Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has expressed concern about the rollout of the Summer Provision Scheme.
Speaking today, Deputy Ó Laoghaire said that it was essential that as many children as possible could avail of this scheme, and that urgent clarity was needed from the Department to ensure that schools, teachers and SNAs could provide it.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “Children with special educational needs are among those who have suffered the most from the lockdown. Their routine has been turned upside down and the lack of socialisation has affected them deeply. It has also been extremely difficult for their parents.
“Despite huge efforts from parents, children and teachers, there is no doubt that the lack of schooling has seen children fall back.
“These children need to be the first priority for the Department of Education as we return to schooling.
“A Summer Provision Programme is crucial to give these children the chance to recover some lost ground, to provide socialisation and stimulation.
“Parents need relief too. Many are getting in contact with me expressing alarm and concern that they cannot find a place in a school, or a tutor for home-based Summer Provision.
“Schools are in an impossible position because they don’t have any of the detail they need around health and safety protocols or guidelines.
“They also cannot organise insurance or transport because of this either. So many schools are not yet in a position to offer the programme. Likewise, many teachers and SNAs are also concerned about the lack of detail.
“There seems to have been no capacity planning done. I am concerned the preparation hasn’t been done. Schools, families and teachers haven’t been in a position to organise this programme.
“I am deeply worried that many families will end up disappointed as they will not be able to find themselves a programme or a place for their child.
“The Government may try to shift the blame on to the schools, but the reality is that it will be because of their failure to plan for this scheme.
“The Minister needs to bring forward the guidelines and protocols as soon as possible, so that the number of spaces available can be maximised and that the largest possible number of children can avail of it.”