February 24, 2021
Children in mainstream with special educational needs left behind – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has criticised the failure of government to ensure that children with special educational needs in the mainstream are prioritised in the return to school.

Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Parents and children with special educational needs were bitterly disappointed by the failure to prioritise them in yesterday’s announcement.

“We are glad to see children getting back to the classroom, it is the best place to learn for any child.

“From January, Sinn Féin stated that a phased return was likely to be necessary and that a return to the classroom for children with special educational needs should be the priority.

“While many children with special education needs were prioritised, those in the mainstream have not.

“Children with complex needs in mainstream settings have been left out of the reopening thus far. These families have been badly let down and they need a return date urgently.

“I have heard many stories of children with additional needs in the last number of weeks waiting for the school bus to arrive, which obviously never came.

“They should have been among the highest priority yesterday – from the rhetoric of the Minister and junior Minister you would certainly have thought so.

“But they have no return date other than when their whole class is going back. For some, that could be after Easter at the earliest. That is simply not good enough. They have been forgotten again.

“The guidance schools have received on how to support these children in the meantime is threadbare. I note the statement from Down Syndrome Ireland, Family Carers Ireland, AsIam and Inclusion Ireland, who state that there was no consultation with those groups.

“This is astonishing given the broad agreement on the priority of special education, given the majority of these children are in the mainstream, and that this affects tens of thousands of children and families.

“These families feel very justifiably let down, and forgotten. I would urge the Minister to re-engage with these families, ensure they are supported and returned to the classroom as soon as possible.”

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