Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that the roadmap to reopening schools cannot lead to children with special educational needs being put to the back of the queue.
The Cork South Central TD said that there is considerable concern that special education teachers will be redirected, and that the children with special educational needs would not get the focus they need.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “Children with special educational needs are among those who have fallen furthest behind during lockdown.
“For those children and their parents, the lack of socialisation, the isolation, the disruption to routine, and the reduced support has had a devastating impact.
“Many have fallen behind and regressed, which is heartbreaking for their parents.
“I have urged the Department to make these children their number one priority. If ever there was a need for them to be a priority, it is now.
“The roadmap has created a lot of concern as it allows special education teachers to be pulled from pillar to post; covering absences and managing much of the remote teaching that will happen.
“My concern was increased by the circular issued on Tuesday, which stated quite clearly that “schools may use other non-mainstream teachers to cover absence.”
“That is not good enough. It is also clearly envisioned that they will play a significant role in remote learning where that arises. While they clearly have a role to play in this, the concern is that the bulk of this burden will fall upon them.
“There are no additional supports even though there is a clear need for investment and resources to help these children make up lost ground.
“These children have had an awful year and they cannot be put to the back of the queue when schools reopen.
“I am urging the Minister to look at this again; ringfence special education teachers, invest in resources for children with special educational needs, and deliver a clearer plan for remote learning.”