New special school to open in Cork after families left without places

Carrigaline school to cater for children with dual diagnosis of learning disability and autism
New special school to open in Cork after families left without places

Darragh Murphy, with his parents Gary and Alison, was left without a school place for two years in a row. 

A new special school is set to open in Cork, and work is underway to ensure new places are established as early as possible for the 2021/22 school year.

This follows campaigning from families locally who said their children were being denied an appropriate education due to a lack of special school places. 

Included in this group is Darragh Murphy, 14, from Ballinlough, who was left without a school place, for the second year in a row.

His parents Gary and Alison previously told the Irish Examiner: "He is, and we are, being discriminated against simply because he has a disability." 

Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, and Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Special Education, announced on Friday that 60 new special school places will be created this September.

The new special school will be set up in the existing building at the Gaelscoil in Carrigaline. This new school will have 48 places and provide for the needs of children with autism and a general learning disability up to the age of 18.

Developing primary school Owenabue Educate Together National School had been due to move into this site this September. The school, which is also due to open an autism class in September, said it welcomed the news of a much-needed new special school for Cork. 

However, the announcement has left it without certainty about its future accommodation, it said, and it is seeking an update from the Department of Education. 

'Fundamental right'

Separately, there will also be a change to the designation of St Mary’s Special School in Rochestown to cater for children with a dual diagnosis of learning disability and autism, creating an additional 12 new places for September 2021. 

Priority for the school places will now be given to the children who currently do not have an offer of a school place for next September, according to the Department of Education.

It will continue discussions with patron bodies in order to identify a patron for the new special school in Carrigaline. An announcement will be made in this regard shortly, it added in a statement.

It is now imperative that work begins on refurbishing the new building, hiring the appropriate staff and ensuring children get the education they deserve, according to Padraig O’ Sullivan, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central. 

"No child or parent should have to fight for their right to an education. It is a fundamental constitutional right for all. We should not have to be reminded of that. I would like to acknowledge the hard work and persistence of these families throughout this campaign," he added. "I have engaged extensively with them in recent months and I know the anxiety and upset that the uncertainty has caused." 

Norma Foley said: “I want to thank all of the parents, schools, patron bodies and other stakeholders in Cork for their ongoing engagement with the Department and with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).”

Josepha Madigan said the much-needed development will help to meet the demand for special school places in the area. "However, I also want to be clear that this work continues to ensure that we meet the ongoing demand for special education placements." 

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