Seven primary schools have agreed to create school places for children with special educational needs following directions from the Minister for Education under recently introduced legislation.
Six of the seven schools, which are all based in the Dublin 15 area, will set up their classes after they were served statutory notices under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 last month.
Section 37A gives Minister Joe McHugh the power to compel schools to provide classes for children with special needs.
Six of the schools were also among the 18 which, along with two patrons, were served notices by the Minister for Education in June to provide additional classes for children with special educational needs.
One of seven schools is to provide a class voluntarily. This week, Fianna Fáil tabled a private members motion on special needs education calling for the Minister to use the powers he has through the Act.
Many parents are still left fighting for school places for their children that don’t exist, according to Fianna Fáil deputy for Cork South-West Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.
The situation here in Cork is particularly bleak. I have been contacted by several families who have been unable to secure places for their children. Others have to travel long distances to find a school with a place.
"Last year more than 850 students with special needs were being taught at home because there were no places available for them. Others, who have secured a place are often offered reduced hours."
Section 37A has not been invoked outside of Dublin 15, a spokesman for the Minister confirmed.
"The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was aware of increased demand for special classes in Cork and 24 new special classes were established for Cork," he said, adding that there are a total of 190 special classes in Cork.
Training and funding supports are available to schools which wish to open a class for children with special needs, according to the Department of Education. Schools can also apply for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces or construct additional accommodation.