Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, is seeking to quiz the Education Minister on the lack of places in Athlone and South Roscommon for pupils with autism.
“The lack of places is now forcing pupils from Athlone and South Roscommon to travel up to 100km each day to avail of an education.
“Presently, there are only three primary schools and just one second level school providing autism specific classes in the wider Athlone area, which is insufficient to meet current needs and this must be urgently addressed by the Minister for Education,” Deputy Naughten asserted.
The primary schools with ASD classes are St Paul’s in Lyster Street and St Joseph’s NS, Summerhill, on the Connacht side of the town, with Coosan NS on the Leinster side of Athlone. At second level the only school providing an ASD class is Coláiste Chiaráin, Summerhill.
“There are 57 primary school pupils in local autism classes in Athlone, Ballinasloe, and South Roscommon and despite demand for more places, no new class is being planned for this September.
“The situation at second level is even more stark with just 23 students with autism being accommodated at present between the schools in both Athlone and Ballinasloe, again with no additional places being planned despite the fact that local students will have to make a 100km round trip to school in Glenamaddy each day.
“Negotiations are ongoing with 7 schools with the potential to increase the availability of school places by 120 this September across Roscommon and Galway, and further discussions with Westmeath schools. However, parents are still in the situation as we come to the end of the school year that the only possibility, if they are lucky enough to secure a school place, is a 100km/day round trip.
“These distances are completely unacceptable, especially when one considers that the Government is reducing the distance that thirrd level students are expected to travel each day to just 60km from 90km/day,” Deputy Naughten concluded.