23 special needs pupils denied place at school

TWENTY-THREE children with special needs were welcomed into their new school in Dublin this week and then told an hour later that there was no place for them.

Thirty children, aged six to 17, turned up at St Joseph’s Special School in Balrothery, Tallaght, on Thursday, where they were greeted by the principal.

The principal, Brendan Hennigan, left to attend a meeting with a Special Needs Education Officer (SENO) and returned an hour later to break the news that only seven of the 30 new pupils could remain on at the school.

Ninety students are already enrolled at the school and these 30 additional pupils had sent in applications early this summer to enrol this academic year.

According to Mr Hennigan, the SENO would not authorise the children’s place in the school as there were outstanding issues to be dealt with by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). This year is the first that authority over special school enrolment has been placed in the hands of the NCSE.

Mr Hennigan said there were “tables and chairs in place” and “sufficient teachers in place” to teach all these children, many of whom have emotional problems. He said “parents and children had been treated very badly”.

Parents at the school were “distraught”, as they believed they had all been accepted at the school, having obtained psychological reports at the beginning of the summer and sent them on to the NCSE.

St Joseph’s was established to cater for children with mild learning disability, but in the past 10 years had been taking in more children with more serious learning problems and emotional and behavioural problems.

Grace Malone sits on the Parents Association at the school. She said parents were “devastated” as they were given no alternative schooling option. She said it was “disgraceful that the NCSE had not authorised places before the beginning of the school year”.

A number of parents were told to contact the school by mid-September to see if there was any change.

Head of operations at the NCSE Sé Goulding last night said they did not force the principal to send the children home as that would be beyond their remit.

He said that the NCSE was still working in relation to the allocation of resources at the school and that “there were issues to be clarified yet”.

“We are currently processing applications for the school submitted by the school,” Mr Goulding said.

Ms Malone said the NCSE could not suggest that there were any delays with paperwork from the school as she said “all applications were sent to the NCSE last May along with psychological reports”.

“Parents should have been made aware before September if their child didn’t have a place,” she said.


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