Parents heartache eased with news Dunboyne Autism Unit to open in September
A DUNBOYNE mother's poignant Facebook post about a secondary school place for her daughter, saw a phenomenal response to a petition to have an autism unit opened at St Peter's College and culminated with news this morning that the unit will be in place for next September.
An ecstatic Orla Gormally said she is delighted her daughter Emma will have a school place for September and thanked the local community who had rallied round her campaign for the school.
Until this morning, Orla feared her daughter Emma might not have had any school to go to in September
Minister Regina Doherty announced this morning that a four classroom unit will be in place in temporary accommodation for September.
“Yesterday afternoon I met with Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh to convey concerns from my constituents about an Autism Spectrum Disorder unit for St Peter’s College in Dunboyne.
“I am very happy to say that the Minister informed me that he will now be providing the necessary resources to open the unit in temporary accommodation – as an interim solution - at St Peter’s for September 2019.
“Along with local Cllr Maria Murphy, I have been working hard on this issue since 2015 and I will be delighted to see the unit come to fruition.”
The National Council for Special Education sanctioned an autism unit for St Peter’s College two years ago, but no provision had been made for the facility.
Orla Gormally was one of five parents who had expected their children to start school in the new unit next September- in fact she kept her daughter, Emma, back a year at primary school in the belief she would have a place in St Peters in September, but had been told in recent weeks that this was unlikely.
Earlier this week, Orla said she didn't know where Emma would be going next September. "There is great pressure on schools in Dublin. We would rather she was able to go to school in her own town, but we aren't even sure she will get a place anywhere,” said Orla.
The family attended the St Peter's College Open night last week and following it, Orla posted a moving piece on Facebook, which prompted local action to campaign for the facility.
“Tonight I stood at the back of Dunboyne Community Centre for the Open Night for St Peter’s College in Dunboyne. I listened with all the other prospective parents and students whilst the leadership team discussed all the exciting options open to the first year students for September 2019,” she said.
“I stood there knowing that my daughter, due to her disability, would not be able to consider these choices, most notably languages. But I was most upset at the knowledge that she most likely won't even be able to attend her local secondary school.”
The community then got behind a campaign by Orla and other parents of children with autism to have the facility open next year and an online petition had received 1,700 signatures this week. Orla pointed out that there was a significant number of other, younger children who will be looking for places in the coming years.
“There is an autism unit in the national junior school and senior school in Dunboyne. Emma unfortunately missed out on attending the senior school unit, because it hadn't been open, when we needed it.
“As a result she has travelled every day for the last five years, over an hour each way, on a bus to a school in Dublin 15 and has been educated outside of her community. Every year when it comes to school photos, her brother, Noah gets upset and asks why his sister can't be in the same school. "
Cllr Maria Murphy, a member of the Board Management of St Peter’s College and the Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB), had said she fully understood the parent's frustration and had vowed to work towards the provision of a unit next year.