ST TOLA’S National School has been praised in the Dáil for providing an example of how students with disabilities should be catered for.
During the course of a debate on the provision of education for children with special needs, Clare TD Cathal Crowe said, “I will commend St. Tola’s National School in Shannon on being one of
two schools in the country that has a multi-disability class.
“The body politic always talks about ASD units, and that is so important, but it is only one disability across a spectrum of disabilities. The model in St. Tola’s is one we need to replicate throughout the country.”
St Tola’s opened its class for pupils with multiple disabilities in May, with over €250,000 having been spent on providing a prefab and facilities for the children.
At the time of the opening, school principal Mary Dunlea Fitzgerald said, “The children have multiple disabilities so they have challenges in relation to communication and movement and daily living skills.
“Typically children with these sorts of disabilities would have gone to a special school and being able to provide the facility in a mainstream setting and allowing the children to be integrated for part of the day into a mainstream classroom, it’s beneficial for the children themselves but also beneficial for the children in the mainstream class and for the whole school.”
During the course of the Dáil debate, Education Minister Norma Foley said, “My Department is committed to delivering an education system that is of the highest quality, where every child and young person feels valued and is actively supported and nurtured to reach his or her full potential.
“We strive to ensure that all children have access to an educational experience that is appropriate to their needs and supports both their academic and personal development.
“Our policy, which is set out in the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 is that children with special educational needs should be educated in mainstream placements with additional supports provided as appropriate.
“Where children require more specialised educational settings, such as special classes or special schools, the Department and National Council for Special Education, NCSE, ensure the necessary resources and supports for such placements are provided in line with the needs of the child.
“The active collaboration of school communities to this end is essential and the importance of a welcoming and inclusive environment cannot be overstated.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.