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Summer education programme expanded to include children with Down syndrome

Education Minister Joe McHugh said the scheme will be a ‘stepping stone’ for those who need most support.

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Education Minister Joe McHugh said teachers volunteer to take part (PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh said teachers volunteer to take part (PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh said teachers volunteer to take part (PA)

The summer special educational needs programme will be expanded to include children with Down syndrome and any youngster who is at risk of regression, Education Minister Joe McHugh has said.

Parents will have to register for the voluntary scheme and teachers and special needs assistants will have to choose if they will participate.

Speaking in the Dail on Wednesday, Mr McHugh said he wants to assure parents that he should within days be in the position to give a “green light” for their children to participate in the programme.

He said: “The programme will be a stepping stone for children who most need support. It will help children get back into routine and build relationships and help their social development and learning.”

Mr McHugh said the co-operation of teachers and schools is needed to get the programme up and running.

“I cannot pretend that this is a small request given the challenges we all face with the pandemic,” he said. “I know that for those who can, their contribution will be appreciated as it will help some of the most vulnerable children.

“We’re looking at a massive increase in the capacity of this scheme but it will rely on the volunteerism of school and from teachers. From the soundings of the leadership in teaching unions – the indication is quite strong that there is a lot of good feeling towards this programme.

“Ultimately we have to know what the demand is so that parents can have the opportunity on Friday to register.”

When asked how many teachers have come forward to volunteer for the summer provision programme, Mr McHugh said it is “voluntary” for teachers and special needs assistants.

He said as they have expanded the criteria, they are looking to double the amount of students who will attend to 20,000.

“The July provision, as it is traditionally referred to, is voluntary. It depends on demand. Once we announce the guidelines on Friday there will be an opportunity for the parents in the first instance to register.

“It’s a scaled up programme – last year we had 10,000 students and we want to go a stage further and double that. We want to be more inclusive.”

PA