Thursday, 25 February 2010
Special Educational Needs
Paschal Donohoe (Fine Gael)
I visited St. Laurence O'Toole's special school in Dublin on Monday morning last. In the course of our work as politicians, we spend some time visiting schools and trying to understand their needs. I have never visited a school which does such important and hard work in such difficult circumstances. This school looks after young men and women who, for different reasons, are not part of our mainstream school system. They are boys and girls who have real difficulties with their behaviour, lifestyles and family circumstances. If these pupils did not have a school to look after them, they would face a tough life with very slim chances. The school does vital work for pupils who do not have anyone to give them the care they need. It is an amazing school doing badly needed work.
I raise this issue because despite the great work being done and the dedication of the teachers in tough circumstances, which I saw on Monday morning, the school has been housed in pre-fabs for a number of years. The school has moved through the stages of the Department's schools building programme. It sought planning permission for a site and school design. Planning permission was granted in 2008. The cost of the project has been approved by the Department and the project is moving through the system.
However, progress has now stopped.
The board of management and the teachers need an update from the Department of Education and Science on where the project stands and a commitment that it will move ahead. I emphasise that they are doing the most difficult work in looking after children who need support and care which they might not be able to get elsewhere. They are working in prefabs and in conditions which are not suitable. They had a glimpse of what the future might look like but it has been removed and they do not know where the project stands. I would like an update from the Minister. I will certainly make a commitment to do all I can to help them, because they need it, and I hope the Government and the Minister will do the same.