Sinn Féin spokesperson on Disability and Carers Pauline Tully TD has said the lack of planning by the Minister for Education and her Department for the possibility of schools needing to close for a second time due to Covid-19, and how children with additional educational needs would be catered for in this scenario, is evidence of an absence of leadership.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:
“Never mind not having a plan B, it now seems that the Minister and her Department did not have a credible plan A.
“The Minister had nine months to plan for and organise this.
“She should have spent this time in consultation with the stakeholders – the unions and the disability sector groups – to nail down a contingency plan if restrictions needed to be reintroduced.
“Instead, we had last minute ill-considered plans, which collapsed just as quickly.
“Last week I challenged the Minister on this in the Dáil she assured the Dáil that she had an agreement in place that would see children with additional needs returning to school this week.
“Once again, however, the Ministers plans have unravelled almost as soon as this announcement was made.
“We are once again back to the chaos that ensued two weeks ago when the Minister tried to bounce teachers and 6th year students into returning to school, again with no consultation with the teachers or with students.
“The Minister seems to be trying to decide policy by press release rather than engage in proper dialogue.
“It is concerning that the same mistakes are being made once again and that press releases are substituting discussion and agreement.
“The Minister needs to stop taking stakeholders for granted.
“Families with children with additional needs are deeply upset.
“We all know how badly children with additional needs were affected last year with many of them receiving little or no support for the three months of school closure.
“Children experienced academic, social and emotional regression and took weeks to settle back to school in September.
“We should not be in the position we are in now.
“This should have been planned for, and consultations should have taken place with stakeholders, months ago.”