Changes announced for the Schools Admissions Bill this week include a provision to allow the Minister for Education to require a school to open a special class for children with special educational needs if it is required in the area, according to Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon.

“I welcome this change which will help to ensure that we have sufficient special needs classes at both primary and post primary level in Kildare South.  This is an issue I have raised with Minister Richard Bruton many times due to difficulties some parents experienced in trying to access special needs places for their children.  This year in particular we have seen shortages at second level ASD places in the Newbridge area.

“Up to now it was up to a school to decide to establish a special needs class, which works well in many areas but in some cases means there is a gap in provision.

“The proposed amendment to the Schools Admission Bill will give the Minister the power to compel a school to open a special class or classes where the National Council for Special Education has identified a need for such provision within an area. This will complement the provisions already included in the Bill which will provide for a situation where a child with special educational needs cannot find a school place, and allow the National Council for Special Education to designate a school place for the child.

“I pleased that our government is committed to ensuring every child with special educational needs has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential. In 2018, almost €1.8 billion is being invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

It is planned that these powers to open a special class will be prioritised and will apply to children entering school in the 2019/2020 school year.