Firstly, to all the parents who’ve been in touch to voice your anger and deep frustration at our Government following our recent emails, please know that we hear you and that we are going to the Department of Education and voicing your concerns at the highest levels. We will continue to do so, and to fight for children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools.
We alongside three other leading advocacy organisations representing children with special educational needs and their families, AsIAm, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland, met with an official from the Department of Education on Tuesday morning and brought your concerns to them.
We also highlighted that many parents have found the supplementary support scheme inaccessible and/or unworkable.
While this scheme is far from ideal, we know that some families are finding it useful, and it has been extended for an additional two weeks for those students who won’t be returning to school on Monday.
Details about how to apply can be found on the gov.ie website.
Further information on the programme for post primary students is available on gov.ie.
For families who have availed of this scheme up to now, there was some flexibility about when it was delivered. The department stated that “Any unused hours can be delivered to families at any time before 30 April 2021, including during the Easter holidays.”
However, the current position is: “Remote teaching and learning provision for students in each category will cease once in-school provision commences for each group of students”.
We are waiting for a response from the department looking for further clarity on the issue of carrying over unused hours once children return to school.
The Department of Education have also said that an enhanced summer provision, similar to that provided in summer 2020 is being developed. We will continue to lobby to ensure that all students with Down syndrome are entitled to avail of this programme.
Here is the link to the Department of Education website for any clarification and further information you might need.
Key dates for returning to education as they stand currently are:
Monday March 1st
- All children in Junior Infants, Senior Infants, First Class & Second Class return to school.
- All students in Final Year Leaving Cert return to school.
- All students enrolled in special schools and special classes will return to school full time.
- Children in early start pre-school classes and early intervention special classes for children with autism or hearing impairment return to school full time.
Monday March 8th
- Children on the ECCE programme will return to pre-school.
Monday March 15th (subject to public health advice)
- Third Class, Fourth Class, Fifth Class, and Sixth Class Primary school students return to school.
- Post-primary Students in Fifth Year will return to school.
Monday April 12th (subject to public health advice)
- All remaining Post Primary students – First to Fourth Year- will return to school.
We are continuing to advocate for choices for families, including the option of an earlier return for students with Down syndrome in mainstream schools as a matter of urgency. We are aware that keeping students at home for longer is a failure to prioritise the additional educational needs and the emotional wellbeing of these students.
We have once again requested action for these children from Government, while also calling on the Government and the Department of Education to drastically improve their communications and engagement with parents, which has been critically lacking in recent weeks.
We are incredibly disappointed for thousands of children and families we represent who, having been told repeatedly by Government that their return to school was the absolute priority, now find themselves completely de-prioritised.
You can read our press statement about representative groups waiting over a month for engagement from Government on special education issues.
We will continue to update you on our campaign.
As always, we continue to support people with Down syndrome and their families throughout Ireland.
If you require any information or support, please contact us on 01 563 2450 or email email@example.com.