Life Skills for Tomorrow: New Education Opportunities for Children in Care in South Dublin

Ballydowd Special Care Unit

Recently, Dublin Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) and Tusla – Child and Family Agency jointly unveiled a Home Economics classroom and a Barista training room at the Ballydowd Special Care Unit and school in South Dublin. The event was marked by the visit of Josepha Madigan, Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion. Minister Madigan unveiled the new home economics class and Barista room as part of a range of new developments in the Ballydowd school. 

Special Care is a secure residential service for young people who are struggling with a situation in their lives and require extra support. Young people are placed in Special Care in order to receive the additional help and supports they need. A Special Care Unit is a secure unit, and the young people attend school while in secure care.

Based on the Ballydowd campus, the Ballydowd school provides a well-resourced, welcoming, and comfortable learning environment. The education team employs individualised planning to reflect each students’ abilities, and students are motivated and encouraged to engage or re-engage with their education in an inclusive and caring environment, as noted in a recent Department of Education Inspection of the school.

Minister Madigan said, “I am delighted to officially open the new home economics class and barista training room in Ballydowd Special Care School. I am hugely impressed by the students and their work. The student-centred approach and excellent teaching and learning provided by dedicated staff is certainly evident in their achievements. It is very important that we support the engagement of all young people in education with high quality programmes delivered in a positive and inclusive environment, providing them with a pathway for their future.”

Paul Sloan, the school’s principal, said, “The new home economics room has been designed to broaden and enhance the curriculum-based learning that the children receive. It will provide students with an opportunity to further develop practical food and health literacy skills, which promote healthy lifestyle choices and helps them to make informed decisions that can positively impact their health and wellbeing.

“In addition to the educational aspects of these new facilities in Ballydowd, they also provide a space for young people to engage in activities which help to further develop essential life skills and a positive self-image. As an example, a young person might make use of the new facilities to bake a birthday cake for a family member. This might seem like a simple act, but the depth of the learning and the impact of the process can be quite profound. I want to thank the staff, and importantly, the students, for their work in bringing these new facilities to fruition.” 

William O’Rourke, Director of Ballydowd and Coovagh House Special Care Units, Tusla, said, “Education is a key aspect of care, and every time a young person enters the school in Ballydowd, it paves the way for great things to happen. This is all down to the hard work and willingness of students to engage with the educational opportunities that are offered.”

A new Barista facility was also unveiled, and much like the home economics room, the Barista facility has functions that can extend far beyond those of your average coffee shop. 

William continued, “On the surface, just like with any coffee shop, it provides a place for young people and staff to socialise, work or relax while enjoying a hot drink. However, the benefits for the young people go beyond this, with opportunities to improve their social skills, practical and educational benefits, and an informal place to relax on the campus.”

Pictured: Laura Tuffy, Team Leader, Ballydowd Special Care Unit; William O’Rourke, Director Ballydowd Special Care Unit; Josepha Madigan, Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion

Pic Credit: Fennell Photography 

Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

Sarah has worked in marketing and content creation for many years. In her role at Newsgroup, she is the online editor of with a particular interest in local news and events. Sarah also works closely with our editorial team on our printed editions in Tallaght, Lucan, Clondalkin and Rathcoole/Saggart. If you have a story and would like to make contact please email Sarah at



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