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Education

HSE to close special needs pre-schools despite parents’ wishes

Two pre-schools for special needs children are to shut as the HSE facilitates a policy to mainstream students from an early age.

THE HSE IS to go ahead with plans to shut down two special needs pre-schools in Donegal as part of wider efforts to mainstream children’s education, despite the objections of a parents’ group.

In a document submitted to the agency, about 40 public representatives and medical professions – with the backing of parents and childcare providers – called for the retention of St Agnes’ Special Needs Pre-School in Donegal Town and Ballaghderg Special Needs Pre-School in Letterkenny.

However, the HSE confirmed that it will not be taking enrolments for September at St Agnes’s and that mainstreaming work has ben ongoing between it, parents and mainstream pre-school providers.

The Let Me, Be Me Campaign, set up in the face of these cuts, claims there is “little evidence” of this groundwork having taken place. Parents involved in the campaign say they are “disillusioned and greatly saddened” by the HSE’s decision. They describe “a sense of abandonment on behalf of themselves and their children”.

According to the group, the closures of the schools and the policy to mainstream children with disabilities – some of whom have severe and complex needs – will have “massive consequences”.

“For children with the most complex needs, the only available option will be home care packages, denying them their right to an education. This is a fundamental breach of a child’s right to and education,” the campaign told TheJournal.ie.

This is a fundamental breech of a child’s right to education to enable him or her to reach their full potential. In these cases, parents of children will receive no respite in terms of caring for their children.

The group also believes the mainstream pre-school sector is not adequately prepared for the transition. Current providers say they are struggling at present and HSE supports are limited. They have identified 100 children across the county who are in need of individual leraning and development needs.

Counter-proposal

Mother Regina Grant, whose son lives with mitochondrial disease, says another proposal has been handed to the HSE. They have asked for the facilities to remain open while the mainstream schools catch up and make the necessary changes.

A number of local TDs, including Thomas Pringle, Pearse Doherty and Charlie McConalogue, have met with the parents in recent weeks to hear their concerns. They have requested an urgent meeting with the HSE Area Manager Donegal to take place within the next two weeks.

More: Parents fight against closure of special needs pre-schools

State can’t find other uses for closed garda stations

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