Dept of Education’s D15 autism directive ‘falls short’ – parents

by Sylvia Pownall

Parents campaigning for a dedicated school for children with autism in Dublin 15 say a directive from the Department of Education to provide more places falls short.

Six schools in the Blanchardstown area have been written to by Education Minister Joe McHugh instructing them to open extra spaces for children with special needs.

With the new school term starting this week, almost 90 children in the Dublin 15 catchment area have no school place.

Sile Parsons, spokesperson for the D15 Autism School Dublin lobby group, says just ordering schools to open up new units will not tackle the crisis.

She said: “It’s not enough. Asking schools to open classes is a start, but the reason those schools probably have not opened classes, to date, is because of the lack of resources they have available to them.

“It’s very hard to find a teacher in an existing school to go in and work in that unit. Most teachers, if they have no additional training, they start in a unit in September and they actually don’t gain any training until the end of October.”

Earlier this week, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin accused Minister McHugh of “spin” on the issue of school places for autistic children.

The Department of Education sent letters to Scoil Bride in Blanchardstown, St Patrick’s in Corduff, Scoil Nais Mhuire Soisin in Blakestown, Scoil Mhuire in Blakestown, Ladywell in Mulhuddart and Mary Mother of Hope in Clonee.

The letters were also sent to Archbishop Martin, as patron of the six primary schools, advising that a special class for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be opened with six pupils per class.

Archbishop Martin recounted a meeting when he had asked the Minister for Education to use his powers to force schools to provide places for ASD students.

He told The Irish Times: “He’s now spinning it as if I’m the one holding it up.”

Related Articles