Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has urged the Minister not to forget children with additional needs in mainstream settings, who are still waiting for a date when they can return to school.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said
“There have been numerous leaks and comments in the media from the Taoiseach and other Ministers about a return to school next month.
“There have been many priority groups named by the Ministers for a return to school, ranging from Leaving Cert students, to junior infants, to sixth class, and they often cite the success of the reopening of special education.
“I have not heard one Government Minister in recent days recognise or include children with special educational needs in mainstream settings in these priorities. The Government cannot allow these children to be forgotten.
“It is clear there is a shared objective for all children with additional needs, including those in mainstream settings, to return to school buildings. I do not understand why the Minister has not made this happen yet.
“Families of children with additional needs in mainstream settings have heard nothing from the Minister in the past week since special schools reopened, on what she is doing to ensure all children with additional needs can get back to school.
“I wrote to Minister Foley last week seeking a meeting to discuss this with her, and I am still waiting for a response.
“Children with additional needs and their families that are suffering as a result of Government failure to deliver their return to school.
“In recent weeks, Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald and I have met with representatives of advocacy groups, school staff unions and with the Minister, and we have made it clear to the Minister that we want special education to resume as soon as possible.
“We are calling on the Minister to ensure that schools are made as safe as possible and to put in place the necessary mitigation measures.
“That includes, to the immediate reversal of the 40% cut in PPE, serial testing for all school staff, significant improvements in school tracing, medical grade masks for all staff performing intimate caring roles, remote working options for high risk staff, and a system for supporting schools where large numbers of staff are absent due to the virus.
“We believe these proposals are reasonable, realistic and achievable, and have shared these proposals with the Minister on a number of occasions.
“The Minister cannot forget about the children who have been left behind. Children with additional needs in mainstream settings must be prioritised in any talks of reopening schools.”