Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor has called on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton to assist the staff at Saplings Special School in securing a new premises for their school.

Senator Murnane O’Connor made the comments after securing a special Seanad debate on the issue.

“Saplings Special School is located in Carlow and specifically caters to children with autism and complex needs. The children who attend the school do so as they have been unable to settle in a mainstream school environment. The staff at Saplings are specially trained to respond to the complex needs of the children attending the school,” explained Senator Murnane O’Connor.

“The school is recognised by the Department of Education and receives support under the DES scheme. There are 19 children attending the school ranging from 4 to 18 years old. The school is providing an invaluable service and is allowing children with complex needs to receive an education in a suitable environment.

“There are serious concerns with the current condition of the school building. The school is essentially an old three bed-roomed bungalow which was never intended to be used as a school over a long period of time. There are ongoing problems with the heating and sewage in the building and the school cannot expand due to a lack of available space.

“The staff at the school have been looking for alternative accommodation but have been unable to find anything suitable. Many of the premises currently on offer in the area are zoned for commercial use and cannot be used as a school building. They need assistance from the Department of Education in securing a suitable accommodation for the school.

“The long-term aim must be to construct a purpose built building for Saplings Special School. However it may take some time for this to become a reality. In the meantime suitable accommodation must be secured for the school. Minister for Education Richard Burton needs to put this at the top of his agenda. The current conditions that staff and children are expected to operate in are just not up to standard,” concluded Senator Murnane O’Connor.