Mary O’Dowd of SMART Education has been teaching in both the private and public sectors in Ireland for nearly 30 Years. During this time she found that many students were being felt behind and leaving school with poor grades and literacy levels, perhaps as a result of undiagnosed specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. Leaving a permanent job with Co.
Dublin V.E.C. she set up SMART Education, initially in Castleknock, to help children learn effectively using a combination of proven methods and computer learning programs. In September 2009, with funding from Ulster Bank, she opened a purpose built independent learning centre in Moycullen, Co. Galway, to provide educational assessments, consultations, tutorials and workshops for children aged 5 to 18 yrs who have specific learning difficulties.
The main issues
One of the main issues in the business has been finding staff, especially as working hours are outside of the normal school day. Not only have they to be excellent with children of all ages but they also need good IT skills.
Because the business is very specific and unusual getting the word out to parents that such a service exists has been slow. Referrals are now all ‘word of mouth’ or through teachers and other professionals. Working with teachers and parents on training courses has helped increase the profile of the business.
Children and families from all over Ireland, and some from overseas, have used this service. This summer it is planned to operate residential summer camps as well as weekends away for families. While children working online are Nationwide building the Dublin market and creating a second purpose built centre is a target for 2014.