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14th Jul 2023

Norma Foley ‘confident’ every child with special needs will have a school space this year

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Norma Foley

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that there will be a space for any child with special needs in schools this September.

Speaking at the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), Foley said she is “very confident” that there will be a place in a special class or school for the upcoming academic year for anyone who needs it.

She said they are “well prepared” for the children with special needs and will have the demand met.

Parents have struggled in recent years to get their children a place, whether it is in a special class or special school.

More often than none, parents are offered a place that is outside of their area or end up having to travel to send their child to school.

While some schools have argued they do not have the capacity to open more places, the strengthening of the law in the past year has given the minister more power to provide these much-needed spaces.

Speaking at a visit to one of the schools offering a summer programme for students with complex special educational needs, she said that depending on the programme, they may run for two to five weeks in July or August.

Extra resources are being made available this year after a 20% increase in the number of mainstream schools, as well as a 50% rise in the number of special schools offering the programme.

With a significant increase in uptake this year, Foley says she wants to see even more participating.

She said “without exception”, the schools that provide the programme “speak of the value for their own staff, and they speak of the value for the children as well”.

She said there were “enormous benefits for children.