New Study by NCSE examines special classes

Date: May 8, 2014

A major report on special classes in Irish schools is being published today – Understanding
Special Class Provision in Ireland.. The report was undertaken by the ESRI and Trinity
College Dublin for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), shows that
significantly more special classes are opening each year recently compared to two decades
ago. While this trend is seen at both primary and post-primary level, the growth in provision
has been more marked at post-primary level.
Today’s report shows that in the 1990s, primary schools were opening eight special classes
per year compared to 25-28 classes per year from 2009- 2011. At post-primary level, two
classes per year were opening in the 1990s compared to 50-67 classes per year from 2009-
Jennifer Doran, NCSE Head of Research said:
“Special classes are an important school placement option for some students with special
educational needs, who can find full-time placement in mainstream classes to be
challenging. It’s encouraging to see more schools respond positively to the needs of children
in their communities by opening special classes.”
Types of students in the classes
The survey shows that classes specifically for students with autism are now the dominant
form of special class provision at primary level; 60% of special classes cater for these
students. 14% of primary special classes are for students with mild general learning
disabilities and 11% for students with specific speech and language disorders.
At post primary the picture is different; with 22% of classes for students with mild general
learning disabilities, 19% for those with autism and 19% of classes have no specific
designation but cater for a variety educational and learning needs.
Type of special class
The survey also highlights a marked difference between primary and post-primary schools in
how these classes were established. At primary level, the majority of special classes are
established formally by the NCSE or Department of Education and Skills (DES). Whereas at
post primary, more than half of the special classes were established informally by schools
through the pooling of resource teaching hours allocated for individual students. The findings
also show that students in special classes tend to spend most, if not all, of the week together
in their own class setting and to remain together across school years.
“The report highlights some interesting findings and some marked differences in provision
between primary and post-primary schools”, said Jennifer Doran. “The second part of this
study is looking in more detail at student and school characteristics and how students are
faring and will explore these issues in more depth. The findings from this part of the study
will be available in 2015.”
To download the report, please click here