The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan have announced an expansion of special school provision in Cork
The investment includes a new special school in Carrigaline with 48 places, and a change to the designation of St. Mary’s Special School, Rochestown to also meet the needs of children with a dual diagnosis of learning disability and autism, with 12 new school places becoming available for September 2021.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD welcomed the news, acknowledging that the provision of places in special education has been an issue in Cork for a number of years.
“I’m determined to see that every child with special education needs get an appropriate place, when they require a place," he said.
“I want a permanent solution to this once and for all, and this initiative today is a very significant step forward in dealing with the situation for September."
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 of Education, together with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), said it 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 Foley said: “I want to thank all of the parents, schools, patron bodies and other stakeholders in Cork for their ongoing engagement with the Department and with the NCSE.
“In particular, I want to thank both the Brothers of Charity, the principal and the Board of Management of St. Mary’s Special School for their willingness to engage on expansion of their school designation. Discussions will continue with the Department of Education and patrons to finalise a potential patron body for the new special school in the coming days.
“I am delighted to announce this significant expansion and while I am conscious of the short timeframe for the delivery of these places, I am sure that through the good efforts of all, these timeframes can be met.”