Post-primary schools need extra staff in response to the rising demand for special classes
Post-primary schools say they will each need an a co-ordinator for special classes as demand rises for provision.
The Department of Education is preparing for a doubling of the classes at second level over the next three years.
The rise has been gathering pace since 2018, with the number of such classes increasing, by 405, to 739 at present.
Most of the need is for pupils with autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with 379 of the 405 classes falling into that category.
A further 136 are expected to open in September, with hundreds more to follow in the succeeding years.
A Department spokesperson said the National Council for Special Education would confirm over the next few weeks where new special classes had been sanctioned for the coming school year.
Managing the growth in demand is a concern for principals and school managers who are in the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS). Schools are allocated extra teachers and special needs assistants for special classes, but ACCS president James Duignan said they also need someone assigned responsibility to co-ordinate a school’s provision.
ACCS general secretary John Irwin said the area of special education had become complex and required a lot of time, dedication and expertise.
Not all 730 post-primary schools have a special class and the Department’s plan is to have at least one in every school by 2025.
The move to double the number of classes over three years follows an analysis by the department and the National Council for Special Education.
Department official Martina Mannion recently told the Oireachtas education committee how previously they had been working off prevalence rates, particularly of autism, of 1.5pc of the population.
But they were now working off a figure of 3.4pc in terms of making provision for schools, she said.