St. Anne’s is a special school which provides education to children who have been assessed as having learning disabilities. Many of our children have additional needs such as autism, physical impairments or sensory impairments. A small amount have complex medical needs. There are 88 pupils on roll between the ages of 5 and 18 and the school strives to provide each child with an educational programme that is tailor-made to suit their individual and specific needs.
It requires a large amount of resources to diversify instruction and practice in as imaginative a way as possible. This ensures that when the children leave St. Anne’s they have achieved accreditation at the appropriate level in either Junior Cycle or Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) subjects.
As a parent representative on the Board of Management I am fully aware of the need to fund raise to provide the resources required if the children are to succeed. I am also aware that as a small school we are unable, without external help, to fundraise for the bus which is vital to support all the initiatives that are in place.
How donations will help
Our current bus was received from a parent who managed to generate funds for us in 2003. It is now almost 15 years old and costs around €17.000 per year to maintain, this is unsustainable. It has also become very unreliable and has broken down on several occasions with children on board – this, is in spite of many trips to the garage for repairs.
A new, more modern school bus is required. Unfortunately the Department of Education does not provide funding for this nor for running costs. Having had use of a bus on a daily basis for the last 15 years the school advocates on behalf of the pupils and stresses the benefits of this to their educational experiences.
The school is situated in a rural area on the fringe of the Curragh Plains. Public transport does pass by the school gate once an hour but a large percentage of our pupils cannot access the buses as they are not wheelchair friendly. More than a quarter of our pupils are wheelchair users. Unfortunately our public transport system lags behind other countries in making travel more accessible to all but especially for those with disabilities.
It can be difficult for students with general learning disabilities to play an active role in the local community at the best of times. Their right to participate fully in all aspects of community life should be acknowledged and encouraged and is an essential part of their education. Learning for some of our pupils is experiential and interactive and hands on activities work the best. For this to happen they first need to be able to access their community.
- 1 in 4 people with a disability do not use public transport for accessibility reasons
- Only 56% of Bus Éireann’s coach fleet is deemed wheelchair accessible.
(Disability Inequality Fact Sheet). http://disableinequality.ie/transport-and- disability-factsheet/
We have 14 classes and all children (88) take part in swimming, social training, trips to the library as well as other community activities. Significantly this year has seen the launch of the new Junior Cycle Level 2 Learning Programme. Two of the Priority Learning Units included in this curriculum are “Living in the Community” and “Preparing for Work.” Therefore access, when required, to local towns is important for the students to achieve in these areas.
This currently cannot be done within the public transport system that services this area.
To adapt the bus after purchase,
- Access for at least four adult wheelchairs plus foot passengers which will include mobile children and staff. Wheelchair users such as those enrolled in our school can require the support of two staff at times so it needs to be at minimum a sixteen seater.
- Clamping systems in place to secure wheelchairs (rails and clamps)
- Clamps on removed seats to allow for re positioning in bus should extra seats be required
- Crash proof floor
- Electric wheelchair lift (electronically operated tail lift) with manual operating system to use in the event of battery fail.
- Easy access via passenger doors for mobile children who experience difficulties boarding and disembarking from bus – steps for access must be wide enough for secure footing and well-spaced to enable children to climb them easily, extra hydraulic step required
- Secure storage area for storing medication.
- Other storage for luggage, bags, equipment, unused clamps
- Storage facility for wheelchair not currently in use.
- Holder for oxygen tank
- Adaptive and assistive devices used to support or secure students, mobility aids, special belts, and harnesses and devices (such as special crutches, braces, or wheelchairs, including assistant technology devices).
- Effective emergency escape exits
- Grab rail to assist access and egress
- Sat Nav system
- Hands Free/ blue tooth
- Air conditioning
Financially it is difficult to maintain the current bus as it requires on going attention to keep it up to minimum standard. It is likely that it will not be able to run beyond the end of this year. This will have a tremendous impact on our pupils. Funds will be required as soon as possible.
I am a member of the Board of Management and the role that I have chosen to support the school is that of fundraiser. I am also the mother of a 12 year old girl who is a pupil at the school. I am very aware of the importance of trying to provide the school with a bus. The alternative would be for the school to hire transport in. This is very expensive e.g. if two classes go swimming there may be 10 or twelve children. In most mainstream schools costs for transport are covered by fees provided to the school by parents for swimming. As most mainstream classes can have up to 30 children, this is viable. For our school expecting parents to cover the
cost of hiring a bus for 10 children is unrealistic.
- Donations For Jerseys
- Michelle Reilly
- Fintan O'Connell
- Karyn Behan
- Theo Phelan
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