Parents reject plan for special needs classroom


PARENTS OF special-needs pupils in a new €4.2 million primary school in Co Cork have rejected plans by the school to adapt a storeroom to accommodate the children as they have only two special-needs classrooms for three special-needs classes.

Marcia Fleming has removed her 10-year-old daughter, Crea, from the autism spectrum disorders unit at Rushbrooke National School in Cobh while another parent, Amy Read, said she was considering sending her nine-year -old son, Callum, elsewhere due to his treatment by the school.

Both children returned to Rushbrooke on September 3rd but, together with a third special-needs child, they have been accommodated in a 30sq m storeroom with just a skylight in the ceiling for light, as no classroom was available.

Ms Fleming said her daughter was being discriminated against by being taught in a storeroom while other children were being taught in proper classrooms.

Ms Read said it seemed the three children did not matter and “were just shoved into a storeroom”.

Ms Read said she did not believe that adapting the storeroom was acceptable and said her son and the other two children, who are now entering their sixth year at the school, should be given priority over those who enrolled later.

“An extra class was enrolled in 2009 and that’s where the shortage of accommodation stems from,” she said.

“Why should our children not have the same facilities as other classes, such as toilets attached to each classroom, especially given they have greater toileting needs?”

In a statement, the Department of Education said it had carried out an analysis of children’s educational needs in the Cobh area before sanctioning the new school for Rushbrooke.

The survey had concluded that a new school with 24 mainstream classrooms and two special-needs classrooms would offer sufficient capacity, and the school agreed.

In February, however, the school wrote to say it had enrolled an additional junior-infants class in 2009.

The school said it now had 25 mainstream classes and 15 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) students and asked for an extra classroom to be built.

The department said the initial brief could not be changed because work on the school was too advanced.

It suggested the school retain its prefabs until 2016 to cater for the extra students.

However, in March the school informed the department it no longer needed the prefabs and asked to have them removed in June.

The school confirmed in April that it had enough accommodation for 25 mainstream and three ASD classes, the department said.

In a statement, the school’s board of management said that on foot of its request to the department for an extra classroom being refused earlier this year, the department had offered it a choice of accommodating the extra children in either a general room in the school or retaining a prefab to cater for them.

The board chose to accommodate the children within the new school rather than keep them in a prefab.

An application is being made to obtain emergency funding to convert the 30sq m storage room by placing a window in the wall and other changes.

The principal at Rushbrooke, Dónal Ó Ciarán, said the decision to opt for conversion rather than use a prefab was based on the desire not to segregate the three children by isolating them in a stand-alone prefab, but rather to accommodate them within the ASD unit.

This would ensure they were close to all facilities for children with special needs, including a sensory room, time-out rooms, soft playground and enclosed area. The room offered more space for each child than the prefabs would, Mr Ó Ciaráin added.