Archive for the ‘Correspondence related to the St Michaels House Campaign’ Category

Email to Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Dear Minister

I received a letter yesterday from Mr Pat Dunne, Local Health manager, North Dublin in response to my last email to you dated 21st August 2009.

Mr Dunne states in his letter that children with profound intellectual disability “ need intensive support to develop adaptive skills to their full potential”.

Yet he still refuses to answer the question of whether he believes that it is right and proper that a profoundly mentally and physically retarded who suffers from travel sickness should have to make a 40 mile round trip on a daily basis to attend school. Minister could I implore you to direct Mr. Dunne to give an honest answer to that question?

Mr Dunne also states that “ Special needs schools are established to provide a service to children with similar levels of dependency to ensure that their needs are met and that they are working with a peer group who have similar abilities to their own” .

Can you tell me where is the above statement written down in a policy document? St Michaels House does not have a written policy on education for special needs children- or if it has – the staff are completely unaware of it’s existence.

Furthermore the above statement flies in the face of the National Council for Special Education strategy which is to implement a plan who’s ultimate aim is that of inclusive education as set out in the EPSEN Act 2004:

“ having regard to the common good and in a manner that is informed by best international practice, the education of people with special needs shall, wherever possible, take place in an inclusive environment.”

Could I also ask you to confirm that there are places for 32 children in the St Michaels House Special Needs School in Skerries, and yet there are only 26 children attending.

Mr Dunne informed me in a telephone conversation I had with him on 27th August 2009 that the HSE could not influence policy decisions in St Michaels House- can you confirm that this is the case?

Finally – as the parent of a user of the services of St Michaels House and as a tax payer – I can recommend to you as Minister countless ways that St Michaels House could be more efficient and thus get a much better return on their quite substantial funds allocation from the HSE. I am available at your convenience if you would like to meet with me to discuss any of these matters.

Meanwhile may I again request that you personally have a bigger input into these matters.

Yours faithfully

Tommy Boyle

St Michaels House Special Needs School Skerries- not a priority for this Government

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Below is a copy letter

Mr Batt O’Keefe T.D.
Minister for Education and Science
Office of the Minister for Education and Science
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1

September 14, 2009

Your Ref: 0904528 BC

Dear Mr O Keefe

Further to your letter of 2nd September 2009 – I am writing for further clarification in relation to the matters I raised.

1 You say that the application to your Department for funding for a new school has been assigned a 1.2 band rating. What does that mean?

2. Is there a site for the new school selected and paid for?
3. How many pupils will the new school cater for?
4. You say that it “is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time” Why not? It should always be possible to give an indicative timeframe.

It is extremely disappointing and distressing that you and your department would appear to be treating this matter is such a casual way. The building of this new school should be a priority because of the unacceptable condition of the existing school. Furthermore a new school building accommodating the needs of special needs children in Fingal will have an enormous impact on so many people’s lives.

There was no problem spending over €250,000 refurbishing an existing office for Bertie Ahern- but the education needs of special needs children in Fingal have to wait? I think this is a disgrace and I urge you to address this issue as a matter of supreme urgency.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Faithfully

_______________
Tommy Boyle

Copy of Letter to Mr Batt O Keefe T.D. Minister for Education and Science

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Mr  Batt O’Keefe T.D.

Minister for Education and Science

Office of the Minister for Education and Science

Marlborough Street

Dublin 1

September 9, 2009

 

 

Your Ref: 0904527 BC

 

 

Dear Mr O Keefe

 

 

Further to your letter of 2nd September 2009 – I am writing to clarify our situation.

 

In your letter you say that “Where a school refuses to enroll a pupil, the school is obliged to inform you as a parent, of your right under Section 29 of Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department”. St Michaels House Special Needs School, Hacketstown, Skerries,Co. Dublin did not do this. I enclose a copy of the correspondence received from them dated  1st May 2009 – and there is absolutely no mention of the appeal’s process and thus they have failed in their obligation to do this.

 

We will now appeal their decision.

 

I will keep you informed of progress in this process.

 

Thank you for your assistance in this regard.

 

Yours Faithfully

 

_______________

Tommy Boyle

Senator David Norris backs campaign for Special Needs School in Skerries

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

 

We are delighted to receive the backing and support of Senator David Norris for our campaign. Depite being on holiday Mr Norris kindly contacted us to say that he is behind our campaign and has offered to raise the matter as a matter on the adjournment of the Seanad when he returns. If you do not know what an adjournment is, it is when a member of the Seanad has five minutes at the end of the days proceedings to raise an issue with the relevant Minister and to recieve a reply from that Minister.

 

Many thanks David for your encouraging words and for your kind offer – we look forward to hearing this worthy cause being mentioned in the Seanad- meanwhile enjoy what is left of your holidays!

Letter Received from Michael Kennedy TD RE St Michaels House Special Needs Campaign

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

 

Dear Michael

 

Thank you for your mail and for making representations on my behalf.

The reply sent by Mr  Ledwidge does not clarify the matter.

 

Mr Ledwidge refers to the fact that the school is not wheelchair friendly. The Assistant Principal of the school  together with two Board of Management members Mr Tim Chadwick (Chairperson) and Dr Anne Power acknowledged that accessibility for my son Michael is not an issue as all the facilities he would be using are on the ground floor. Therefore the accessability issue is not relevant.

 

He refers to the fact that “continued priority be given to the provision of an alternative school”. Given that the Chairperson of the board of directors of the school was not aware of progress on the building of the new school up until recently and had not made representations to the Department of Education in 8 months, together with board members of the school not knowing who was responsible for ensuring a new school was built- it is obvious the building of the new school is not a priority of the board.

