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(Ireland) County Louth: 'Significant' lack of autism places in secondary schools

Oct 28, 2022, Dundalk Democrat: Concerns raised over available school places in Dundalk for students with autism

The fear over lack of school places in local schools for children on the autism spectrum was raised in the Seanad.

Deputy John McGahon told the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan there is a “real fear among the school community and parents in County Louth about the provision and allocation of school places for children with autism going into secondary schools”.

The Louth senator, speaking in the Seanad recently, said: “That fear is not based on anecdotes or what somebody might have said to somebody else.

“North of a line from Kilsaran in County Louth to the Meath-Monaghan border, there are 24 primary schools which have 24 special classes with six pupils in each class, which is 144 students in total.

“Half of the geographical county lies north of that line and includes the town of Dundalk containing 42,000 people. That area has 24 special classes in primary schools.

“However, the eight secondary schools have only three special classes, accommodating 18 pupils.

“In the coming years we will need to get 144 students into 18 spaces.”… Senator McGahon said the 18 spaces in those three schools are already full for next September.

“I personally know of six pupils who will need one of those 18 spots, but it is oversubscribed”, he said.

“Those six students will be without a space for September 2023….

Minister Madigan, in response, said that all children with additional needs in Louth were catered for this year.

“We have 69 special classes in total in Louth at the moment - 54 in primary and 15 in post-primary”, she continued.

“There were 13 new classes for September 2022 - 11 primary and two post-primary. “That is a significant addition to what was there originally.”

Minister Madigan continued: “If there are 144 students in primary school at the moment and we assume the majority of those will be going on to post-primary, we have to make sure we have the placements for them.

“The NCSE is aware of that. Mr. John Kearney, who is the new CEO, will be able to recruit extra staff to implement that and use our forecasting model to be able to anticipate where there is capacity in local schools and how we can provide for them.

“We have the new legislation as well which can assist us with that.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan and Senator John McGahon at Coláiste Chú Chulainn. Pic: Arthur Kinahan


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