THE National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is currently engaging with nine primary and five post-primary schools in the general South West Cork area regarding the establishment of additional special classes for 2022/23 and beyond.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education told The Echo that negotiations are ‘ongoing’ with the schools in the region.
It comes amid concerns over a shortage of school places for children with additional educational needs in parts of the county.
The spokesperson said that the Department is aware of the need for further specialist education places in a number of areas.
“Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government. Currently, a network of 38 primary school special classes, including four early intervention classes, as well as 13 post-primary special classes provide 306 specialist placements for students with autism in South West Cork, of which seven classes were newly established for the 2021/2022 school year.
“The NCSE is aware of an identified need for special classes at primary level and post primary levels in the South West Cork area and in Cork city and county as a whole. Through ongoing consultation at a local level, including direct contact from parents, the NCSE is aware of students who will be seeking placement for the 2022/23 academic year, including mainstream placement with appropriate support, special class placement, early intervention, and special school placement. The Department is working closely with the NCSE and schools in the South West Cork area to ensure that the necessary additional provision is made as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson added.
Continued concerns have been expressed about a shortage of specialist school placements for children with special educational needs in the Cork area.
Social Democrats TD for Cork South West Holly Cairns has said that more spaces are needed.
“The reality is there are not enough places due to under-investment in disability support. I am regularly contacted by parents who are deeply frustrated at a system that simply does not work anywhere near fast enough to help their children. It is vital that the Minister understands the issues faced by families in Cork South West to provide the spaces needed to enable the children concerned to access their right to an education,” she said.
Deputy Cairns said a dedicated special needs school is required to meet the growing demand in the area.
“Primary and secondary schools across west Cork are doing incredible work ensuring the children with special needs progress in a supportive and inclusive manner; however, they can only offer places based on the resources they have access to.
“It is clear that the area needs a dedicated special needs school to cater for the needs of all children with additional needs. There are also several families who are unsure if their child can attend secondary school next year due to the shortage of spaces. I am continuing to push the Department of Education to provide the staff and SNA/resource hours needed for children and young people in Cork South West,” she added.