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  • Northside West

Department is accused of ‘bullying’

Tuesday, 10th September, 2019 8:00am
Department is accused of ‘bullying’
Department is accused of ‘bullying’

THE Department of Education has been accused of bullying local schools in Dublin 15 in relation to a shortage of places for children on the autism spectrum.

The department recently sent letters to six schools in the area urging them to make more places available for children with special educational needs.

The letters come on the back of a strong campaign from parents with autistic children who are calling for an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Specific school in Dublin 15.

A survey carried out by the Autism School Dublin 15 Committee earlier this year found that almost 60 percent of children in local ASD classes never access mainstream education.

A report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) earlier this year also outlined insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.

Principals and chairpersons of boards of management in 22 Dublin 15 schools were later requested to give serious consideration to the need for more special education provision.

Last month technical teams began site visits, with 10 schools initially, to carry out first-hand assessments of the accommodation available and consider its suitability for additional provision of special classes.

“Ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them for the new school year is a key priority for me and the Government,” said Minister for Education, Joe McHugh.

“I am deeply conscious of the stress and anxiety facing parents and their children as we work to secure more places.

“It is a priority issue for the Department.

“I wish to thank schools and patron bodies for their help and support where they have already provided additional school places for children with special needs.

“I would prefer to see children welcomed into a school without the need for legal compulsion.”

However, Local Solidarity TD, Ruth Coppinger, and campaigners say that simply forcing schools to provide places won’t lead to better education for children on the ASD.

Deputy Coppinger accused the minister of “cynically bullying” schools over autism and urged them to stand firm.

“The minister’s public dressing down of a number of local schools is a cynical exercise to browbeat schools to agree to set up ASD classes with no guaranteed trained staff or resources,” the Dublin West TD said. “For years, the Department of Education either said there was no demonstrable need or else ignored the right to education of children with autism.

“Now, under pressure from strong campaigns by parents, the Government tries to shift the blame onto schools.

“It’s totally unacceptable that the minister is attempting a highly public ‘name and shame’ campaign — particularly as many of the schools weren’t even visited and already provide ASD classes or had sought resources in the past for them.

“A rush job without resources is a repeat of past mistakes where children with autism are not provided with trained teachers and SNAs. Simply putting children with autism in a room with four walls might get them off waiting list figures, but it doesn’t mean they are well served.”

On Saturday, September 28, to help people ‘Escape Your Chair’, the charity is calling on locals to walk, jog, or run in the Irish Heart Foundation Heart Hero 5K at parkrun events that are being staged across Dublin in association with parkrun Ireland.

The Irish Heart Foundation Heart Hero 5k can be completed at several Southside location, including: Poolbeg parkrun, Sean Moore Park, Sandymount, Dublin 4; Bushy parkrun, Bushy Park, Terenure, Dublin 6; Corkagh parkrun, Corkagh Park, St John's Cres, Corkagh Demesne, Dublin 8; Marlay parkrun, Marlay Park, Grange Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16; and Cabinteely parkrun, Cabinteely Park, Old Bray Road, Cabinteely.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here