Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD has welcomed plans by the National Council for Special Education to create an additional 1,700 special class places in 2022. The provision of new special class places will result from engagement with schools arising from demographic planning as well as the recruitment of additional special needs assistants and special education teachers.
The establishment of places in 287 new special classes in 2022 will be in addition to the new places that were opened in September of this year. At present there are 2,118 special classes across the country providing approximately 12,700 special class places. Since 2011, the number of special classes has increased by 386%.
Minister Madigan said: “Ensuring that every child has access to education is vital. I meet regularly with parents and school staff and I know the demand that exists for special class places in many parts of the country. The commitment to a further significant increase in the number of special class places, arising from the funding secured in Budget 2022, is hugely important.
“By opening an additional 287 new special classes in 2022, we will create over 1,700 new special class places for those young people who need one, bringing the total to over 2,400. These new classes will be in addition to the new classes that were opened this year. Planning and provision of new special class places will be supported by a growth in the number of special needs assistants and special education teachers that will be recruited to meet this demand. Since 2011, we have delivered an increase of almost 400% in the number of special classes across the country.
“I would like to thank our school staff and parents, as well as everyone in the National Council for Special Education and the network of special educational needs organisers for their work in supporting special education and the establishment of new special classes. Throughout Ireland, the number of special classes continues to increase year-on-year. This latest commitment is another step on the road to reinforcing support and inclusion in our education system for the benefit of all students. It will help to provide students with the supports they need to reach their full potential.”
Notes for Editors
Students with special educational needs should, where possible, be educated in mainstream classes along with their peers, with additional supports provided as necessary.
Special classes are part of a continuum of educational provision that enables students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools. They offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day. Students enrolled in special classes should be included in mainstream classes to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities.
Guidelines on opening special classes can be accessed here. These guidelines give information and guidance to schools on the setting up and organisation of NCSE-sanctioned special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools. They are based on principles of good practice and boards of management are requested to take due cognisance of them when setting up, staffing and organising special classes in their schools.