The Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD today addressed the National Council for Special Education Research Conference at Croke Park where she announced investment of nearly €13 million to support the expansion and development of the NCSE to ensure that it is fit for purpose and able to deliver real and meaningful supports for children, families and schools that support children with special educational needs.
This investment will see an increase of over 50 per cent in staffing levels in the NCSE. This will provide for an additional 161 staff, including 40 new staff for an Irish Sign Language scheme and over 70 staff who will have direct engagement with children and schools.
It is acknowledged that there have been some difficulties in providing the service by the NCSE to schools and families in the context of a significant increase in the requirement for provision for students with special educational needs across our education system in recent years and it is a priority that this is addressed.
To give more context to the current pressures that exist, on average each of the 73 special education needs organisers (SENO) is responsible for 342 children with the most complex needs. In addition each SENO is responsible for engaging with approx. 55 schools and in certain locations, particularly if there is intensive engagement on school placements or exceptional reviews, this can mean multiple visits to very small numbers of schools, to the detriment of others.
With the much-needed expansion of special schools and classes that we are seeing, this demand for service is only going to get greater. The additional investment will be vital for the special education sector and will allow the NCSE to put in place sustainable solutions to meet the needs of children, their families and schools. They will have more staff on the ground to engage with those who need their help and they will be able to put in place effective structures to support these staff.
The Department of Education has been engaging with the CEO of the NCSE to ensure that there is effective planning to allow for the recruitment and deployment of new staff over the next 12 – 18 months in a coherent and efficient manner and that the most appropriate structures are in place for the NCSE to be as effective as possible.
Minister Madigan has recently contacted all post-primary schools to advise that in the next 3 to 5 years it will be necessary to have special classes in all post-primary schools and to offer assistance to schools in opening these new special classes. The range of supports and resources provided to schools opening special classes has also been highlighted.
Minister Madigan said: “I am delighted to be able to announce this transformative investment the NCSE today of nearly €13 million.
“One of the concerns that has been expressed to me when engaging with parents of children with special educational needs and schools where these children attend is that they need support from my Department and our agencies to deal with the complex and challenging issues which they face daily.
“It is a priority for me that the NCSE is properly resourced to have a visible and effective presence in our schools and with our parents and children guiding and supporting them on their educational journey. I know the good work that the NCSE does on the ground but there simply wasn’t enough staff to reach out to all those who need their help and I want to ensure that is not the case ever again.
“I am pleased to say that as a result of the funding I have secured, the Department is making a significant investment in the expansion of the NCSE to ensure it can respond effectively, compassionately and quickly to the increased need in our education system so that children and their families are fully supported and achieve the best possible education outcomes.”