Written answers

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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93. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide assurances to parents of children with special needs that special needs classes will remain open and that these parents will not face the devastating impact of school and class closures in coming weeks and months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57647/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Ensuring that schools can operate safely has been a key priority for Government. The Department of Education has an ongoing close working relationship with the Department of Health and the HSE throughout the pandemic in order to support and advise schools about the appropriate infection prevention control measures to ensure that schools can operate safely.

As the rest of our society and economy is now fully reopened it remains a key objective of Government that pupils/students and school staff can continue to attend school safely. In that context there are no plans for further school closures.

I am aware that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated schools closures have had adverse consequences for many children and their families. The impact on children with special educational needs has been greatest.

For this reason, my Department has prioritised support for this vulnerable group through the provision of additional supports, additional guidance for schools and new and enhanced education programmes.

Pupils with special educational needs were prioritised for an early return to in-school teaching and learning earlier this year.

While school buildings were closed, these students had access to a Supplementary Programme which provided additional one-to-one tuition or care support in their homes up until the end of April.

A significantly expanded Summer Programme was offered during the summer vacation period. This programme put an emphasis on supporting children with special educational needs to reengage with education, rebuild their confidence and increase motivation, promote their wellbeing and inclusion and to help ensure that they could transition to their planned educational placements in September 2021. A home-based strand was also available to pupils with complex needs where their school was not in a position to run a programme.


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