Galway TD Denis Naughten has said that it’s “disappointing” the Minister for Education will not considering extending the July Provision for children with a disability.
The July Provision is an extended school year programme for children with a severe or profound general learning disability or autism.
Deputy Naughten submitted a question in the Dáil asking the Minister to consider extending the programme into June, and opening it to all children with a disability.
This would be in view of the “significant period of time they have been out of school due to Covid-19” and a once-off provision only.
However the Minister’s response said that it is “not possible to deliver the normal July Provision programme” this year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
“However my Department is planning for a summer provision type programme for children with complex needs this year as soon as it is safe to do so and in accordance with public health advice.”
The primary aim of this programme will be “limiting potential regression” so that students with additional needs don’t suffer difficulties coming back to the classroom next year.
“This may be done through a targeted level of supports to address regression of social skills and re-establish tolerance of routines,” before September.
Minister Joe McHugh also highlighted online resources developed by the National Council for Special Education and Middletown Centre for Autism on supporting children with additional needs in at home education.
The government has also provided €10m in funding to schools for ICT equipment to support students at risk of educational disadvantage.
“While the Minister is planning to put some supports in place, this will fall short of what parents and children would have received in the past,” Denis Naughten warned.
He called on Minister McHugh to meet with parents’ and school representatives to work on designing a scheme to support children with a disability who have been out of school since March.
“Should these children return to school next September without having received support during the previous six months, then they will be at a significant disadvantage which will impact on all school children.”
The Independent TD also said that “innovative” teaching methods required to teach children with a disability this summer could help address come of the challenges which will be more common next September.
The Taoiseach confirmed this week that both secondary and primary schools will reopen at the end of August, describing it as a “low-risk scenario” as regards spreading the coronavirus.
However this may require a lot of flexible shuffling of students, timetables, and school layouts to comply with social distancing requirements.
Taoiseach Varadkar admitted that it may not be possible for all students to attend school for the whole day.