I wish to raise the issue of special education in Wexford, in particular, two complementary schools - St. Patrick's special school in Enniscorthy and Our Lady of Fatima School in Wexford town. St. Patrick's special school has 131 students, 46 special needs assistants and 22 teachers. It is a large special school serving all of County Wexford and many people from south Wicklow. It provides schooling for children with moderate to severe-profound learning difficulties and is currently split between two campuses in the town, which makes it a logistical nightmare for the school. The campus was built in 1968. To say it is dilapidated is an understatement. I have been in that school numerous times. It has damp and mould and water is dripping down all over the school. The children play in a tiny car park when buses are not turning in it. Parents, teachers and the community are up in arms over the state of the school. They were promised that a new school would be built for them. In the weeks before the last general election in 2016, they were told that construction would start in 2016. There has been delay after delay after delay. All they are getting are promises. The school has still not gone to tender for the build. This is why I am in here - to reflect the anger that parents, teachers and students, who are the most vulnerable students, feel. They have a day counter in the school which is up to 717 days since they were promised shovels would be stuck in the ground for this new school.
That has still not happened. The teachers in the school are doing fantastic work in an impossible situation.
The second school is Our Lady of Fatima special school in Wexford town and the two schools are complementary. Our Lady of Fatima special school has 108 students at the moment and a waiting list of more than 50, which is a five year waiting list. Students who cannot get into the school have to go to a mainstream school where they do not get the supports they need. These are children with vulnerabilities but who, with guidance, support and training and a proper focus can thrive. However, they are not getting into the school because of a lack of spaces.
The school deals with moderate general learning difficulties. It deals with Down's syndrome, autism, Prader-Willi syndrome, fragile X, cerebral palsy and numerous other learning difficulties. The teachers, parents and the community are doing fantastic work in that school. They have been told that at a very minimum it will not even be considered until 2021.
The school backs on to HSE grounds where a new primary care centre is being built. An old primary care centre backs on to the school. The distance between the two is the same as the distance between the Minister of State and me. That old primary care centre had a brand new state-of-the-art third generation extension built and opened less than ten years ago. The HSE is due to knock down that building to put in car parking spaces. I got a letter from the HSE stating it will use that area for car parking spaces and will reserve it for the Department of Education and Skills, should it ever want to build a new school on it.
What is going on there is bananas. I ask the Minister to intervene in that situation and get on to the HSE. A school is desperate for spaces and a brand new building is right beside it. The school wants the building and the HSE is going to knock it down, but reserve the space for a new building to be built on if the Department of Education and Skills wants it. I ask the Minister to intervene in both of these cases. These are the most vulnerable people in our country. They are fantastic people and are not getting the supports they need.