Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that he is deeply concerned that the Department may not be in a position to deliver anything like the Summer Provision Programme it has announced.
Speaking today, in a debate with the Minister, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“Children with Special Educational needs and educational disadvantage are among those who have lost the most from school buildings being closed and must be the top priority for Minister McHugh’s Department.
“Parents are under unbelievable strain. Children feel in many instances isolated, frustrated and sad.
“Despite the best efforts of everyone, including teachers, many feel these children are being forgotten and left behind by the State. Many children have regressed, and we are all inundated with heartbreaking stories from parents
“These children need support and socialisation, and Summer or July Provision must be central to that.
“The elephant in the room is that people are beginning to doubt if it will happen at all.
“It seems to me from talking to people in the sector, that Minister McHugh and his Department are not on the same page.
“A consultation with the Department suggested that this summer scheme would be for children in special schools and classes, excluding the 65% of autistic children in mainstream schools. He has contradicted that since then. Meanwhile, the public are remain in the dark.
“There is a heavy emphasis on the school based programme. However, most schools do not feel safe to sign up, they have no protocols, no transport can be organised, they are unsure of insurance. It’s the 10th of June, only a handful of schools have signed up, and I fear that very few more will.
“The Minister is talking about expanding the scheme significantly, yet he has given no indication how he intends to find the teachers needed, when in fact, many teachers who have done it otherwise may not be in a position to do so.
“The Scheme is vitally important, and it is welcome that children with Downs Syndrome will be included. We need support for children who have lost out so much.
“However, he needs in the next few days to demonstrate how he intends the Department will do this because if these issues cannot be resolved, then I am concerned that we could have a repeat of the failed childcare scheme and the SNA reassignment.”