The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) approached Scoil Íde in February of 2020 to outline their wishes for the establishment of a Special class for children with Autism on the school grounds. The matter was brought to the Board of Management of the school to discuss but the COVID-19 enforced closure of Scoil Íde in March of 2020 meant that this matter was not progressed for the academic year.
The NCSE sought a meeting with the Principal again in February of 2021 at which they outlined their wishes that Scoil Íde would open a Two by Special Class facility for children with Autism. The Chairperson of the Board, Principal and Deputy Principal were present at this virtual meeting. The NCSE clarified that the proposal to establish a 2 by Special Class Facility (SCF) is based on “current and established” need in the community and “ projected need” in the community based on national data. The Spokeswoman for the NCSE stated that they “ could accept an answer of not now” but would not be willing to take a “no” for an answer
The Chairperson, Principal and Deputy Principal all agree that there is an identified need in our community for such a facility. This facility would be able to cater for 12 children. The matter has been brought before the Board of Management of the school and the staff of Scoil Íde. Both are broadly in favour of the proposal but do have questions in relation to the delivery of the project, enrollment criteria, support structures post delivery and staffing implications.
Both the proposal to develop a SCF and the experience of managing Scoil Íde through a pandemic led to a broader discussion at Board of Management level about how the school is catering for the children, families and community that it serves. The Board of Management identified a number of key areas in which the school needs to develop in order to provide for the children currently enrolled in our school. These developments would complement the SCF and they would ensure that Scoil Íde is able to provide a holistic educational experience for the children enrolled in the school. In essence, they would become a catalyst for the renewal of a healthy, sustainable, inclusive and attractive community.
There has been no development of the school since the opening of the senior building in 1995. Significant work has taken place in recent years to bring the three core buildings of the school up to date with current regulations. (windows and doors have been replaced, emergency lighting and fire alarm systems have been updated, ceilings and attic insulation replaced amongst other works)
There are currently 750 children enrolled in Scoil Íde. Projections suggest this number will remain stable over the coming years. The Board of Management has identified a number of key areas in which Scoil Íde is not providing for the identified needs of the current school population. The following facilities will be required to ensure that Scoil Íde is in a position to deliver a high quality and broad educational offering.
- A sports hall- the school’s only indoor facility is a GP hall measuring 20m by 10m. This space is used by 28 classes every week
- A new yard area to cater for children from the senior school.- COVID-19 restrictions have brought into sharp focus how dangerously overcrowded our yards are. We need an extra yard for the senior building to provide for the 200+ children who are based in this building
- A full size astro pitch.- We currently use the facilities of Corbally United and St Munchin’s at various stages throughout the year
- A 2 classroom special class facility with sensory garden- as proposed by the NCSE based on identified need in the community
The Board of Management employed Drake Hourigan Architects to develop a feasibility study based on the requirements outlined above.
Their initial plans positioned the SCF on the existing footprint of Scoil Íde. Scoil Íde would need to acquire land to develop the astro pitch, the new senior yard and the sports hall. The feasibility study identified land in the Bishop’s Field as the most suitable.
This proposed development would meet the objectives laid out in Chapter 9- Sustainable Communities and Social Infrastructure of the DLDP 2022-2028.
Objective SCSI O2 - Accessibility for All - It is an objective of the Council to:
a) Seek the provision of appropriate, inclusive and accessible, safe amenity, recreational open space and community facilities that are available for all sections of the community, both urban and rural at a convenient distance from their homes and places of work.
b) Ensure that community facilities, recreation, play and leisure facilities are fully accessible to all users and are compliant with current legislative requirements.
Objective SCSI O3 - Community Hubs - It is an objective of the Council to promote community hubs i.e. community facilities of a general nature that can benefit from shared services and be adopted for a wide variety of purposes, including local enterprise, health and education services.
Objective SCSI 04 - 10 - Minute Neighbourhood - It is an objective of the Council to implement a strategy based on the sustainable compact settlements concept ‘10-minute city and town’, whereby, a range of community facilities and services are accessible in short walking and cycle timeframes from homes, or are accessible by high quality public transport services by connecting people to larger scaled settlements delivering these services.
Objective SCSI O5 - Multi-Use of Facilities - It is an objective of the Council to develop, in partnership with other agencies, opportunities for multi and co-use active and passive recreational amenities including sports and recreational facilities, playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment within existing areas of open space. The Council will expect proposals to facilitate multi-purpose uses through their design and layout and to be accessible by multiple users.
Objective SCSI O8 – Place-making for the Community - It is an objective of the Council to:
a) Develop and protect an open space network and hierarchy of quality public and community spaces, to extend close to where people live and which can accommodate a variety of recreational amenities and facilities for the community at large.
b) Incorporate specific facilities and amenities that would promote exercise and movement as well as rest and relaxation in a natural way and in a variety of settings.
c) Protect areas which are considered to be quiet or which offer a sense of tranquillity, through a process of identification and validation followed by formal designation of ‘Quiet Areas’.
Objective SCSI O9 - Educational Facilities - It is an objective of the Council to:
a) Reserve lands to facilitate the delivery of new educational facilities, including extensions of existing schools in cooperation with the Department of Education.
Objective SCSI O11 - Multi-Use of School Facilities - It is an objective of the Council to encourage multi-use of school facilities, for other community programmes and initiatives other than mainstream education, in order to maximise resources and support sustainable communities.
