Thursday, 30 July 2020
Opening of Schools and Calculated Grades: Statements
Earlier this evening, the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Varadkar, told us that he was ashamed to be a Member of this Dáil. Looking around this convention centre, I am a little ashamed to be a Member of this Dáil too, but for very different reasons. We set an appalling example by decamping from Dáil Éireann in Leinster House down to this glass palace. We are told this was done so we can be safe. I know the cost is sometimes exaggerated. Someone told me tonight that it only costs around €30,000 a day, but how much could that money do for children in our schools and for special needs students in particular?
I appreciate that the Minister is not terribly long in the job. I also appreciate that she has made a series of announcements, including that all sorts of works will be carried out in schools across the country. When will that happen? Schools will be opening in less than four weeks, and some schools have been refused money having applied to the Department in good time to carry out works. I appreciate that it was a different Minister in the post at that time. However, the role of Minister for Education and Skills continues and this Government is effectively the same as the previous Government. There are no policy changes, there is no change of direction and it is a continuum, unfortunately, as has been made very clear.
When will these works be carried out? Will it be in time for children to go back to school? In particular, what is going to be done regarding special needs assistants who have to engage intensively with children with special needs? I appreciate that the Minister has met the teaching unions and will meet with the union that represents SNAs, but what, specifically, will be done in respect of those SNAs who have to engage intimately with students? It will simply not be good enough if the students in question cannot go back to school in this Republic, which is represented by a Dáil that looks after itself very well but does little for students and the SNAs upon whom these students depend for care.