Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (474)

Neale Richmond

Question:

474. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the additional supports being provided for children with special needs in mainstream classes who are not included in the return to school in February 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7364/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In recognition of the fact that remote learning is particularly challenging for children with complex special educational needs, my Department is putting in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of pupils with complex needs.

Information has been provided to schools who are in the process of contacting the families of eligible pupils to assist them with the application process.

An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible pupils.

This allocation is intended to supplement, and not replace, the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school and can be provided by a teacher or SNA in a student’s home, at evenings and weekends. Participation in the programme is voluntary for families, teachers and SNAs and must be delivered in accordance with Public Health Advice.

It is intended that this programme would be supported by teachers and SNAs who may opt in to participate, on a paid basis, to help ensure a better learning experience for these pupils and to build on the learning taking place as part of the remote provision.

Similar to the Department’s home based summer programme parents will engage either a teacher or an SNA in a private arrangement. My Department will act as a payroll agent for Parents and facilitate direct payment to Teachers/SNAs via the Department’s NTS payroll.

The pupils who will be eligible include -

- All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes

- Pupils in mainstream schools who are accessing the highest level of the continuum of support (i.e. School Support Plus/for a Few). This will include pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities who were identified for the summer programme of 2020.

- Pupils identified by their school as requiring the highest level of support at any given time. This will ensure that pupils presenting with exceptional needs due to the current school closures can participate in the scheme.

The Department’s approach is intended to be flexible so as to maximise the number of pupils participating.

An allocation of a 5-hour per week home-based teaching or care support programme will be made available to eligible pupils. This allocation is intended to supplement (and not replace) the remote teaching provided by the pupil’s school.

It is intended that this programme will operate 4 weeks commencing 11 February but eligible families may utilise the hours at any time before 30 April 2021.

I can also confirm that talks will continue with stakeholders, including within the post primary school sector, on further phases of return, so that a wider reopening can be delivered for children as soon as possible.