Objective SCSI O19 - Protection of Sports Grounds/Facilities - It is an objective of the Council to:
a) Ensure that adequate playing fields for formal active recreation are provided for in new development areas.
b) Protect, retain and enhance existing sports facilities and grounds.
Objective SCSI O20 - Improve Open Space Provision - It is an objective of the Council to:
a) Co-operate with sports clubs, schools, cultural groups and community organisations to provide quality sports and recreational facilities to the community. The Council encourages a multi-use and co-use of facilities of a complementary nature to support more diverse range of sport and recreational opportunities. Proposed development shall demonstrate quality pedestrian and cyclist linkage.
Objective SCSI O21 - New City Amenity Areas - It is an objective of the Council to identify suitable sites for the provision of new parks/playgrounds in the vicinity of Caherdavin, Corbally and the Groody Valley.
The Bishop’s Field
The Diocese of Limerick and Scoil Íde have a long standing but informal arrangement whereby the school has access to and use of this land. These have been invaluable to Scoil Íde. The Bishop’s Field is used extensively by all standards in the school from our Junior Infants all the way up to our 6th classes for sporting, educational and recreational purposes. The Bishop’s Field is regarded as the “ lungs of Scoil Íde ''It is used for sporting activities during the day and after school. A range of lessons for all classes based on the biodiversity present in the field have been developed and it allows for large school activities to take place that would otherwise have to move off site such as the 6th Class Duathlon. In essence, the everyday running of Scoil Íde would be severely hampered were the Bishop’s Field not available to the school.
I have included as attachements the following
- Updated outline of development
- Curent school site map
- OS map of Bishops Field
- Picture of wetland
- Oak tree picture 1 & 2
Points to be considered.
- The Bishop's Field is currently zoned as " Open Space and Recreation". We are appealing for the rtention of this status
- The Board of Management of Scoil íde are very grateful to the Diocese for allowing Scoil íde to use the Bishop’s Field for educational, recreational and sporting purposes. The Board also appreciates that any transfer of land is a complex matter. It is determined to proceed with any discussions in an honest and professional manner. Initial plans outline the need for 1.7 - 2.0 hectares of land in order to proceed with the proposed developments. This land would be predominantly on the footprint of the “sports field” area of the Bishop’s Field with the new senior building yard behind the senior building.
- The Bishop’s Field has a commercial value that Scoil Íde would not be in a position to match. The Board of Management is aware that the Diocese would have obligations under the Charities Act of 2009 in relation to the change of ownership of their land.
- The Board of Management understands that the Parish would be involved in the transfer of ownership of Diocesan land at the Bishop’s Field and that the Parish Council would have to grant approval for any move to acquire land at the Bishop’s Field. The Board has spoken to the Parish priest in relation to this matter.
- Drake Hourigan Architects have identified a Cillín( killeen- children’s graveyard) on the sitemap of the Bishop’s Field. This Cillín is sacred ground and dates back to Famine times. The Board is fully aware that any proposed development would have to take account of this and of the need to deal with this in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
- Scoil Íde has been designated as a “Safer Routes to School” school as has St Munchin’s in Corbally. This programme is operasted bu
- There is a mature Oak tree in the centre of the Bishop's Field. All developments would take account of this.
- The lower part of the Bishop's Field outside the Senior Building of Scoil Íde is an area of considerable biodiversity. The school has completed a number of projects on the wetlands in this area.
- Scoil Íde has been designated as a "Safer Routes to School" school.
The Safe Routes to School Programme is designed to encourage as many pupils and students as possible in primary and post-primary schools to walk and cycle. It has three aims: 1To accelerate the delivery of walking/scooting and cycling infrastructure on key access routes to schools. 2:The Safe Routes to School Programme is designed to encourage as many pupils and students as possible in primary and post-primary schools to walk and cycle. It has three aims: 3To accelerate the delivery of walking/scooting and cycling infrastructure on key access routes to schools. To provide “front of school” treatments which will enhance access to your school grounds. To expand the amount of bike parking available at schools.The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programme launched in March 2021 and was open to all schools in Ireland to apply for active travel funding and delivery. The programme is an initiative of the Department of Transport and supported by the Department of Education. It is operated by the Green-Schools Programme in partnership with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the local authorities.
- Funding for the proposed developments would come from a number of sources.
-The Department of Education would provide the funding for the construction and fit out of the SCF and Sensory Garden.
-Funding for the astro pitch and sports hall would come from a variety of sources such as Sport Capital Grants, Green Schools under the remit of An Taisce. An application would also be made to the JP McManus Benevolent Fund
-The Board of Management would apply to the Summer Works Scheme for funding for the new senior building yard
- The proposed facilities would be open to the public for use and are in accordance with the Draft Limerick Development Plan which seeks to “ foster healthy, sustainable, inclusive and attractive communities in a manner that enhances people’s quality of life and connection to place” ( Page 218)
- Scoil íde would support the devlopment of a park for the broader community which The Board of Masnagement believes would compliment and enhance the proposed develpments listed above.
That consideration be given to the potential development of facilities on the Bishop's Field in Corbally that would enable Scoil Íde to provide for the identified needs of the school community. These facilities would also be available to the broader community in line with the Council's aim to " foster healthy, sustainable, inclusive and attractive communities" ( page 218 Draft Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028)
Scoil Íde has been approached by the National Council of Special Education ( The NCSE) to develop a Special Class facility inclusive of two classrooms and associated facilities. This approach by the NCSE was based on identified need within the community to provide for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This led to a detailed discussion by the Board of Management in which the identified needs of the whole school community were outlined. This discussion formed the basis for this submission.