“IT is a ray of hope for our future population,” said St Gabriel’s Special School, Bishopstown, principal David Thomas after it was announced additional special school places will be provided for their school.
Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD announced a significant expansion of special school provision in Cork.
Additional special school places will also be provided in Carrigaline Community Special School and St Killian’s Special School, Mayfield, while a new special school will be established during the 2022/23 school-year in Rochestown.
Construction work is already underway in St Gabriel’s Special School to expand their school capacity.
School principal David Thomas has welcomed the news.
“It is brilliant news. It is great news for the whole school community,” Mr Thomas said.
“It is great news for the students, the parents, and the teachers. The parents have been fighting for this for years.
“The major refurbishment process is well underway at this point.”
Mr Thomas said the extra classrooms will mean they will be able to cater for an extra 12 students and it will be a ‘boost’ to morale for the school body.
“We are currently an eight-classroom school. When this is completed, we will be a 10-classroom school.
“We were never a purpose-built special needs school. When this is completed that is what we will be. We hope the work will be completed in the 2022/23 school year.
“We are currently capped at 43 students. By expanding two classrooms we will be able to go up to 55 students. It is a major boost to the school.
“It is a boost to morale for our current population and it is a ray of hope for our future population,” he added.
Principal of St Killian’s Special School in Mayfield, Sue Lenihan was equally delighted with the news. She said they will be providing an extra three classes from this September.
“It is great news. We had been working to try and get these classes up and running for a long time,” Ms Lenihan said.
“We will have three extra classes starting in September 2022. We are expecting a modular building which the department is giving us. We are getting a few extensions and a few upgrades to provide more classes in the next few years.”
Ms Lenihan said the three extra classes will enable them to cater for an extra 18 students which will make a ‘big difference'.
“We are a primary special school. We provide the only severe dyslexia intervention in Munster. We are a specialist reading school alongside other things.
“We provide a very important service. The three extra classes will mean another 18 students,” Ms Lenihan said.
“It will make a big difference. It expands our school remit. It makes the school a richer place.
“It is a new venture for us as we didn’t take children with ASD and mild and moderate disability before, but I noticed a big increase in parents coming to me with children looking for places.
“We were not sanctioned for this, so we decided with the board to talk to the department and the NCSE. We are looking forward to welcoming the new students,” she added.