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Saturday 21 September 2019

Six pupils with autism start late due to build delay

Cecilia Semple and her daughter, Kelly, aged 13, pictured outside St Conleth's Community College in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Cecilia Semple and her daughter, Kelly, aged 13, pictured outside St Conleth's Community College in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Six children with autism are to start their long-awaited first day of secondary school today after building delays left them without a classroom for nine weeks.

An extension to St Conleth's Vocational School in Newbridge, Co Kildare, which included two new units for children with autism, was due to be completed by September 1 for all pupils to return from the summer break.

However, delays in signing off on the new building by the Department of Education and the local council meant the school could not fully reopen in time, leaving six children at home for the first half of the term.

Cecilia Semple, whose daughter Kelly (13) will attend the school from today, said parents feel their children had been "forgotten about" and were treated as "invisible" by officials.

"The day I got the letter I was devastated. I sat down and cried, and I just felt like Kelly was unwanted because of her disability. We had all bought the uniforms. We were getting them ready and doing social stories with them to get them prepared for school.

"The pure and simple fact is they have a right to education just like their peers," she said.

With two months of the school year lost for the six pupils affected, parents have raised concerns their children are now at a disadvantage.

"They're going in now with seven weeks to Christmas and it is going to take that time for them to settle in, so they have missed the term," Ms Semple said.

"And because they've been at home this long, they mightn't be able to settle in now. The wheels seem to turn very slowly for the department getting this sorted."

A spokesperson for the department said the "teaching team will assess their needs and adapt their teaching programme so that any deficits can be addressed".

Irish Independent

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