Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD says he has tabled an amendment to the Education (Admissions to School Bill) 2016 with the aim of ensuring children with special needs, such as autism, can no longer be denied their right to be educated in a mainstream primary or secondary school.

The amendment will ensure that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is given the power to mandate schools to apply for a special class where needed.

Deputy Byrne said, “Currently children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other special needs are being denied access to schools right across the country due to the absence of special classes. The problem is particularly acute at second level. The amendment I have tabled aims to tackle this problem.

“Special classes within mainstream schools are intended for children who cannot reasonably be educated in a mainstream class setting, but who can still attend their local school in a special class setting. The absence of special classes for children with autism spectrum disorder, particularly at second level, is a national travesty and is preventing children from being educated within their local school.  Minister Bruton’s response to this issue to date has been completely inadequate.

“The amendment I am putting forward will effectively give the NCSE the power it needs to intervene and direct schools to establish special classes where it is necessary to do so. Currently the Admission to Schools Bill as drafted by the Government gives the NCSE the power to designate a school for a child with special needs. Our amendment goes further to ensure that schools can be required to apply to open a special class when needed.

“I am hopeful that my amendment receives cross-party support so that we can end the discrimination against children with special needs.”