Local TD Denis Naughten is seeking to quiz the Education Minister this week on the lack of places in Athlone and South Roscommon for pupils with autism.
“The lack of places is now forcing pupils from South Roscommon to travel up to 100km each day to avail of an education with two south Roscommon children facing a daily journey to Glenamaddy next September to access 2nd level education,” said Denis Naughten.
“Presently, there are only three primary schools and just one second level school providing autism specific classes in the wider Athlone area, which is insufficient to meet current needs and this must be urgently addressed by the Minister for Education”.
The primary schools with ASD classes are St. Paul’s in Lyster Street and St. Joseph’s NS, Summerhill, on the Connacht side of the town, with Coosan NS on the Leinster side of Athlone. At second level the only school providing an ASD class is Coláiste Chiaráin, Summerhill.
“There are 57 primary school pupils in local autism classes in Athlone, Ballinasloe, and South Roscommon and despite demand for more places, no new class is being planned for this September,” stated Denis Naughten.
“The situation at second level is even more stark with just 23 students with autism being accommodated at present between the schools in both Athlone and Ballinasloe, again with no additional places being planned despite the fact that local students will have to make a 100km round trip to school in Glenamaddy each day.
“Negotiations are ongoing with 7 schools with the potential to increase the availability of school places by 120 this September across Roscommon and Galway, and further discussions with Westmeath schools. However, parents are still in the situation as we come to the end of the school year that the only possibility, if they are lucky enough to secure a school place, is a 100km/day round trip.
“These distances are completely unacceptable, especially when one considers that the Government is reducing the distance that 3rd level students are expected to travel each day to just 60km from 90km/day”.
Deputy Naughten intends to question the Minister on the provision of ASD classes in the wider Athlone area when she comes before the Dáil for oral questions this Thursday morning, where he will seek to have additional places provided this September.