Lack of places Jack’s story isn’t an isolated one. So far in the current academic year there almost 500 children with special needs in receipt of home tuition because they are not suitable school places for them. While the shortage at primary level has been well documented, campaigners say an even bigger problem is brewing at second level. A list of special classes in mainstream schools, provided by the National Centre for Special Education (NCSE), gives the details of over 1,600 special classes across the State. The vast bulk of these are at primary level; just over 400 are in post-primary schools. This year a total of 167 new special classes were established; again, only 39 of them are in post-primary (and many of these newly-established classes are in schools that already have special classes). With a shortfall of special classes at second level, where do these students go after primary school? Graham Manning has worked as the ASD (autism spectrum disorder) co-ordinator of a post-primary school in Cork since 2011. He has, reluctantly, had to inform many parents that contact the school, that there is no room. … The Department of Education, says transferring from a special class in a primary school to a special class in a post-primary school may not always be the optimal choice for a student…. Waiting lists Demand for places in special classes extends beyond ASD units in mainstream schools to other areas of special education. Anne Hartnett is the principal of St Paul’s Special School, Montenotte, Cork. The school caters for students with moderate to severe and profound learning disabilities. “Certainly, since I have been principal, there has been a waiting list for places and I know that is echoed throughout the majority of other special schools,” says Hartnett. She identifies the number of special classes opened in primary schools as a likely trigger for this deficit…. The Minister for Education recently instructed six schools in Dublin 15 to make more places available. …