Special needs education expenditure up by £63m


Expenditure on special needs education has increased tenfold in the past three years, according to the Department of Education.

Department sources also say the number of special classes for autistic children has increased from less than half a dozen to over 80, within the same time frame.

Total spending has increased from £7 million to £70 million during this period.

One source said there was "huge frustration" within the Department that the real progress achieved in recent years was not being more widely acknowledged.

Department sources say the new Disability (Education) Bill will give children "watertight" legal guarantees to proper education provision.

They also say the new National Council for Special Education, which will provide expert advice, research and help deliver services, will be established on a statutory basis shortly.

A Special Needs Education Forum, designed to give parents a leading role in setting the policy agenda, will also be established next month.

The Department says that the number of psychologists employed by National Education Psychological Service will increase from its current 83 to 200 by the end of 2002. The annual cost of such an expansion is estimated at £6 million.

It is understood that a group of senior officials in the Minister's Department has already commenced a review of provision for special needs students at second level. This group is expected to report shortly.

Department sources point to other examples of progress including:

The number of special resource teachers supporting children with special needs has increased from 104 to approximately 1,000.

The number of special needs assistants supporting children with special needs has grown from less than 300 to approximately 2,500.

New proposals to develop a nationwide pre-school service for children with autism.

A doubling (from one to two) of the number of special needs assistants provided to each class for children with autism.