A state-of-the-art Autism Spectrum Disorder unit is set to become an integral part of day-to-day life at McEgan College in Macroom, writes Kieran O'Mahony
DUE to open early in the new academic year, the brand new ASD unit at McEgan College, costing in the region of â¬270,000, is a welcome addition to the school which actively promotes inclusivity for all it students. After years of planning and successfully securing permission and final approval from Cork County Council and An Bord PleanÃ¡la in June, work began on building the unit over the summer holidays.
McEgan College is a co-educational school providing a broad curriculum up to Leaving Certificate level.Â
This truly inclusive college, which caters for students from the town of Macroom and its rural hinterland has gone from strength to strength over the last 83 years.
The new ASD unit, will cater for eight students with mild to moderate general learning disability (MGLD). It features a top-of-the range classroom, a universal access toilet/shower room and a quiet room.
âMcEgan College prides itself on welcoming each child in the community and creating learning opportunities regardless of their intellectual ability. With the rise in ASD diagnoses, we saw a growing demand for special school places for children with autism in the Macroom area,' said Pat McKelvey, director of schools with Cork Education Training Board (CETB).
âThis exciting ASD Unit build ensures that this demand is met and provides appropriate education to those in need close to their homes, as currently the nearest ASD units are located in Ballincollig, Dunmanway and Cork .'
Pat added that this hugely important extension will provide an excellent learning environment for students on the autistic spectrum who are enrolled for the upcoming school term and will enable them to grow and progress, thus meeting their full potential.
âStudents with MGLD have been enrolled for a number of years in the college but in totally inadequate facilities. Parents of these children have been campaigning for years for this special unit and Cork ETB is now delighted to deliver this facility following the permission of the National Council for Special Education and the Department of Education and Skills.'
Cork ETB chief executive Ted Owens said that the organisation prides itself in ensuring inclusion for those with special education needs.
âWe already have units in 10 of our schools in the county and we try to provide units on a regional basis. There was a big lack in Macroom and parents were agitating for such an unit in the town, so we decided that we would try and provide same,' said Ted.
âWe were delighted then to be given permission for such a facility here. This will be for students who have autism or are on the autism spectrum and it has art facilities, a specially-designed classroom and a quiet room.'
There is also a strong desire, where possible, to integrate students using the new facilities with the other students attending the college, so some of them may also avail of the regular classes and facilities as well.
âIf they need some quiet time or need a break from the ordinary classroom they will be able to go to the new unit,' added Ted.
Top consultants Bertie Pope & Associates were appointed to ensure that all steps and statutory requirements were met in preparing the site and carrying out the building of this all-important unit. This included the provision of a protection plan for a silver birch tree, which was planted by the then president of Ireland, Mary Robinson.Â
With the aid of a horticulturalist, the tree is being relocated to a gorgeous green area close to the front door of the school for all to admire and other trees will also be planted by Cork ETB on the site.
âFollowing the granting of planning permission we agreed to enhance the environment and entrance to Macroom Castle as well,' said Ted.
â¢ To find out more about McEgan College or to enrol your child for the upcoming 2017/2018 school year call 026-41076 or email: