Dad of gifted student with special needs appeals for 'invaluable' resource class to stay open

Simon and Jamie Wharmby. Picture: Seamus Farrelly

The dad of a gifted student with special needs fears his son's behavioural progress will be destroyed with the axing of an 'invaluable' resource class at his school from September.

Simon Wharmby says his son Jamie (11), who suffers from severe ADHD has become less troubled and more adapted to mainstream schooling since taking part in the special 'Life Skills' room at St Oliver's National School in Navan, Co. Meath.

The Department of Education and Skills has confirmed that the class for children with emotional behavioural disorder will close as they deemed it 'no longer sustainable'

Simon says was devastated to learn on the last day of school that the class was being pulled in September.

Almost 1400 people have signed his petition to date on change.org, asking the Education Minister Joe McHugh to reinstate the service.

"Jamie has severe ADHD and was going to the Gaelscoil in the Gaeltacht Rathcairn before he moved here with me and started at St Oliver's NS three years ago.

"It was a big upheaval for him anyway, despite the ADHD and he was getting into trouble a lot at school although the staff and principal have been amazing with their support.

However, he began going to the Life Skills Room and the change in his behaviour has been incredible. He actually went on a school tour this year, whereas in the past, his behaviour was too challenging for teachers to bring him.

"He speaks fluent Irish and he's a clever child - he was offered a place in the Centre for Talented Youth in Dublin City University.

"The Life Skills class, to where he goes for part of the school day, has a fantastic teacher who makes sure he eats his lunch and gives him more challenging lessons that better suits his ability and keeps him motivated.

"He even gets his homework done before leaving school and this is of huge benefit to him.

"He has a new self-confidence which is amazing and everyone has noticed how his behaviour has changed. I'm worried that with no Life Skills class, he will regress, get frustrated in class and get into trouble again.

Simon and Jamie Wharmby. Picture: Seamus Farrelly
Simon and Jamie Wharmby. Picture: Seamus Farrelly

"This room was invaluable to Jamie and I don't know how he'll cope with a full day in a mainstream classroom. The principal seemed so upset when she rang to tell me what was happening.

"He has come so far forwards that I don't want him to go backwards. I really hope some solution can be found."

In a statement, the Department of Education and Skills said: "The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local officers in consultation with the relevant education partners, is responsible for identifying the need for and sanctioning the resourcing of special classes and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

"The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has advised that there will be a total of 1,618 special classes in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2019/20 school year.

"The NCSE has advised the Department that a special class for children with emotional behavioural disorder will close at St Oliver's NS, as it is no longer sustainable.

"The NCSE has explored options with the school for the re-designation of the special class to cater for children with other disabilities. However, to date no agreement has been reached in relation to this."

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