School and Ethos Description
The Board of Management of St Joseph’s Primary School for Children with Visual Impairment hereby sets out its Enrolment and Admission Policy. Our aim is to assist parents/ guardians and professionals in relation to application and enrolment matters and to provide clarity regarding the purpose of the school as designated by the Department of Education and Skills. This policy has been written in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 and the Education Act 1998. Decisions in relation to applications for enrolment are made by the Board of Management of the school.
The Chairperson of the Board of Management, Mr. Mick Mangan, and/ or the Principal of St Joseph’s, Gwenda Johnson, will be happy to answer any queries arising from this policy.
About the school
School Name & Address:
St. Joseph’s Primary School for Children with Visual Impairment
Contact Details: Tel: 01 8373696
Type of School: Co-educational Special School for Children with Visual Impairment
Funding: Department of Education Grants
Catchment Area: Due to its special designation, the school is open to pupils from any part of Ireland. Residential facilities, funded by HSE, are provided on the ChildVision campus. At present, most of the pupils are day pupils and travel by school bus from within Dublin and from the surrounding counties.
Designation: St Joseph’s Primary School for Children with Visual Impairment is the only designated Primary School in the Republic of Ireland for children with little or no vision. All the children enrolled in the school have a confirmed medical diagnosis of a visual impairment which cannot be corrected satisfactorily by wearing glasses or contact lenses and which is their primary barrier to educational progress. These children include:
- Children with a visual acuity of 6/18 or less, or a medically certified difficulty with functional vision such that it significantly affects learning
- Children with a deteriorating visual condition
- Children with a significant visual field loss
- Children with a visual impairment, any of 1-3 above, and additional needs.
Classes, Curriculum, Staffing and other Support:
The school caters for children aged 4 to 13 years. An entry age of 5 is preferred, given the developmental delay often associated with visual impairment. Some pupils may leave St Joseph’s later, if it is deemed necessary or beneficial. Classes range in size from 6-8 pupils, depending on the needs within the class. We have capacity for two classes to cater for children with little or no vision who have severe or profound learning disabilities.
The school operates within the regulations and the standardised school year as laid down by the Primary/ Special Education Sections of the Department of Education and Skills. We follow the Primary School Curriculum, differentiating according to the needs of the children, including the teaching of the braille or Moon code and the use of large print, low vision aids and other strategies suitable for supporting children with visual impairment. We also refer to the Aistear Framework and the NCCA Guidelines for Children with General Learning Disabilities, as appropriate. The children in St Joseph’s receive additional curriculum relevant to those with a serious sight loss, such as Orientation and Mobility, Independent Living Skills and touch typing.
At present, there are nine full-time class teachers and a full-time administrative Principal at St Joseph’s. There are also five teachers and a Music Therapist from Dublin’s Education and Training Board who provide input in the areas of Music, Orientation and Mobility, Word Processing, Swimming and Clay Modelling on a full or part-time basis. The school presently has 23 sanctioned Special Needs Assistant (SNA) positions. The SNAs support the pupils in their daily care needs.
St Joseph’s benefits from HSE-funded Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Physiotherapy and Nursing support, through ChildVision. The school also enjoys ChildVision facilities such as the swimming pool, the garden and the library.
We collaborate with other professionals, as appropriate, to support the children in their educational and social development, and in their transitions from early services and to post-primary placements.
Patronage, Ethos and Mission Statement
Patron: Archbishop of Dublin
Denomination: Catholic (but welcoming to those of all faiths or none)
Trustees: Rosminian Fathers (also known as Institute of Charity)
The school motto is: ‘Together we can do so much’. In line with the Catholic ethos of the school and the core belief of Antonio Rosmini, founder of the Rosminian Order, our aim at St Joseph’s is to provide an inclusive learning environment where each child is nurtured holistically. Taking account of each child’s visual impairment, and any additional needs, we aim to ensure that he / she has access to a full and balanced curriculum, delivered with dignity. We seek to help each child reach his or her potential, focusing on ability rather than disability, so that they are best prepared for life and further education. We aim for school to be a safe and happy place for the children, with a positive atmosphere of encouragement and praise. We encourage good behaviour based on consideration, respect and tolerance for others, and seek to have good relationships with all who participate in the life of the school.
