Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (344)

Richard Bruton

Question:

452 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the impact of the closure of St. Mary's School for the Blind on the availability of suitable education placements for such children; the services he has put in place to make up for this loss; and his plans to open the proposed national education centre for the visually impaired. [1460/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Arising from the report of a planning group, which was established to consider proposals for the development of a national centre for the visually impaired, my Department engaged a project team to consider an overall development strategy for the implementation of the planning group's report. The report of the project team was presented to my Department towards the end of 2002.

Having given careful consideration to the matter, I decided in April 2003 that the national centre as proposed should not proceed, having regard to the low and declining pupil numbers in the schools for the visually impaired and the development costs, estimated to be in excess of €30 million.

St. Joseph's Special School for Visually Impaired, Drumcondra, provides a co-educational service for pupils at primary level and includes some pupils who have transferred from St. Mary's School for the Blind. Parents may also chose to enrol their children in mainstream school settings with the support of the resource teacher, special needs assistant and visiting teacher service. Pobal Scoil Rosmini provides a co-educational service for pupils at second level.

My Department proposes to explore with the school authorities concerned how aspects of the proposed centre could be developed, in the context of available resources.