10 special classes will be delivered in school locally

By Mary Dennehy

CONFIRMATION that an additional 10 special classes will be delivered in primary and secondary schools across South Dublin County has been welcomed.

However, questions are being asked about the resources provided to support schools in the delivery of special classes.

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The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published an updated list of 177 special classes to be provided across the entire South Dublin area, of which around 30 are new classes starting this September.

According to the National Centre for Special Education (NCSE) this represents an increase of 22 per cent in the year-on-year provision.

Around one third of the new classes will be based in South Dublin County, with 10 new special classes being delivered in primary and post primary schools across Tallaght, Clondalkin, Palmerstown and Rathcoole.

Emma Kilcommins, Regional Manager, Dublin Region of the NCSE, said: “Many parents have anxieties about their child’s education and how they will cope but this is especially true for parents of children with Special Educational needs. 

“While many of these special classes will be fully or nearly fully subscribed at this time, we want to increase awareness of the options in South Dublin to ensure that children with Special Educational needs receive an education that enables them to achieve their potential.”

Ms Kilcommins added: “The NCSE would like to thank all the schools who have responded positively to the local SENOs [Special Education Needs Officer] request to establish additional special classes for the forthcoming year.”

While an increase in the provision of special classes has been welcomed, concerns have been raised around resources for schools and teachers.

Living in Maelruain’s, Sharon Condron Melia is the Vice Chairperson of the Tallaght Parents Autism Support Group (TPASG).

Sharon, who has three children with autism, questioned the training provided by the NCSE to mainstream teachers moving into special classes.

“It’s fantastic that something is happening and that there is an increase in special classes,” Sharon told The Echo.

“However, a major concern for parents is training.

“The needs of children in special classes can be quite high but is there specific training for the teachers in these classes?

“I don’t believe that NCSE has backed up schools with adequate training.”

St Dominic’s National School in Tallaght will have a new special class opening this September.

Principal Seamus Vaughan told The Echo that the teacher for the special class will come from the school’s mainstream cohort of staff, with training currently being provided by the NCSE.

St Dominic’s will receive an additional teacher as one staff member moves into the special class, and two SNAs.

Alongside the need for adequate training resources, Mr Vaughan also spoke of the need for physical resources for some schools.

While welcoming an increase in special classes, Mr Vaughan, who has campaigned locally and nationally for special education supports, highlighted the space restrictions within some schools.

According to Mr Vaughan the new builds for special classes are “fantastic”, but many schools are retro fitting their existing building – with a €6,500 grant from the Department.

“The physical resources for special classes are not in all schools,” Mr Vaughan said.

“We are taking a room from our pre-school and re-purposing the space [as a special class].

“We’re currently in the middle of planning… and are reducing the number of pre-school places for next year, from three classes to two.

“The Department isn’t giving schools additional space.”

The Echo contacted the NCSE about resources being provided to schools to support the introduction of special classes.

A comment was not received in time for print.

A full list of classes can be found on www.ncse.ie and any parent with questions is encouraged to contact their local SENO for further advice and supports.

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