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(Ireland) Dublin: New special school expected to enroll 150 students

Sept 8, 2023, Irish Times: New special school opens in south Dublin: ‘It’s very emotional. We never thought it would happen’

Miriam Kenny never thought her son Jonathan (11) would get a chance to go to school in his own neighbourhood.

They live in the affluent suburb of Templeogue in South Dublin. Yet, for all its advantages, the area has suffered from acute shortages of special education places.

Many children with complex conditions have been rejected by their local schools and forced to travel outside their communities and across the city to access an education that meets their needs.

This week, however, Miriam and Jonathan were able to walk to school at the newly-opened Libermann Spiritan School, a special school established on the grounds of the Spiritan-run Templeogue College.

The school has enrolled 24 pupils this week; it will grow to 30 next month. Subject to expansion plans, it could provide education for more than 150 students with special needs.

“We’re delighted,” says Kenny, whose son is autistic and needs a special school place. “It’s a very emotional and exciting day. I cried a lot. We never thought it would happen. Our son will be able to walk to school and be part of his local community. It’s something I hope many other children who need the extra support of a special school in the area will benefit from.”...

School principal Vivienne Wynne says the staff of five teachers and 24 special needs assistants (SNAs) have been preparing for the pupils since the start of the year, while academic Dr Paula Kennedy Flynn and Tom Sheridan of the Spiritan Education Trust played a key role in getting the plans off the ground….

The school at Templeogue College may be just the start. Under an agreement with the Spiritans – founders of Blackrock College, St Michael’s College on Merrion Road, St Mary’s College in Rathmines and Rockwell College, Co Tipperary – special classes or schools may also be established on these campuses.

It is a huge change for some of the most prestigious, fee-charging schools in the country. Many are bastions of privilege that for generations have taken in sons of Catholic middle-class families and moulded them into the leaders of tomorrow. On the face of it, at least, academic outcomes mattered more than inclusive admission policies….

Dr Nicholas Cuddihy, executive officer with the Spiritan Education Trust, says the Liberman Spiritan School project is the “cornerstone of their strategic direction and mission for the future”.

“The opening of this Libermann Spiritan School in Templeogue represents a key milestone as we continue to engage with the Department of Education and National Council for Special Education to maximise opportunities that may exist for the provision of education to children with special needs in all our schools.”…

“We’ve been campaigning since 2018 for local autistic children to be able to access appropriate educational placements in their local area, so this is incredible for them,” she says.

“This new school is an opportunity to be best-in-class in how we educate and support our autistic children who require a specialist educational setting. It’s clear that a phenomenal amount of thought and preparation has gone into the school. All staff have received lots of training prior to the school’s opening and the building is absolutely fantastic.”…


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