Teacher shortage leaves nine special needs children without school place

NINE children with special needs have no school place this week and are stuck in the middle of a staffing dispute between the school and the Department of Education.

St Gabriel’s Special School in the Cork suburb of Bishopstown told parents it can only offer part-time placements because it was notified last week that it is entitled to two teachers less than last year.

But the department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) say the school still has enough staff — eight teachers and 28 special needs assistants — to cater for all 38 pupils enrolled.

The families were left disappointed this week when the school told them the full-time places they had been offered were no longer available. Instead, they were offered a part-time service until, the school board said, “the NCSE are in a position to reconsider their decision”.

The school caters for pupils with autism and others who have severe or profound disabilities. The proposed provision is believed to be three days of classes one week and two days the following week.

In a statement last night, the school board said it sympathises with the difficulties parents have been experiencing over the past few days but stressed that it had offered placements to nine children based on the allocation of teachers at that time.

“The board are shocked that the NCSE withdrew sanction for two of our teaching posts in the week before school was due to re-open. This put the board in an invidious position,” it said.

Ted Dunne’s 7-year-old son TJ has been waiting a year to attend the school. He has severe autism and, for the past year, has had no education specific to his needs.

“This is disastrous for TJ,” Mr Dunne said. “As a boy with autism, he needs the consistency of five days a week in the one school. We were promised last year that we were number two on the entry list and now we are being told we can only get half of what TJ urgently needs.

He added: “I don’t know what to. We have even been considering moving to the UK to get an education for my son.”

The department said last night that the 10 teachers it had during the last school year for 38 pupils was three more than the norm for a special school catering for this category of pupils and this size.

One of the surplus teachers is about to retire and the school is not eligible for a replacement.

A further surplus post has been withdrawn, leaving the school with one supernumerary post above its staffing allocation.


Living with arthritis? 7 tips for managing morning stiffness

Seven myths and truths about healthy skin

Meet the women on a mission to stop you fearing carbs, dairy and sugar

Speaking up for new ways to learn the Irish language

More From The Irish Examiner