Mother pleads for SNA assistant as five year old Kate is unable to start school

A Cork mother has admitted she is agonising over how to break the news to her daughter that she won’t be able to start primary school later this week.

Excited Kate Crowley, 5, from Dunkettle, can’t wait to start “big school” with her friends on Friday.

However, the bright child’s dreams of attending St Columbus Girls’ School in Douglas now rest on the outcome of an appeal lodged by the school’s principal against a decision not to grant her a full- time special needs assistant (SNA).

Earlier this summer, experts from Enable Ireland said Kate’s complex and life-limiting illness — which has left her with a multitude of disorders — merited a full-time SNA.

The National Council for Special Education disagreed with their findings and allocated just one SNA to look after Kate and five other dependent children.

Her parents Maria and John admitted yesterday they are dreading telling Kate — who scored exceptional results in intelligence tests less than two years ago — that she will not be able to attend school in two days’ time.

However, they have refused to give up hope of securing a full-time SNA, and have even had a uniform, tracksuit, and school shoes specifically tailored to fit their daughter’s small frame.

John said yesterday: “Kate went shopping for new shoes, shirt and bag this week, as well as all her school accessories. She is so excited, and even this morning could not wait to show her Daddy her new school shoes.”

Maria added: “We’ve got her uniform just in case something changes, but as it stands Kate will not be able to go to school unless she is granted a full-time SNA.

“She hasn’t stopped talking about starting ‘big school’ and she met all the other children last June. It’s going to break her heart.”

Principal Michelle Cashman said an appeal has been lodged and she is awaiting the outcome.

Kate suffers from rhizomelic chondordysplasia punctata dysplasia, a rare condition which has left her with a multitude of disorders, all related to being born with a shortening of the major long bones, including the chest, upper arm, and upper leg and general abnormalities in the joint areas.

The most life-threatening feature is the severe respiratory issues she suffers from as a result of limited lung development, brought on by her scoliosis.

She also has bilateral hearing loss, is confined to a wheelchair, has limited speech, and is under-developed in stature and weight.

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