Sinn Féin spokesperson for Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has today again called on the Minister for Education to step up engagement to ensure that all children with additional needs, including those in mainstream settings, can return to school.
Speaking today as special schools reopen, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“I have heard many stories of children with additional needs in the last number of weeks waiting for the school bus to arrive, which never came.
“While I am glad that today’s reopening has come to fruition, the Minister must not forget that for a significant number of children with additional needs in mainstream settings, the school bus will not be coming for them today. These children and their families have been left behind yet again.
“Many children and their families have suffered immensely. Some will have unfortunately regressed. It is a huge pity it has taken so long but I am glad there has been some progress, with special classes in secondary schools now also returning.
“Sinn Féin made it clear to the Minister from the outset that we wanted special education to continue but the government botched the plan twice.
“Only now are they engaging properly and listening to what is needed to ensure reopening is safe. Clearly long overdue and substantial mitigation is needed.
“Today’s reopening will be frustrating for those still left behind. Many families are still looking at no in-school support for almost a fortnight yet, and 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.
“We need to see all children with special educational needs back in the classroom asap. The Minister must step up engagement with stakeholders to ensure this can happen sooner rather than later.
“The Minister cannot be allowed to forget the children who have been left behind, and their families. Sinn Féin will continue to be constructive – I have sought a meeting with the Minister and will work to ensure the safe return to school for all children with special educational needs.”