17 December, 2020 – Ministers Foley and Madigan welcome the establishment of a new special school in South Dublin

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD have today (17 December, 2020) announced that a new special school will be established in 2021 on the campus of the former Scoil Colm in Crumlin, Dublin.

This new special school will offer places to students with autism and general learning disabilities, many of whom are currently in mainstream schools or receiving education under the home tuition scheme.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has agreed to be the patron of the new school and the school, which will operate alongside Scoil Eoin special school on the same campus, will offer opportunities for integration for pupils with the longer term plan of establishing a single campus for special education in the coming years.

Minister Foley said: “I welcome the involvement of Archbishop Martin in establishing this new school.  He brings a welcome and valued experience and knowledge of special schools to the project and my Department looks forward very much to working with him and other stakeholders in this regard.

“I wish everyone involved in the project of establishing this new school every success as they work to create an inclusive and supportive environment for children with special educational needs.” 

Minister Madigan said:  “I am delighted to have secured agreement to open a new special school at Scoil Colm.

“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.

“There has been a shortage of special school places in the South Dublin area this year. 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.

“I want to thank everyone who worked with me to secure the establishment of this new special school. I am grateful to the Archbishop of Dublin for agreeing to be the patron of the new school.

“The school is being established now and will open as soon as possible.

“Work will begin to ensure that the site is safe and up to the requisite standard.”

Notes for Editors:

Special Schools

There are currently 124 special schools providing specialist education for approximately 8,000 pupils annually with over 1,400 teachers.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, in accordance with the policies of the Department.

Enhanced pupil teacher and SNA ratios are provided to special schools to support them in dealing with pupils' educational and care needs.

Since 2012, special schools are provided with teaching staff on the basis of individual pupil profiles and disability categories of those pupils, as opposed to being based principally on school designation, in accordance with Department Circular 0042/2011. Special school staffing allocations are reviewed and updated each year by the NCSE and schools are staffed on the basis of each year’s current school enrolments.

Budget 2020 and Budget 2021 have provided for additional teaching posts for special schools in each year, designed to meet expected increases in enrolments. It also provides for the continued provision of administrative deputy principal posts in special schools with 15+ teaching posts, introduced in special schools for the first time from September 2019. 

Special education placements – South Dublin

The NCSE has been working with stakeholders in the South Dublin area for a number of years and service provision has expanded as a result of this.

Special Class Places

An additional 78 ASD primary special class placements (13 classes) and 12 early intervention special class placements (2 classes) were established from September, 2020. Since then, five additional ASD special classes have opened with one further ASD special class due to open in January next. 

Work continues through the Section 37A process to secure additional special class provision. Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by Section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) provides for a transparent process which can ultimately result in the Minister issuing a binding direction to schools to establish additional classes for children with special needs.

Copies of the notices and representations for the schools involved in South Dublin are published on the Department of Education’s website as provided for under the act here:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Supports-for-Pupils-with-Special-Needs/section-37a-notices/

It is open to any school to apply to seek to open a special class for children with special educational needs and Irish schools have a strong tradition in catering for children with special needs.

Special School Places

Despite engagement with 23 special schools in the area, it has not proved possible to increase the number of special school places in South Dublin. There is a need, at the current date, for an additional 35 special school places for students with autism and general learning disabilities in South Dublin. The shortfall in provision is despite very significant investment of time and effort involving the schools, patrons, and the NCSE.

Despite access to home tuition, this is an unacceptable situation for both the Department and the families involved.

The availability of suitable accommodation in the immediate area was identified as a key challenge to bringing additional places on stream quickly.Only one option was identified in this regard, the vacant premises of the former Scoil Colm located in Crumlin.

In accordance with the requirements of Section 10 of the Education Act, 1998, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has agreed to be the patron of the new school. The school, which will operate alongside Scoil Eoin special school on the same campus, will offer opportunities for integration for pupils with the longer term plan of establishing a single campus for special education in the coming years.

Support for Schools

A package of teaching, special needs assistants, training and funding supports is available to mainstream and special schools. Schools can apply to the Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate special classes and/or to construct additional accommodation. NCSE also provides CPD for staff through a programme of seminars and in-school supports for principals and teachers. NCSE Advisors also provide whole-school staff training where requested.

Nationwide

The Department together with the NCSE are monitoring the availability of places for students with special needs throughout the country as a priority issue and will continue to work with relevant stakeholders.

The Department works closely with the NCSE which has responsibility for working with families and schools and for the provision and coordination of an adequate number of specialist educational places to meet local demand throughout the country.

Funding for the provision of home tuition is available to parents as a short term arrangement for children who cannot secure a suitable placement.