SIR – This past month among the thousands of formerly 6th class students, excitedly or dejectedly but most certainly anxiously, transitioning from primary to secondary school were hundreds of students from ASD special classes.
At least that is the case for those who were lucky enough to actually get their professionally-recommended place in a secondary ASD special class. While the numbers of classes, as the government is always keen to point out, continues to grow they’re less forthcoming when it comes to the statistical gap between primary and secondary.
For example in the 2016-17 academic year there were 2.33 ASD special classes in primary for every one in secondary. For 2018-19 that ratio is 2.28, a reduction of 0.05 in three years! Hardly the improvement the government likes to present it as. Countywide primary-secondary ASD special class numbers that jump out are Dublin with 137-41, Cavan 16-3, Laois 17-3, Louth 19-5, Monaghan 11-2 & Waterford 17-7.
Thanks to support from across the political spectrum and against persistent opposition from the Minster of Education Richard Bruton, an amendment was added to the new Schools Admissions Act. This gives the Minister the authority to instruct schools to set up special classes where there is a need and the school refuses.
Unfortunately, this is but the first step towards the necessary reform of how ASD special classes in Irish secondary schools are established, resourced and run. Unsurprisingly, the next step comes down to money.
Secondary schools receive no funding to run ASD special classes while primary schools receive €682 per student or €4,092 per class per year. The NCSE says the funding should be equal.
The Department of Education and Skills’ own documentation said the same.
When this was pointed out to them they denied it, took down and edited the offending document and went on denying the original ever existed.
Under questioning, Richard Bruton has said that he’ll look into it. No further investigation is necessary. Richard Bruton has a simple choice, either fund ASD classes in secondary schools or publicly explain why his department doesn’t value their right to an education enough to do so.