St. Clare’s Special School in Ennis is to add two new classrooms and 24 students in September.

Located on the Gort Road, the 25-year-old facility caters for young people with barriers to learning between the ages of three to nineteen.

Two new classrooms will accommodate five and six year old children plus the addition of two new teachers and four SNA’s to a staff of 50.

Principal John Murphy told The Clare Echo that increasing the enrolment numbers has been an objective since his arrival two years ago from St Gabriel’s of Limerick. “There were 54 children here when I arrived two years ago. I could have kept it at the same number. It’s viable if you want to sit back and take the shillings. I knew the children were out there, but it was just a matter of advertising the school, signposting the children to the school and winning the hearts and minds of the parents. The school usually admits three or four children per year but in September, we have 24 new children coming in”.

It has been “a hard journey since COVID visited our shores” he conceded, adding that their students did not easily engage with distance or remote learning. “These children need to be physically in the building with Speech and Language therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists. It’s not just about the curriculum in here, it’s about all the other things that make up a broad and balanced person”.

The school is also “a lifeline for parents” where respite can be provided, allowing time for them to go shopping, visit the doctor or dentist during the five and half hour school day. Mr. Murphy stressed that the absence of physical school time throughout the pandemic led to a great deal of stress, anxiety and hospitalisations for parents and their children.

Being one of 124 special schools nationwide, St. Clare’s specialises in educating children with a severe range of learning barriers, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as life limiting conditions. “Sadly, each year, one or two pupils pass away, so we like to move forward communions and birthdays and celebrate everything. We are not just a school; we are a community here”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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