BY EMMA CONNOLLY
KINSALE Community School has been given the go-ahead for a fourth class for students with autism, or who have an autistic spectrum disorder.
Principal Fergal McCarthy described it as a ‘moral issue’ that the school felt compelled to respond to, and criticised other schools for not making such places available.
‘We have to meet the needs of parents who are not being supported in their own communities,’ he said.
The school’s existing autism classrooms each comprise six students, and the new class coming on stream next September will be of a similar size.
Fergal described the new class as good news for the school, and the entire community.
‘Parents struggle to find appropriate places as there are not enough ASD units on the second level education landscape. We felt morally duty bound to request another one due to demand,’ he told The Southern Star.
Currently students in the ASD units come from as far as Ballincollig and Upton.
Enrolment is offered firstly to those in the catchment area, and then on a first-come basis, with a single figure waiting list in operation.
Their model of best practice is one of inclusivity and not just integration, with an individual education plan for each student.
‘We get students involved in all aspects of school life, which is essential to the student experience. We are capturing their voice and maximining learning outcomes and opportunities to shine, with good outcomes with lots of students transitioning into third level, further education and employment,’ added Fergal.
‘The model we’re operating has been so successful that we felt it would have been wrong not to make it available to others,’ the principal added.
Bandon’s Presentation Primary School on the Dunmanway Road has also been given the go-ahead for a new ASD unit, along with Scoil Mhuire Lourdes secondary in Carrigaline.
Scores of other schools throughout West Cork were given additional resources for existing ASD units and will benefit from some of the 800 additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) announced for the beginning of the next school year, in order to meet the increased demand.
A further 140 SNAs are expected to be allocated over the period September to December 2018, which is an over 7% increase on last year.
To find out if your school will benefit, see ncse.ie.