The new Danu Community Special School in Dublin 15, under the patronage of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB has been established and will be catering for up to 40 students with complex needs.
A lot of work has been done over recent months including recruitment of teachers and SNAs and attendance at training.
Danu Special School has now commenced transitioning children into their new school places.
I am anxious that the Principal, teachers, SNAs and other staff in the new school are appropriately supported during the challenging start-up terms.
My Department, through NEPS, the Inspectorate, the NCSE and in collaboration with the Middletown Centre for Autism developed a programme of professional support for the staff in this new special school.
This programme includes a period of intensive upskilling before the students commence school which has been delivered to the staff of Danu Special School.
This will be followed by ongoing mentoring, coaching and in-school support during throughout the school year.
The NCSE and National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) have committed to ensuring that provision is in place to support the new school throughout the school year.
NEPS psychologists take a holistic, developmental perspective which considers the broad context of the needs of the student. NEPS has increased the time allocation for the psychologist assigned to Danu community special school to a level which is three times that which is normally afforded to a special school of a similar size. Furthermore, the NEPS psychologist assigned to the school has a background in ASD and additional training in behavioural support. The purpose of this increased level of support is intended to allow for a response to the initial need for individual casework and for systems level approaches to support the teachers in behaviour management, development and ongoing monitoring, and review of Student Support Plans and facilitating effective transition processes into the school. This work will take cognisance of and coordinate with support to be provided by the NCSE Support Services and any services available via the HSE.
In addition to the specific school based service, Danu is a school within the broad NEPS Dublin Region. It will be offered opportunities to participate in NEPS regional support and development initiatives within the region.
The NCSE Regional Team will work with the teachers and school with the overall aim of building teacher and school confidence and capacity to work with the children in their care. Training and professional development are a key part of this role.
NCSE Advisers will be available to provide professional help support and advice on an ongoing basis.
In addition, the NCSE will appoint a behavioural practitioner with a specific brief to work with DANU and other schools who are establishing special classes for students with autism. Arrangements are being made for the appointment of the Behaviour Practitioner and it is expected that the position will be filled in late 2019. A Behavioural practitioner will have a primary qualification in at least one of following areas: teaching, nursing, psychology, social work, social care and a related post graduate qualification in the area of Special Education or Intellectual Disability or other relevant fields.
My Department does not appoint Behavioural Specialists to schools. Instead, my Department is building school capacity through the provision of professional support by NEPS and the advisory and professional development programmes offered by the NCSE. Schools are advised to adopt a Continuum of Support which research findings indicate is an effective support model.