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Cahersiveen woman to document century of special education


Professor Emer Ring

Professor Emer Ring

Professor Emer Ring


When Professor Emer Ring started out teaching in Foilmore, she recalls how she asked herself how she could make sure every child was reaching their potential in the classroom – and it’s that curiosity that has since led the Mary Immaculate College Dean of Education to carry out extensive work and research on special education in Ireland.

And that road has led in recent days to the announcement by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that the Cahersiveen woman has been chosen to investigate and document Ireland’s special education system in the century between 1922 and 2022.

Professor Ring told The Kerryman this week that winning this tender has left her both humbled and overjoyed – but she’s keenly aware of just how important this work will be to so many people.

“I was delighted in one way, and in another way, I thought of how this was such a huge honour and, hopefully, I’ll be able to do it justice,” she said. “I was a primary teacher in south Kerry, and then an inspector with the Department of Education before joining Mary I 10 years ago. I started in Aghatubrid and Foilmore, and I was always very interested in children who learned differently and what we could do to support children who learn differently.

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“They [the NCSE] have to be commended for coming up with this idea because, I think, we can be very proud in Ireland of how far we have come in a short time in creating classroom environments where all children are included. However, we still have more to do, and we still have more investment we need to think about.”

Professor Ring explained that her work is already underway with an eye towards completion before the end of 2022, and she added that there’s further Kerry involvement with Pádraig Ó Donnabháin acting as a Learning Support on the project.

She was also keen to point out that she feels the tender fits in well with work taking place within her college.

“I’m very proud of what we do in Mary I, and this tender, in a sense, aligns with our philosophy to create a more inclusive school system and society, and we have a lot of focus in our college programmes in preparing our students to meet the needs of all children,” she said. “I’m very proud of our students because they have a commitment to inclusion and ensuring each child can flourish in the classroom.”