There has been ongoing and comprehensive engagement with families and/or advocates of families in the North Dublin area involving the Department of Education, the Minister of State’s office and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) providing updates on the progress being made to deliver appropriate special school placement for children with special educational needs this autumn term. Extensive efforts have been made to ensure that new places would be created to accommodate the educational needs of children who require a special school place in the Dublin area.
Families were advised last week that an expansion of St Michael’s House, Foxfield will open later in the autumn, on a second site in Drinan, Swords and will initially provide places for 24 children, meeting the need for special school places in the North Dublin area.
The application process for these additional places is now open. Families have been advised and are being supported to now make their enrolment application for these places, in line with the school’s admissions policies. All of the documentation that will facilitate the children’s enrolment in St Michael’s House, Foxfield has been made available to the families concerned. The NCSE continues to be available to every family to support this process and is encouraging those who require such a place to now apply.
Parents were invited to attend an information meeting so that details of the extensive resources and supports which will be made available to children who attend this school could be shared by the NCSE. This information has also been sent by letter in some cases, and the NCSE remains available to support all families that are looking for these places.
The Department is aware that some families that are being offered a place in the school are disappointed that the school placement will be ready in October rather than the general school start-time of September. The Department and NCSE acknowledge that this is disappointing, but wishes to reassure families that every effort is being made to finalise this building work as quickly as possible. This will ensure that the children commence their new special school in appropriate accommodation with the necessary resourcing and staffing in place.
As soon as enrolments are finalised the school and NCSE will work with parents to ensure bespoke transitions arrangements are put in place for each child which includes continued access to home tuition to support and facilitate transition to school.
For immediate use in autumn 2022, modular accommodation on-site is being adapted to suit the needs of the children who will attend the school. The school layouts have been developed in consultation with St Michael’s House as school patron. The buildings which have been adapted to provide for specialist SEN Classrooms with acoustic absorption, quiet spaces and universally accessible WC facilities, multi-sensory room, living skills and support spaces.
There are also two secure external play areas with soft playground surface, play equipment and external covered canopy. The Department is satisfied that the school site will provide an inclusive, accessible and secure school facility for the children who will attend there.
It is the Department’s intention that a new permanent school building project will take place for St. Michael’s which will house all of the pupils currently attending St. Michael’s House Foxfield, as well as the children who avail of the 24 new places in Drinan.
Under the direction of the Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD, the Department has put in place a comprehensive range of supports for the children who will attend the expanded school at St. Michael’s House. These include:
- Capitation and grant funding which reflects the fact that there are two sites in operation
- Teaching, SNA and ancillary staffing including the appointment of an Administrative Deputy Principal to the new setting
- Therapeutic supports which have been agreed with the HSE
- Nursing support
At all times, the focus of those engaging with the families who will attend this school, and other special schools and classes, has been to secure an appropriate placement for the children as quickly as possible.
Throughout the summer the Department and NCSE have continued to work with schools in the Dublin area with the result that 17 new additional special classes have been approved for the new school year. This brings to 77 the number of new special classes in Dublin for the 2022/23 school year.
The recent announcement of 383 additional special classes for the 2022/23 school year, across the primary and post primary school system represents the largest number of special class places ever available for children with special educational needs.