 

Can he substantiate the “enormous pressure from parents and St Michaels house to get a commitment from the Department of Education” and can he confirm that the offer of a free site still holds – as the Department of Education appear to be unaware of this.

 

Furthermore can he explain why the plans for the new school are to accommodate a mere 65 students given that there are presently over 65 students currently seeking a place in the school and with  actual population growth in the area and projected growth this proposed level of accommodation is totally inadequate.

 

Can he also explain why the school this year had only 26 students attending despite having capacity for 32 students?

 

Can he tell us exactly how many children from the North County are having to travel long distances on a daily basis to attend schools in Baldoyle and Cabra(Kilbarrack)?

 

Can he confirm that he believes that it is acceptable that a profoundly mentally and physically retarded boy of 5 years of age who suffers very badly from travel sickness – should have to complete a 40 mile round trip daily to attend a school?  

 

The reason that my son Michael was refused entry to the school was that “Under it’s current Admission Policy the School provides educational services to children who have moderate intellectual disability only”. The reason  this policy is in place is to keep numbers down – I was told this by members of the Board of Management.

 

Mr  Ledwidge acknowledges that my son has been offered a place in Lusk National school – this is a mainstream school ( who incidentally are absolutely superb and so accommodating).Could you ask  Mr Ledwidge to explain the logic behind a 5 year old profoundly retarded boy being refused entry into a school for moderate intellectual disability and yet he is welcomed with open arms by a mainstream national school?

 

Can  you also ask Mr Ledwidge to outline the difference in the curriculum for children with profound intellectual disability versus the curriculum for children with moderate intellectual disability at ages 5 and 6?

 

I hope Michael this clarifies my position for you and please note that I will not rest until this matter has been resolved.

 

 Please let me know if you are in a position to help me with this matter.

 

 Yours faithfully

 Tommy Boyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

From: Michael.Kennedy@Oireachtas.ie [mailto:Michael.Kennedy@Oireachtas.ie]
Sent: 25 August 2009 09:47
To: tommy@myspecialneeds.ie
Subject: Representation for Mr Tommy Boyle, “St Michael’s House, Skerries”

Dear Tommy,

 

RE: St Michael’s House, Skerries

 

Further to my previous letter, I now attach the received reply from Mr Paul Ledwidge, CEO of St Michael’s House North.

 

You will note its contents and I trust it clarifies the matter for you. In the meantime please do not hesitate to contact me should you need any assistance with any other matter.

 

Yours Sincerely,
Michael Kennedy, TD

 

Dear Michael,

 

I refer to your email of the 13th of August re. Tommy Boyle.

 

St. Michael’s House Special National School in Skerries is based in a rented farmhouse, which is not wheelchair accessible.

 

A whole school evaluation carried out in 2005 stated that the nature of the accommodation does not facilitate the enrolment of children with significant physical disability and other complex needs and recommended that continued priority be given to the provision of an alternative school building.

 

Despite enormous pressure from parents and St. Michael’s House and the offer of a free site, it has not been possible to get a commitment from the Department of Education to build a school for the children in this area.

 

Mr. Boyle’s son has been offered a place in St. Michael’s House Special National School in Baldoyle which is imminently suitable for him and is fully accessible.

 

Until such time as the Department of Education provide a purpose built school for St. Michael’s House in the Skerries area, it is unfortunate that we will have to refer some children to our school in Baldoyle and many children with autism and intellectual disability travel from the North County to St. Michael’s House Special National School for children with autism in Cabra (Kilbarrack from September 2010).

 

I understand Mr. Boyle’s son has been accepted as a pupil in Lusk National School and St. Michael’s House will provide him with support in attending that school, within the available resources, should he wish to take up this placement.

 

Kind Regards,

Paul Ledwidge

Chief Executive Officer

St Michael’s House

Minister for Education Mr Batt O Keefe making enquires RE Admission Policy at St Michaels House Special Needs School in Skerries

Friday, August 28th, 2009

 

We have received letters from the Minister for Education and Science Mr Batt O Keefe  informing us that he is making enquiries into these matters.

 

The matters in question relate to:

 

I am a concerned and frustrated parent of a profoundly mentally and physically retarded boy aged 5.

 

We live in Lusk and our son has been refused entry to the St Michael’s house special needs school in Skerries – as they say they will only cater for children who are moderately retarded.

 

He has been warmly welcomed as a pupil in Lusk National School – a mainstream school.  I do not believe that this school will be suitable for him in the medium term(i.e. next 2 years).

 

I want to use this time to force St Michaels House to admit him to the school in Skerries ( it has only 26 pupils despite having resources for 32 pupils). I also want to ensure that a new school is built in Skerries to cater for all special needs children.

 

I intend to use this issue to support a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty as I feel that is the only issue this Government really cares about – and if they lose the vote it will bring the Government down- and a new administration may actually provide this long overdue and long promised new school. I know I may incur the wrath of people like Michael O Leary of Ryanair but then again we are all well aware of his attitude to the infirm.

St Michaels House Special Needs School in Skerries North County Dublin

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

 

We received an email yesterday from Deputy Olivia Mitchell TD encouraging us to accept St Michael’s House policies as they stand. She also implies that we should not bother with this campaign, as by the time the new school will be built – it will be too late for our son. This was most disheartening – although Olivia meant well and has extensive personal experience of this situation herself.

 

This site will hopefully encourage others like us to fight the good fight – even when all around want you to accept things as they are. The very Irish trait of not complaining makes for a very endearing race- but equips us badly as advocates for injustices that deeply affect our lives.

 

As I reminded Olivia – it is always too soon to quit!