Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Taoiseach): Statements
I will be slightly more critical in making my third point. It seems that the State has responded very quickly in many ways, but in the education sector - I will be honest although I do not wish to say this in a negative way - it has not been seen from the outside to have been as quick to respond. What has happened with the leaving certificate and so on is a real concern. I share the concerns of other Deputies. I do not see why we could not get a system in place such that schools could return in September rather than being radically delayed. Similarly, it is crucial that we manage the new leaving certificate process in order that our students are able to begin third level education at the usual time of year rather than in November. If my son goes to college, please God, I do not want him to have to wait six months to do so. That is a long wait. I must explain to him why it takes us six months to get our act together in this sphere. Many other sons and daughters are in a similar position to him. How can one explain a delay of six months?
More specifically, last week I raised the fact that Scotland and other parts of the UK maintained their special needs schools through the crisis. Deputy McDonald is correct that the issue of how one separates people is very difficult, be that in a care setting, in the context of childcare or in terms of accommodating those with special needs. However, the number attending special needs schools is small and there is a good staff-student ratio. A real health benefit would accrue from getting our special schools and special disability classes back in June. Many parents in particular circumstances are experiencing serious difficulties. It would be a sign of the education system starting to step up to the plate a bit if, in the final days of May, it managed to get our special needs schools back in action in June. At the very least, that should be an achievable ambition for the Government.