Limerick school still begging for promised supports

Le Chéile vice principal Shane Donoghue said that 'everyone just walked away' from the school. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

FASTER delivery of additional support infrastructure is desperately needed in Limerick schools where more than seven in 10 pupils have additional education needs.

That’s according to local Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, who called on the Department of Education to speed up the delivery of the much-needed additional support services.

Speaking in the Dáil on the mater, Deputy Quinlivan said that he has “raised the challenges faced by Le Chéile National School in Limerick and the need for additional support services to the school. It is a school in an extremely disadvantaged area, the second most disadvantaged in the state, according to Pobail, with 186 pupils enrolled.”

The Limerick Post previously featured a revealing article on the Rathbane school, in which staff and parents begged the Department for support.

After €6million was pumped into a new campus for Le Chéile, parents and teachers were promised a wrap-around support service with child mental health and diagnostics, medical clinics with a dedicated nurse and doctor, and play therapy and family supports, hand-in-hand with classroom supports including special needs teachers.

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The school building was opened in a blaze of publicity nine years ago, “and then everyone just walked away”, vice principal Shane Donoghue previously told the Limerick Post.

“The promises never materialised. The school was promised the kind of services that sounded like the stuff of fantasy. These services are needed in the second most deprived area in the country – not in Limerick, not in the region – the second most deprived in the entire State”.

Deputy Quinlivan told the Dáil that assessments at the school “find that 72 per cent of children have at least one additional need. The staff have been pleading for supports for two years, supports are still not delivered.”

“I have spoken frequently with staff at the school and there is no doubt that additional services are needed. The staff estimate that 38 per cent of their pupils have two or more additional needs.”

Deputy Quinlivan said he previously raised the issue with Education Minister Norma Foley in March, but there has still been no move towards delivering supports.

“The state is failing these children. The school and its staff are doing the best for them, they have resorted to using school funds to have assessments done privately to help these families who have reached crisis point. What the school wants is support.”

The Limerick TD went on to say that “separately, Corpus Christi school in Moyross continues to wait for the delivery of two ASD (autism spectrum disorder) support units that have been approved, along with four SET rooms, since 2020”.

“Four years later, and despite querying the matter with the Department of Education, there is still no time frame as to when the project will go to construction. This is unacceptable.”

“The Department of Education has a duty of care to these children, a duty that I suggest is not being honoured. Now the Department of Education has numerous programmes to assist schools with high needs in Dublin and these have not been rolled out to other areas of the state. There is an immediate need for the School Inclusion Model to be rolled out to Limerick schools. The government failure in these two cases must be addressed.”