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Special summer school programmes with supports for children with special needs get green light

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said he hopes that schools, teachers and SNAs “feel they can get involved”.

Image: Shutterstock/alinabuphoto

Updated Jun 12th 2020, 2:42 PM

THE CABINET HAS signed off on proposals today for a special summer programme for children with special needs and for those who attend disadvantaged schools.

The three-strand approach will see a number of measures designed to support thousands of children this summer.

The first strand is in-school or home-based supports by teachers and SNAs to help prevent regression among children with special needs, the government said in a statement.

Children eligible for this strand include students with autism or severe and profound learning difficulties, children in special classes in primary and special schools, primary pupils in mainstream classes who present with Down syndrome, students who are deaf or hard of hearing and students who are blind or have severe visual impairment.

The second is an opportunity for all 890 Deis schools to provide summer camps, including a numeracy and literacy programme for primary pupils and a programme of re-engagement for post-primary students.

Deis schools will be asked to opt in to the programme, which will run for a week in July or August prior to the reopening of schools in September.

The third strand will be HSE-led and provide summer camp-type supports to up to 1,200 children with complex needs. 

More information, including on how to register, can be found here.

If possible, school transport will be provided to support the programme where appropriate. The Department of Education is also finalising plans to provide the schools meals programme for schools taking part. 

Rolling out some of the provisions are not without its difficulties, as any summer provision will need to be informed by public health advice. Last year, over 10,000 students received some levels of supports over four weeks at the end of the school year. 

The availability and willingness of schools, teachers, SNAs and bus escorts to offer to help support the programme is also an issue, with concerns that the volunteers are not stepping forward.

Today, Education Minister Joe McHugh reiterated an appeal to teachers and SNAs to sign up to the programme, stating:

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“Summer Provision 2020 is a significant expansion of support for the children and families who are most in need. The aim is to help address the concerns that families are feeling over the loss of in-school time and learning for children with special needs and those at greatest risk of disadvantage.

Teachers and schools have made huge efforts in the last three months. In no time at all, they have taken massive strides on remote learning and striving to make sure no child is left behind. They deserve enormous credit for that. I hope many schools, teachers and SNAs feel they can get involved in Summer Provision, in the knowledge that the Department will provide all necessary assistance and support.

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris said he absolutely understood the stress that parents with children who have special needs are under at the moment.

“I spoke to some of them who are very much at the end of their tethers and we have been working hard for the past couple of weeks to put something in place so that those children get the education and stimulation they need over the summer period, both home-based and school-based. That is what we are working towards.

“I want a summer education programme to run, recognising that students
with special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational
disadvantage need to be prioritised,” he said.

Speaking to reporters today, he added that officials had “worked tirelessly” to make sure the proper supports and public health guidance could be put in place to allow these programmes go ahead. 

With reporting from Sean Murray

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