Relief as special education students return to school

Special education classes in mainstream schools across Galway have reopened their doors.

It is the first time that the students have attended school in 2021 after the Government closed all education facilities over the Christmas holidays. It is the second stage in the plan to get all students back to school.

Ten students made their return to Merlin College in Doughiska. This included students with moderate learning difficulties as well as some with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

SEN Co-Ordinator at Merlin College Miriam Lawless said that the students were delighted to be back.

“The mood here today is fantastic. The students were all very enthusiastic and very happy to be back. It’s all been positive from every side,” she said.

However, some students chose not to return to school yet as learning from home has worked well for them.

“We have some students that would find school very difficult – some of the ones on the Autism spectrum – and at home they’re actually doing very well. They’re not moving between classes and there’s less noise so they made the choice not to come back,” she said.

Ms Lawless said that there were some positives to be taken from remote learning. Students had the opportunity to learn a new skill set.

“They’re now able to sit in and access the work remotely themselves. It wouldn’t have been a given that they’d have had those skills before so there have been some positives,” she said.

Across town at Scoil Naomh Sheosaimh in Boleybeg, 12 pupils returned to the classroom. Principal Damian O’Keeffe said that the feeling today was one of “relief”, but that for the students it also presented a challenge.

“It’s very important for students to get back into routine and for children with ASD it’s what they need but it’s difficult because they’ve been out of that loop for the last two months,” he said.

Mr O’Keeffe highlighted the need for routine in the lives of children with ASD, and that with schools closed that routine of going to school has not been possible.

“Our ASD children have been out of the school routine for two months and it’s a challenge for them to return but one I am very sure they will warm to. Many of them for a variety of reasons have found remote learning challenging but today’s return can only be seen as very positive,” he said.

The third stage in the plan to reopen schools will commence this Monday. Leaving Cert students along with junior infants, senior infants, first class and second class pupils are expected to return.

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