Skip to main content
Normal View

Special Educational Needs

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 June 2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (305)

Michael McGrath

Question:

305. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide additional supports to children with special needs to assist them in re-integrating in a school environment as soon as it is safe to do so in view of the significant impact that the closure of schools has had on all children, but particularly on children with special needs; his further plans to provide additional supports outside of school between now and the return of schools in the autumn for these children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9496/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

On the 1st May 2020, the Taoiseach announced as part of the "Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business" that schools will commence opening on a phased basis at the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year.

My Department is currently working with the Education Partners and relevant stakeholders in planning for this re-opening which will be based on public health advice. As part of this engagement, each of the education partners were given the opportunity to outline the key issues that they would like to have considered in the context of re-opening schools. 

The issues raised by the education partners will now be worked through in detail as part of the development of the roadmap for reopening schools.

A core objective will be to ensure that schools and other education settings can re-open and operate in a safe manner that is consistent with public health advice.

In the interim, my Department has provided a range of support and guidance for schools on how to provide for the continuing education for pupils over the current school closure period.

Supports are provided to schools and teachers engaged in distance learning and these are available at https://www.education.ie/en/covid-19/#14  

In addition to the general guidance that has been provided for schools, additional support material has also been provided specifically on how schools should provide for the continuity of education for children with special educational needs. This guidance is available at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/National-Emergencies-Public-Health-Issues/guidance-continuity-of-schooling-supporting-pupils-with-sen-primary.pdf

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/National-Emergencies-Public-Health-Issues/guidance-continuity-of-schooling-supporting-students-with-sen-post-primary.pdf

The guidance notes that there is a particular need for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) to have regular, ongoing schooling. While all pupils need to be supported to maintain their engagement in learning, those with SEN are among those who need most support at this time. Examples of strategies and measures to ensure that the needs of pupils with SEN are catered for, are provided in the guidance documents and a range of resources are also identified for parents.

It sets out the role of schools and teachers in engaging with pupils with SEN and the role of teachers and school leaders to support such pupils. It advises schools as to how best to keep in touch with parents and guardians and how to keep pupils with SEN safe and engaged in the distance learning environment.

The guidance sets out the role of the special education teacher to support children with special educational needs at this time. It notes that the special education teacher’s knowledge of their pupils’ priority learning needs and agreed targets, as outlined in the pupil support file, will enable them to work with parents and guardians to choose appropriate supports in a remote learning environment.

Special Education Teachers (SETs) are asked to carefully examine how progress on the existing learning targets in student support plans can be reasonably extended by home learning. They are asked to use this knowledge to communicate with the pupils and their parents and guardians and to establish what methods will work best to achieve continuity of learning for the pupils.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is also providing a range of online resources for parents and teachers to support home learning for children with special educational needs during the Covid 19 restrictions.

In addition to the normal supports, the NCSE is providing online resources for children with Special Educational Needs who are at home as a result of the schools’ closure. 

Supports provided include those relating to general learning and difficulties for pupils with SEN, Curriculum support, speech language and communication, occupational therapy support, guidance around behaviour, and learning and resources on ‘Visiting Teachers Support’ for a teacher who teaches children with sensory impairment

Details of the full range of supports that the NCSE provides for teachers and parents is available at:

https://ncse.ie/online-resources 

The Department of Education and Skills’ NEPS psychologists have also developed advice and resources for young people to manage and stay well when schools are closed. The NEPS advice & resources for keeping children and young people well during Covid-19 are available at https://www.education.ie/covid19/wellbeing/

Guidelines for continued provision of Guidance Counselling and resources available to support practice is available at

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Post-Primary-School-Policies/Policies/Guidance-Plan.html

Guidance for parents of primary school pupils, which sets out what they should expect in relation to engagement in distance learning from schools, and how they can support their child in a home schooling environment is also available at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/continuity-of-schooling/continuity-of-schooling.html

I also recently announced that a special €10 million fund is being made available to support the purchase of technology and devices for disadvantaged students, including students with special educational needs.

This is additional to the latest round of funding for ICT under the Digital Strategy for Schools whereby €40m grant funding will be distributed in the coming weeks to eligible. €10m additional funding is also now issuing to schools to support children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage during the period of school closures.

While recognising the difficulty that school closure has had for parents and pupils, particularly in relation to pupils with special educational needs, my Department will continue to support and encourage schools to provide as much continuity of education as possible for such pupils, while continuing to engage with public health officials and stakeholders in relation to when schools may re-open and operate in a safe manner that is consistent with public health advice.

My Department is also 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.

Question No. 306 answered with Question No. 194.
Top
Share