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Advocacy groups to meet Education Minister tomorrow over closure of special education schools

Disability advocates have said that the closure of schools “left families and children with special educational needs reeling”.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

DISABILITY ADVOCACY GROUPS are meeting with Minister for Education Norma Foley tomorrow to discuss the closure of special education schools.

Down Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland and AsIAm are calling for “urgent progress” to protect vulnerable students in the wake of the government’s decision to close schools for children with special needs.

Disability advocates expressed disappointment at the decision earlier this week and asked that supports be put in place for students and their families.

In a statement today, the three groups said that the announcement “left families and children with special educational needs reeling”.

“After raising hopes of a return to school for many with special educational needs, the rug was then pulled from underneath them,” the groups said.

They said families are concerned that “further regression and distress will be experienced during another potentially lengthy closure period with no plan on how these children can be supported by the State”.

The stories and experiences shared by parents in the media last week were stark illustrations of the negative impact a complete withdrawal of educational support can have on children with SEN.”

The government’s plan for education initially involved special education schools remaining open and Leaving Certificate students coming to in-person classes three days a week.

However, the government made a rapid u-turn, with special education needs students and sixth years joining all other students in the closure of schools.

Announcing the change, Foley said that “it is with regret that I announce that, dedespite the confirmation by Public Health that schools remain safe, that children in special schools and special classes and Leaving Certificate students will not be extended in-person learning”.

“Unfortunately I am left with no alternative but to pause the limited reopening on Monday to allow further engagement with all education stakeholders.” 

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Schools have been told to teach remotely until at least 31 January. 

Down Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland and AsIAm have said that a priority for the government must be “the reopening of special schools and classes, and in school education for children with SEN in mainstream classes”.

“Further support options must be made available for children who cannot attend in person,” the groups said.

“Until then, we need home tuition and other supports to be made available to bridge the gap.”

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