Thursday, 5 May 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Special Educational Needs
The Deputy spoke for four minutes and 23 seconds. She is correct that this is a very important topic and I am delighted the Ceann Comhairle selected it for discussion. I want to reiterate the importance and aims of the summer provision. It builds confidence in children, supports pupils to re-engage with education, increases their motivation and promotes well-being. For children at key transition stages, it helps to ensure they can move on to planned educational placements along with their peers in the coming September.
Before I speak more generally about the summer provision, I will try to answer some of the Deputy's questions. Regarding the timing, the announcement was made on 4 May, as she knows. This is perhaps the earliest date in any year on which the details of the provision have been given. The Deputy may be aware that I have set up a special education consultative forum, which met today with a variety of stakeholders to discuss issues pertaining to special education.
The Deputy asked a related question about the review of the provision.
An inspectorate review of the summer provision was done last year. That report was shared with stakeholders and was used to inform the summer programme. We wanted to wait until that was completed. Another one of the Deputy's questions was about the take-up of and participation in the summer provision. Because all 4,000 schools are eligible for this summer provision, we want to encourage as many as possible to engage in it. The Deputy outlined some of the incentives the Department has used to get schools to participate. Some of that was based on the feedback we received from that review, including the funding, the preparation time, faster payments for the staff, etc.
I think the Deputy also mentioned pay. To clarify, it is a week's pay plus an extra week's pay for the staff. Again, that is a strong incentive. In fairness to the staff, the SNAs and the teachers have worked hard over recent years, during the pandemic and subsequently. We do not want them to be exhausted but we do want them to avail of the summer provision work because we know how much it means to children and their parents. That is why we are trying to incentivise them.
We have also provided school transport. We have special transport services. If that service is not available, a grant will be given or the school can organise its own transport in order that we can get children to avail of it.
There are five different elements to this. We have the inclusion programme in primary schools, which lasts two to three weeks. We have special classes and special school programmes. We have DEIS as well. Let us not forget that this is about disadvantaged children as well. In addition, Ukrainian children will be able to avail of this programme for the very first time. I think the schools are very excited to be able to offer this to Ukrainian children this year.
Lastly, if you do not mind, Chair, there is enhanced funding-----