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AG consulted on emergency law to provide more school places for children with special needs

The Government has faced criticism from parents and advocates about the difficulty in finding class places for children with additional needs.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL is being consulted to see if new emergency legislation is needed to assist in securing additional school places for children with special education needs.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government has accepted the findings of a report which says the the Department of Education is failing children with Special Educational Needs regarding the finding suitable school places.

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said in his report:

“The OCO is of the view that any failure to include children with SEN within the mainstream school system, for any reason other than to facilitate their effective education, constitutes discrimination.”

The Government has faced criticism from parents and advocates about the difficulty in finding a school and class places for children with additional needs.

Proposals to create emergency special school centres prompted further controversy last month that children with special educational needs would be separated from mainstream education.

Sinn Féin and Labour both raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions today, stating that more than 100 children with special needs still do not have a school place in September.

Tánaiste said there are more children with special needs in school than ever before, but conceded that this is cold comfort to any family whose child does not yet have a school place.

He said 1,800 extra places in 312 special education classes are needed this year and that has exceeded the Department of Education’s projections.

The Government is redoubling its efforts to make sure it is sorted out in the next few weeks so that parents can have peace of mind, he said.

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Varadkar said “this is an emergency situation” where parents don’t know if there’s a place available for their child until very late in the day.

“I accept that’s not acceptable and something that we’re working on. And it is very much an emergency situation where we have roughly 100 children in the state who don’t have the place as yet for the September,” he added.

He said the Department of Education is considering whether there is a need to introduce new emergency legislation to assist in securing additional special education needs school places, adding that the department has engaged with the Office of the Attorney General to discuss this matter. 

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