Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (444)

Richard Boyd Barrett


444. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education if her Department has examined the proposals from some schools to facilitate an alternative to the in-person supplementary programme to support the education and-or care needs of pupils with complex needs scheme in the homes of children with additional needs (details supplied); if schools will be allowed to proceed with these alternative plans while waiting for the full reopening of schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8691/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department is conscious of the fact that closing schools has hugely adverse consequences at individual, family and societal level and that the effect on children with special educational needs can be even greater.

Following intensive engagement and input from primary, post-primary and special education partners, a framework has now been developed and agreed with all partners, including unions and management, in order to achieve a phased return to in-school provision for children with special educational needs.

Under the framework the following phased return to in-school provision has been agreed:

Phase 1: Special schools reopened on Thursday 11th February 2021. In accordance with this agreement pupils will attend on a 50 per cent basis to allow for attendance of reduced numbers within the school setting. This will be reviewed in line with public health advice.

Phase 2: Primary and Post-Primary Special Classes will reopen from Monday 22nd February 2021. Pupils are expected to attend these classes on a full-time basis.

Special classes at primary and post-primary level will be supported in their return by the enhanced school teams put in place by the HSE and the Department of Education. Updated guidance and information on the supports for schools has been made available to primary schools, and will be made available to post-primary schools in advance of the return.

It is not possible to facilitate the return to school of other pupils/students with special educational needs without the agreement of all stakeholders. This includes the use of school buildings to deliver the supplementary programme.

Intensive engagement is continuing with education stakeholders, towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so.