Timeline for Application to St Joseph’s
- St Joseph’s will accept applications for enrolment from November to mid-February in the proposed year of enrolment. The number of available places in suitable classes will be communicated to parents at the earliest stage possible.
- Applications procedures will be completed by mid-February to facilitate the school’s application to the National Council for Special Education for staff and other resources for the next school year.
- In early March, a list of recommended enrolments will be ratified by the school Board.
- Offers of school places for the coming academic year will be issued in writing by mid-March. Offers will be delayed if additional information relating to any application is still required. Parents/ guardians affected by this will be informed. Parents whose children cannot be offered a place will also be notified at this time.
- Depending on capacity within the school and the availability of necessary resources, applications may be considered during the school year.
Application and Enrolment Procedures
- Parents contact the school directly or through either the National Education Psychological Service or the Visiting Teaching Service of the DES to arrange an informal visit.
- The child’s name, address and parent/ guardian contact details are placed on the school’s Record of Expression of Interest for the particular year of entry.
- A copy of the Enrolment Policy, Application Form and a cover letter detailing the required documentation and closing date for applications for the relevant year is given or sent to the child’s parents/ guardians.
- As part of their application, parents/guardians are asked to send the following:
- Completed application form, including all relevant information
- Child’s birth certificate
- Recent eye report from ophthalmologist or optometrist
- Psychological assessment report (not required if referred from a mainstream class by a Visiting Teacher for VI)
- Other available professional reports, e.g. Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Recent Pre-School/ School Report
- Baptismal Cert (if Catholic and your child is to be prepared for sacraments)
- The school may require further assessment through a suitable service-provider if documentation is inadequate.
- Since children who attend St Joseph’s Primary School avail of support services from ChildVision, to one degree or another, some level of further assessment through ChildVision will probably be required.
- Complete applications received are recorded in the school Record of Applications, to be considered in line with the criteria mentioned below.
- As part of the application process, the Principal, a class teacher or other relevant professionals may meet with the parents/ guardians and the prospective pupil, or may visit the applicant child in his/ her current educational setting, to assess needs and to clarify any relevant issues.
- Relevant professionals may make recommendations to the Principal as appropriate.
- The Principal may consult with or seek the advice of the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO), the School Inspector, or a professional or team who has worked with the child, e.g. a Visiting teacher for VI or an Early Intervention Team.
- Following evaluation against the criteria mentioned in the section below, the Principal will make a recommendation to the Board, listing proposed enrolments for the coming school year. The Board of Management will make the final decision regarding offers of places.
- A letter of offer will be sent on behalf of the Board to the parents/ guardians of each child who is being offered a place.
- On receipt of an offer, parents/ guardians will be required to agree that the school’s Code of Behaviour is acceptable and that they will make all reasonable efforts to ensure that their son/daughter complies with the Code.
- Parents/ guardians will be asked to respond by a named date to the letter of offer. If accepting the offer, arrangements will be made for them to complete applications to NCSE for school transport and for SNA support, as relevant.
- If the school lacks a necessary resource to meet the needs of a newly enrolled pupil, every effort will be made to secure that resource prior to admission. If the arrival of the resource is delayed, admission can go ahead unless this would cause a serious risk either to the pupil, other pupils, staff or school property.
Decision-making Principles; Threshold Criteria;
Order of Priority and Criteria for Decision-making
It is important to note that a completed application or the entry of a child’s name on the Record of Applications, however early, does not entitle the child to an automatic place in the school. Decisions about all applications will be made according to the principles, threshold criteria, order of priority and decision-making criteria below.
The Board of Management respects parental choice in relation to enrolment, provided the enrolment criteria are fulfilled and bearing in mind the right of the existing school community. The school will not refuse a child on the basis of ethnicity, special education needs, disability, traveller status, refugee status, political or religious beliefs, family or social circumstances, provided the necessary supports are in place in the school.
