Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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72. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she is satisfied with the number of special schools that have participated in the July Provision scheme over the past five years; if she has brought forward enhanced measures to attract special schools to participate in the July provision scheme 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23829/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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This year’s Summer Programme will allow all primary and post-primary schools to offer a summer programme for students with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage. In line with last year, the total funding available to provide summer programmes this year is up to €40 million. Building on the 2021 programme, all schools, both primary and post-primary, are encouraged to provide this valuable programme to their students. In 2021 nearly 38,000 children availed of the summer programme, an increase of 60% from the previous year.

My Department held consultations with education stakeholders and advocacy groups, following this, steps were taken to encourage more schools to participate including the following: the provision of paid overseeing and preparation time for schools, a reduction in the administrative burden for schools, arrangements to pay staff sooner, greater guidance, an online payments portal for schools, and greater flexibility in the timing of the programme.

The complexities of organising a summer programme in special school environments is recognised and further enhanced funding for special schools is being provided this year including increase capitation and preparation to support these schools.

Concerns around availability of staff have been further addressed with the provision to recruit final year student teachers and student teachers registered with the Teaching Council under Route 5. To support and facilitate schools and principals with organising and running the programme, principals may delegate these functions to other members of staff through the Overseer role and preparation hours. Overseers, teachers and SNAs who work on the programme will be paid for this work based on what they are normally paid during the school year in addition to their normal salary.

In 2021, 377 special schools and schools with special classes ran a programme, with in the region of 5,587 pupils attending. For context in 2011 there were 149 schools and 2,461 pupils attending the ‘July provision’ programme. The number of special schools running a programme under the ‘July provision’ scheme had fallen from 54 in 2011 to 34 in 2019. It is important to note that we have actually seen an increase in the number of special schools running a programme in both 2020 and 2021 with 39 special schools taking part in 2021.

While the number of special schools and classes taking part has risen over the last 2 years we want to continue this growth in participation further. The Department will continue to work with all stakeholders to support parents in accessing summer provision and with schools to ensure that they have the resources and supports necessary to successfully run these programmes.

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