Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD today announced a significant expansion of special school provision in Cork through the establishment of a new special school and increased capacity in an existing special school to meet the needs of children in the Cork area.
The new provision will see the establishment of a new special school in Carrigaline which will have the capacity to provide 48 school places. It will provide for the needs of children with autism and general learning disability up to eighteen years of age.
The provision will also provide for a change to the designation of St. Mary’s Special School, Rochestown to cater for children with a dual diagnosis of learning disability and autism with 12 new school places becoming available for September 2021.
Priority will now be given to those children who currently do not have an offer of a school place for next September.
Special educational needs organisers (SENOs) will work closely with the families of the children concerned immediately to assist them in accessing the new places now coming on stream.
The Department, together with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), has been working with parents, schools, patron bodies and other stakeholders in Cork to address the current shortage of specialist school placements in the Cork area. The Department will continue discussions with patron bodies in order to identify a patron for the new special school in Carrigaline, and an announcement will be made in this regard shortly.
The new special school will operate in an existing Gaelscoil school building in Carrigaline which will become vacant in September with the development of the new school campus in Carrigaline. As part of advance preparations, this building will be re-configured during the summer to facilitate the school’s establishment for the 2021/22 school-year.
There is intensive work underway at present to ensure the additional places are established as early as possible for the 2021/22 school year.
The provision of 60 additional special school placements is to cater for the immediate requirements. The Department and the NCSE continue to work towards the development of additional placements in the Cork area to meet ongoing and future demand.
Minister Madigan said: “I am delighted to have secured agreement for both the expansion of St. Mary’s and the opening of a new special school in Carrigaline for the benefit of students and families with additional needs in Cork.
“This is a much-needed development which will help to meet the demand for special school places in the area.
“There is a shortage of special school places in the Cork area this year. Many students who should have a special school place are unable to secure one. Meeting this shortfall has been a priority for me and everyone in the Department. We have heard the voices of parents and families about how this has impacted on their lives and the lives of their families. Today’s announcement will increase the number of places available for students in the area and allow students to receive a full education appropriate to their needs. We are committed to ensuring that every child has an appropriate school place.
“I too want to thank everyone involved in this endeavour, in particular the Brothers of Charity, the principal and the Board of Management of St. Mary’s Special School. However, I also want to be clear that this work continues to ensure that we meet the ongoing demand for special education placements. As Minister of State for Special Education, I am determined to support students and families in securing school places where they are needed. I know this can be a difficult process and I want to make it as easy as possible.”