Cork parents' fears over lack of places in special schools

One concerned father said the lack of school places and the waiting on decisions for his four-year-old son is a very stressful time for the whole family.
Cork parents' fears over lack of places in special schools

Derry O’Brien, whose son Jack is non-verbal and is currently attending the Shine Centre in Carrigaline, said their family have been turned down by ten schools. 

A CORK father has expressed frustration with the lack of adequate places in special schools and special classes for his son who is due to start primary school this September.

Derry O’Brien, whose son Jack is non-verbal and is currently attending the Shine Centre in Carrigaline, said their family have been turned down by ten schools. 

“We have applied to around 12 schools and we are after getting refusals from ten. We are still waiting on a national school who will make their decision by March and we are waiting on a special school. Most of the schools have said no because they are full up, while some of them have rejected us because we have been outside their criteria in terms of location,” he said.

The concerned father said the lack of school places and the waiting on decisions for his four-year-old son is a very stressful time for the whole family.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the situation is “not good enough” with many families across Cork facing similiar situations.

“It seems to me that this year again there are more children than there are places.”

Mr O'Brien added: “We are not in the minority as this is going on with a large number of people,”

“Even if we knew he was being placed somewhere you could start preparing for that. The window between now and September is closing every day. We will keep battling. If we have to start banging on doors or breaking down doors, we are going to have to go down that road.”

He said Jack, who is an only child, needs to be ‘mixing’ with verbal kids and to have a regular routine to ensure he does not regress.

“He has loved his time in Shine. He is still non-verbal but he has come on. Everything is habit with him and he knows he is going down there every day when his uniform goes on. Worst case scenario is that he would get home tuition where someone calls to the house for an hour or two a day. This does nothing for the child, however, as he needs to be integrated into a class.

“I would love it if he was in a class with all verbal kids which would bring him on. We need Jack to be mixing with other pupils and having a regular routine. I feel that if he does not have any place to go to this September he will go backwards. He would regress.”

A second Cork parent who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity with said he is facing a similar challenge to find a school place for his five-year-old son.

“He is currently in Sonas where you get two years. We have tried loads of schools, but there is nothing available. We have been told they have no places, no SNAs, and not enough resources. We tried one school which is across the road from us and we were told we are in a different parish.

“If he was able to get into a mainstream school with a unit it would bring him on massively,” said the father. “We are at our wits ends. It is emotional stress. It is like a psychological battle. We have had lots of sleepless nights, but we won’t give up.”

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: “ Minister [Josepha] Madigan urgently needs to act so that this is addressed for this September. Our children deserve much better.”

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