In 1970, it was the mission of a group who formed as the the County Wicklow Association to provide schooling and care for individuals with moderate and severe learning disabilities.

It was a daunting task for a group of people without land, buildings or finance and without official recognition from any state body. However, the Eastern Health Board offered some rooms in the Nurses Home at Newcastle Hospital which were converted into two small classrooms, a kitchen, a small office and a staffroom and in September 1972 the school opened with 12 pupils, 2 teachers, a nurse and a cook.    The school was called ‘St. Catherine’s’, as it is adjacent to St. Catherine’s Well which is opposite Gregory’s Garage.

The catchment area for the students stretched from Arklow to Bray and to the mountains in the West and this provided great transport difficulties.  One estate car did the round trip twice daily between Newcastle, Arklow, Avoca, Greenane, Rathdrum, Glenealy, Rathnew and Wicklow.  A minibus transported the children from Bray and Greystones.

For the first three years the School remained unrecognised by the Department of Education, leaving the Association responsible for payment of all staff and running expenses. It was a difficult time, but the local community and many friends never failed to raise the necessary funds to meet all expenses.

The big breakthrough came in September 1975, when the Department of Education gave full recognition to the School, thus ensuring payment to teachers and running costs.

From 1975 to the present day the St Catherine’s Special School has grown and developed. We now consist of 18 classes for students with Severe and Profound Learning Disabilities (LD), Severe and Profound LD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moderate LD, Moderate LD and ASD and we are located in two buildings.

We have been approved for a new school building and the Patron has taken responsibility of finding the most appropriate location for our school.  While we wait for our new school the Board of Management is committed to ensuring the current buildings are safe, comfortable and able to meet the needs of our students.


Our Mission

St. Catherine’s Special School, under the patronage of St. Catherine’s Association Ltd,
will deliver a service of excellence that is student centred, responding to their identified needs,
ensuring that each achieves their full potential and is supportive of both students and their families.