TWO schools in Newcastle West are to receive extra capacity to teach children with special needs, Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan has confirmed.
Girls primary school Scoil Iosaf and the Desmond College secondary school have created new provisions for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as part of a national push to provide more special needs facilities in Irish schools.
Mr O’Donovan welcomed the news that the two local schools were to provide the dedicated resources, which will be in place this month. “I am delighted with the announcement that Scoil Iósaf and the Desmond College are going to be able to provide these new classes. Scoil Iósaf will run an ASD early intervention class and the Desmond College will run an ASD class.
“The provision of these classes will have a huge impact on the pupils and their families.”
The creation of two new classes in Newcastle West schools follows an announcement by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that 118 new classes for children with special needs are to open in schools across Ireland this September. These new classes will cater for a total of 700 children with special needs in 113 mainstream primary and post-primary level schools.
The new facilities will bring the number of special needs classes available in mainstream Irish schools to 740. These cater for over 5,000 children, the NCSE has said.
Mr O’Donovan said that the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government remains committed to education despite ongoing pressure to cut public expenditure. “Education is being prioritised by this Government, within extremely limited spending options. In 2011, 33 such classes were created, and this was increased to 91 last year.
“The additional 118 classes opening this month means that 242 special classes have been created during the lifetime of this Government - a 50% increase in the availability of special classes.”
Mr O’Donovan said that special needs facilities within a regular school environment have clear benefits for children, particularly as they typically have a very low student-teacher ratio. It will also reduce pressure on parents to travel long distances to take their children to schools with special needs capacity.
“Special classes in mainstream schools are one of the options available to parents of children who cannot be educated in a mainstream class.
“These classes have lower pupil-teacher ratios than mainstream classes, ranging from one teacher for six pupils to one teacher for eleven pupils. These classes will mean that fewer children with special educational needs have to travel long distances to schools.”