A summer programme for children with special educational needs and the reopening of schools at “maximum return” are among the options being explored by the Department of Education.
Education Minister Joe McHugh is to bring forward proposals to Cabinet next week that will assess the potential of running summer programmes for children with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage.
Mr McHugh told the Dail that he wants to see the “maximum return to school possible” in late August and September in a way that meets safety standards.
“Managing the reopening of schools is a massive logistical operation and requires careful planning and management,” he said.
In #DÃ¡il today, addressing @Education_Ire issues - I want a summer education programme to run, recognising need to prioritise students with special education needs & those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage. @OireachtasNews pic.twitter.com/rWWA9mraGf— Joe McHugh (@McHughJoeTD) June 4, 2020
“My department is engaging in the process of detailed planning and stakeholder engagement at primary and post-primary level to support the achievement of this objective in a way that is safe for students and staff.
“I brought an update to Cabinet last Friday on these issues and regarding delivery of a summer programme. I will be returning to Cabinet next week with a plan to achieve these duel objectives and then expect to publish those plans.”
While schools are due to reopen on a phased basis in early September in line with the Government’s road map, there have been calls to open facilities for children with complex special educational needs.
“My department together with the Department of Health and HSE have linked up to consider a joined-up approach to the provision of a continuum of care and support during the summer period,” he added.
I want a summer education programme to run, recognising that students with special educational needs and those at greatest risk of education disadvantage need to be prioritisedJoe McHugh
“A cross-departmental working group has been established to map this continuum.
“I want a summer education programme to run, recognising that students with special educational needs and those at greatest risk of education disadvantage need to be prioritised. Regression in their learning and transition into the next educational setting is a real concern for some of these students.
“Planning for summer education programmes is difficult under the current circumstances with some of the issues examined including: that the running of any school-based programme will need to be informed by public health advice, the availability and willingness of schools and teachers offer to help support the programme, a desire that key logistical arrangements will be worked out in advance of the programme, availability of transfer to and from schools, and the willingness of parents to allow their children to attend such a programme, particularly children with significant health conditions.”