I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.
The correspondence referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 14th February 2019. The person will receive a reply by the end of February.
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 scheme does not make provision for children with other categories of Special Education Needs.
The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016.
The NCSE review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students.
However, 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.
The Department of Education and Skills has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the NCSE, NEPS and the Inspectorate to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.
There are no plans to change the July provision scheme coverage until this work is complete.