Seanad debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

1:00 pm

Photo of Emer CurrieEmer Currie (Fine Gael)

I too give my sympathies to the O'Mahony family. He was such a huge figure in Irish sport and politics. His death is a terrible loss for their family. I hope they can feel proud of him and all of his achievements at this time.

I raise the approximately 30 children with additional needs across Dublin 15 who urgently need school places for September. It is July, we are in the midst of summer holidays and all of these families need places in fewer than 60 days. The reason the community is so mobilised and angry on this issue is because it knows first-hand it should not be here. Both the NCSE and the Department of Education knew about the scale of needs in Dublin 15 because principals and parents had told them. They were forewarned. The parents who walked in these shoes in previous years did everything they could to ensure that families would not have to go through this again. Yet, here we are, so late in the day in a scramble for school places. Our new Minister of State for special education is prioritising these shortages, has given assurances for September and she is committed to reform. Today, I suggest that the reform start in Dublin 15. Dublin West has been acknowledged as the most difficult place in the country to secure an appropriate school place for a child with additional needs. We have pressures every year regarding school capacity. If we can fix it in Dublin 15, we can fix it anywhere. We need a Dublin 15 working group, an action-oriented group of parents, principals, patrons, the NCSE, the Department of Education, including the building unit, led by the Government to make sure this never happens again and that no child is left behind. We should be looking at common application processes, which I have spoken about before. That can be led by principals. They are in an ideal position to run this and to forward plan for the coming shortages. We need to address data sharing and communication between the NCSE, schools and preschools. We need to fix the gaps in processes, training, resources and supports. We need a debate about this, if not now, first thing in September.

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