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Special Educational Needs

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 June 2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (303)

Norma Foley


303. Deputy Norma Foley asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to fully continue the July provision in summer 2020; and the details of same. [9494/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is aware of concerns that the closure of schools has impacted hardest upon families who have children with complex needs whose wellbeing and engagement with learning depend very much on the routine of school and their relationships with other students, teachers and Special Needs Assistants. 

They have also lost out on specialist supports during this closure period.

My Department has taken a number of initiatives to support children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage during the period of school closures.

These include –

- Guidance issued to all schools to support the ongoing learning of children with special educational needs and children who are at risk of disadvantage;

- Guidance and resources developed by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) on supporting children with special educational needs

- €10m in ICT grant funding to schools towards the purchase of technology and devices to support students at risk of educational disadvantage.

- Continued funding of Home Tuition or, where this is not possible, flexibility to bank hours for use at a later time in the year

- Resources to support good mental health and wellbeing amongst students produced by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)

- To help schools plan for the new academic year, schools have been informed that their SNA allocation is being frozen at this year’s level and there is provision for additionality where this might be required. No school will therefore have a lower allocation for the next school year.

- The Middletown Centre for Autism has developed a range of online resources for children and young people with Autism and their parents on education provision in the Home.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 health crisis, it is not possible to deliver the normal July Provision programme in the same way and at the same time as in other years. 

However my Department is planning for a summer provision type programme for children with complex needs this year as soon as it is safe to do so and in accordance with public health advice.

The primary aim of the proposed programme would be to limit potential regression in learning thereby ensuring in so far as possible that these children can reintegrate and transition into their planned education setting for next year with their peers. 

This may be done through a targeted level of supports to address regression of social skills and re-establish tolerance of routines paving the way for reintegrating full time into education when schools reopen in the autumn. 

Planning is underway and consultations with stakeholders have commenced. The willingness of schools, teachers and SNAs to participate are key to the provision of a summer education programme.

An announcement will be made as soon as possible.