Minister to look at specialist preschool plans

The minister of state with responsibility for disability has said she will look into plans for the future of the specialist special needs preschool in Ballaghderg, Letterkenny, said a mother whose son attends the preschool.

The minister of state with responsibility for disability has said she will look into plans for the future of the specialist special needs preschool in Ballaghderg, Letterkenny, said a mother whose son attends the preschool.

Kathleen Lynch, TD, minister of state with responsibility for disability, equality, mental health and older people, also said she would look into plans for St. Agnes school in Donegal town.

Gina Grant and Aishling Nibbs met the minister during her visit to Donegal last week, a meeting organised by Labour Senator Jimmy Harte and Donegal Mayor, Labour Cllr. Frank McBrearty, Jr.

The Donegal County Childcare Committee is organising a public meeting on specialist special needs preschools, at the request of parents and service providers, for 7.30pm, June 10th, at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny.

Gina and Aishling each have a son with complex medical needs at Ballaghderg and the women have been vocal critics of the reported HSE plans to close specialist preschools. The mothers say their sons and other children with complex needs cannot be integrated safely into mainstream preschools.

It was announced in April that St. Agnes in Donegal town would close in September 2014, and the school would not take new enrolments this year.

Gina said the minister seemed unaware that there would be no new intake of children at St. Agnes. Gina said the minister also did not seem aware of the level of parental unhappiness with the proposed closures.

The parents also said there seemed to be different reasons given for the closures, with integration of children being cited as best practice, though there have also been suggestions that low enrolment and budget cuts are factors.

Gina said the minister was very receptive to them, and the meeting went on for about 30 minutes.

“She genuinely sat and listened and interacted,” Gina said.