Applications to St Joseph’s will only be considered if a child meets all of the following threshold criteria:
- a medical diagnosis from an ophthalmologist or optometrist of visual acuity of 6/18 or less; of a deteriorating visual condition; of a significant visual field loss; or of a significant difficulty with functional vision such that seeing and learning are affected.
- a visual impairment which is deemed by a psychologist to be his/ her primary barrier to educational progress
- at least 4 years old by the 1st of September of the year of entry
If the Board of Management considers that a child meets all the essential entry requirements, the application will then be assessed according to the following order of priority and decision-making criteria.
Order of Priority
- Priority will be given to children in the following two categories:
- children of school-entry age who meet the threshold criteria and for whom a recommendation for enrolment at St Joseph’s has been made, for educational reasons, by a psychologist or other relevant professionals
- children who meet the threshold criteria, are struggling in a mainstream school setting and for whom a recommendation for enrolment at St Joseph’s has been made, for educational reasons, by a psychologist or other relevant professionals
- In some circumstances, an application for a child who meets the threshold criteria and is already availing of services in another special school setting may be considered if this is deemed to be in the best educational interests of the child and if a suitable vacancy exists in the school.
Criteria for Decisions regarding Applications meeting the Threshold Criteria
Applications that meet the Threshold Criteria will be assessed by the Board of Management in the order of priority outlined above and on the basis of the following criteria:
- The Board are satisfied that the overall needs of the child can be met at St Joseph’s, in terms of education, safety, health and well-being.
- The pupil/ teacher ratio will be appropriate to the needs of the child and will meet designated DES class size directives.
- The child will be able to tolerate a classroom environment along with other children.
- The proposed class group can provide a positive educational environment in terms of ability and/ or age for the new applicant and for the existing pupils.
- The impact on the educational and welfare needs of all the pupils in the school
- Staffing, accommodation and resource implications
- The impact on the child’s capacity to learn if a long journey is involved to and from school each day
Wait List; Late Application; Refusal to Enrol; Appeal
- If an applicant meets the threshold criteria but has been refused because a class has reached the maximum number of pupils, as set by DES regulations, his / her name will be placed on a list of refused applicants for that class.
- Parents/ guardians will be informed in writing that their child’s name has been placed on a wait list for one academic year.
- If there are still vacancies in the school after applications received by mid-February have been processed, late applications will be considered and assessed according to the principles, threshold criteria, order of priority and decision-making criteria mentioned above.
- If a pupil is transferring from another school, a comprehensive record of the pupil’s behaviour in that school will be considered. A child with severe emotional and behavioural needs may best be served in another setting where specialist personnel could provide him / her with optimal levels of support.
Refusal to Enrol
- The Board of Management reserves the right to refuse enrolment to a pupil in cases such as the following:
- the complexity or the applicant’s additional needs are such that, despite additional resources being made available by the Department of Education and Skills and / or NCSE, the school could not provide the pupil with an appropriate education
- based on the available assessments, the Board agrees that the applicant could pose a significant risk to themselves, other pupils or staff
- lack of vacancy in a suitable class
- If the school refuses to enrol a student, parents have the right to appeal the decision to the school’s Board of Management. Where this takes place, the Board will convene an Appeals Committee to process the appeal. If the Board does not reverse its decision, parents can appeal the decision to the Department, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998. An appeal is heard by an appeals committee. In most cases, appeals are dealt within 30 days. The Department may give directions to the Board of Management to resolve the matter. The Board of Management has to obey these directions. Parents can get more information about appealing decisions on enrolment in Primary Circular 22/02 Appeals Procedures under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998, available from www.education.ie
Policy Review; Monitoring; Ratification; Communication
The Principal and the Board of Management will monitor and evaluate the implementation of all aspects of the Enrolment Policy. It will be reviewed regularly in September of every second year.
The Principal will report to the Board of Management regarding the process of enrolment in December each year and regularly thereafter until the application and enrolment procedures are complete.
Ratification and Communication
This Enrolment Policy was ratified by the Board of Management on 9th December, 2014. Parents/ guardians of existing pupils will be informed that it is available on request from the school office. A copy of the policy will be made available to Parents/ Guardians who contact the school to express an interest in making an application for their child.