The Role of Special Schools and Special Classes in Ireland


  • Thérese Day
  • Anita Prunty


Inclusion, Inclusive Education, SEN, Special Educational Needs, Mainstream, Special Schools, Special Classes, NCSE, National Council for Special Education, DES, Department of Education and Skills, Educational Provision


In line with the worldwide movement towards inclusion, educational policy in Ireland currently advocates including students with special educational needs (SEN) in the mainstream school when and wherever possible. Not surprisingly, this stance challenges the role and very existence of the special school. Rather than defensive reaction, what is needed is research evidence that will facilitate informed debate about best practice for the educational provision for students with SEN. This article summarises a national review of the role of special schools and special classes for students with SEN, which was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). Survey and case study design were employed to collect the data. Findings emerged in relation to the range and complexity of pupil need, links with mainstream schools and the place of special schools and special classes in a continuum of provision for pupils with SEN. The implications of the research, along with recommendations for the current and future role of special schools and classes, are discussed. This Irish study has the potential to make a significant contribution to policy and practice in relation to the education of students with SEN.




How to Cite

Day, T., & Prunty, A. (2021). The Role of Special Schools and Special Classes in Ireland. REACH: Journal of Inclusive Education in Ireland, 24(1), 3–23. Retrieved from