My Department's July Provision Grant Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with severe or profound intellectual disabilities and students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which advises me on these matters published its Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism in July 2016 which included a review of the July Scheme.
The review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students. The NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme as currently organised.
These include concerns that the scheme may be inequitable because it is not provided to all students with complex special educational needs.
The Council recommended that the relevant Government Departments consider how an equitable national day activity scheme could be developed for all students with complex special educational needs.
The proposed scheme would provide a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs which might include some children with Down syndrome.
My Department has convened an Implementation Group to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.
There has been consultation with a number of other Departments and State agencies regarding the future direction of the July Education Programme.
It is expected that the Group will make recommendations shortly concerning a revised scheme which would be implemented next year at the earliest. Before any changes are made, there will be consultations with stakeholders.
Officials from my Department are due to meet with Down Syndrome Ireland this week and I look forward to meeting them in the weeks to come.