Cutbacks may be the order of the day in education but the Niall Mór National School in Killybegs has just been informed that it is one of four primary schools in the county approved for new construction.
The development is part of the €35m initiative by Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, to replace prefab rented accommodation with permanent buildings.
At the Niall Mór, the unit being upgraded is for the class for children with autism where there are facilities for six children and where three children are currently being taught.
Established in 2008, the unit is headed up by teacher, Nodlaig Clerkin, supported by three Special Needs Assistants, Dona Smith, Claire Boyle and Glenda Dorrian.
Said headmaster, Michael McGuinness: “When this class was established four years ago, we had high hopes that the accommodation would be made permanent because of the specialised nature of the service provided and we were delighted then when the letter arrived telling us that the prefabs were to be replaced.
Master McGuinness said that, at the moment, they had no idea when work would begin but, in line with the Department’s letter, an initial application had been submitted.
The class for children with autism is only one of the specialist teaching initiatives at the Niall Mór. There is also a unit for children with specific speech and language difficulties where junior and senior classes of seven pupils each receive intensive tuition from a HSE therapist.
And the school also has a class for children with mild/moderate general learning difficulties. At present, there are five children in this group. The children in the special classes are drawn from a radius of about 30k of Killybegs.
All the specialist classes are located within the context of a bustling national school of 180 pupils, with 13 teachers and six Special Needs Assistants, two resource teachers and one learning support teacher.
Commenting on the news that the prefab unit housing the class for children with autism is to be replaced with a permanent building, Master McGuinness said: “Of course, the quality of support for the children is down to the excellent teachers and SNAs but it will be a big improvement to have it located in a permanent, custom-built unit.”