New special school to be established next year in south Dublin

The move aims to address an acute shortage of appropriate school places in the area

Parents and children protesting outside Scoil Colm in Crumlin in 2019 over the lack of school places for special needs children in south Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Parents and children protesting outside Scoil Colm in Crumlin in 2019 over the lack of school places for special needs children in south Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A new special school is to be established next September in south Dublin for dozens of children with conditions such as autism and learning disabilities .

The move is aimed at addressing an acute shortage of appropriate school places for children with special needs in the south Dublin area.

The school will be based on the campus of the former Scoil Colm in Crumlin, and will cater initially to at least 35 pupils.

Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State with responsibility for special education Josepha Madigan made the announcement on Thursday evening.

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has agreed to be the patron of the new school, which will operate alongside another special school, Scoil Eoin.

There is a longer-term plan of establishing a single campus for special education in the coming years.

Ms Madigan said she was delighted to have secured agreement to open the new special school.

“This is a much-needed development which will help to meet the demand for special school places in the area. 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.”

She said there has been a shortage of special school places in the south Dublin area, and many students who should have a special school place were unable to secure one.

“This has impacted on their lives and the lives of their families. This new school will increase the number of places available for students in the area, and allow students to receive a full education appropriate to their needs.

Campaigners

For a number of years campaigners in the south Dublin area have been calling for additional special class places and a special school to help meet the needs of children with additional needs. They say the shortage of places is forcing many children to avail of home tuition or to travel long distances across the city to access school places.

Margaret Lowndes and Helen Holmes, lead organisers of the D12 campaign, it was "fantastic to have Ministers uphold  the constitutional  rights of our children."

" We are over the moon at the announcement. We have campaigned for tweo years tirelessly and relentlessly to ensure the educational needs of the many families in Dublin 12 and across south Dublin  are met . Today we can say we have been heard," they said, in a statement.

"We look forward to children packing their school bags and crossing the doors of Scoil Colm finally."

The Department of Education said an additional 78 primary special class placements and 12 early intervention special class placements have been established since September 2020.

Five additional special classes have opened in the meantime, while a further special class is due to open in January.

It said work was continuing through a new legal process – know as Section 37A – to oblige schools in the area to provide additional special class provision.

This can ultimately result in the Minister for Education issuing a binding direction to schools to establish additional classes for children with special needs.

In a statement, the department said it was monitoring the availability of places for students with special needs throughout the country as a priority issue, and would continue to work with relevant stakeholders.

The department works with the National Council for Special Education which has responsibility for working with families and schools and for the provision and co-ordination of an adequate number of specialist educational places to meet local demand.