Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offaly, Independent)
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248. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will address concerns that the Summer Programme 2022 will not include adequate provision to ensure the widespread participation of children with complex education and care needs in special school settings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24049/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Earlier this month, the Government announced this year's Summer Programme to 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.

The programme aims are to support pupils to maintain their connection with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote well-being and for those who are at key transition stages, helping to ensure they continue their education journey in September either in school or in further/higher education or training.

Building on the 2021 programme, all primary and post primary schools can offer a summer programme and in line with last year’s funding, there is up to €40 million available to provide for this year’s programme. In 2021 nearly 38,000 children availed of the summer programme, an increase of 60% from the previous year.

While, it is critically important to support a summer based programme in our special schools and special classes, it is also essential to ensure that the children with complex special educational needs (SEN) who are in our mainstream settings also have access to this critical support. At the time when the ‘July Provision’ was established, the concert of learning loss during school holidays was something which may have been considered to impact only those students in special schools and special classes. As our system has become more inclusive and many of these children with more complex needs now attend mainstream settings, it is recognised that they too will be impacted by school holidays and require that additional support to ensure they achieve their potential.

A key objective of this year’s scheme is to increase the number of schools offering the summer programme to their students. Steps have been taken to afford schools as much flexibility as possible, and to ease administrative requirements. This year there is provision to recruit newly qualified teachers graduating this summer as well as undergraduate student teachers who have registered with the Teaching Council under Route 5.

To support and facilitate schools and principals with organising and running the programme, the 2022 Summer Programme allows principals to delegate these functions to other members of staff through the Overseer role and preparation hours. The Overseer and preparation roles provide an exciting personal opportunity for teachers to develop their leadership skills and experience with recognition at a whole-school level.

Enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage participation of schools. These include:

- A Centralised Application Process to reduce the administrative burden on schools.

- Provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes.

- Provision to recruit final year student teachers graduating this summer and Route 5 undergraduate student teachers.

- Guidance, information and support provided to schools to help design and deliver the programmes.

- Capitation Grant Funding provided to cover the running costs of the scheme, including enhanced capitation for special schools and classes.

This year, for the first time, there will be an online claims system for schools to submit payments details for those staff taking part in the school based summer programme. This will provide for faster and more streamlined payments to staff.

In addition, with the assistance of the National Association of Management Boards in Special Schools (NAMBSE), the Department and Inspectorate recently hosted a webinar for Special Schools and provided a presentation on the supports and benefits of running a school based summer programme. The presentation focused on the positive outcomes for students that participated in the 2021 programme.

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.

It is acknowledged that not all schools will be in a position to provide a school-based programme, so a home-based programme continues to be available for students with complex needs where the school-based programme is unavailable.

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