Thousands of children with additional education needs ‘completely dropped’ from school re-opening agenda

We alongside three other leading advocacy organisations representing children with special educational needs and their families, AsIAm, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland have said that thousands of children with additional needs in mainstream education have been completely dropped from the school re-opening agenda, and once again re-iterated their call for the most vulnerable to be prioritised over widespread re-opening of in-school education.

Speaking today, a spokesperson for the groups said: “The message from Government has been consistent for weeks now – that getting children with additional educational needs back to school was the number one priority. However, this seems to have changed and this group of students seem to have completely disappeared from the Government’s agenda. The majority of children with additional needs and their families have seen absolutely no progress on a return to education, despite many false dawns. There seems to be a sense from Government that the mission was accomplished with the partial re-opening of special classes and schools earlier this month. Parents of children who attend special schools are very clear on the inadequacy of this 50% education provision and an unworkable supplementary program. In addition, tens of thousands of students with additional needs who attend mainstream – the vast majority of students with additional needs, have seen no progress to date and have now been de-prioritised.

“There seems to be a sense that children with additional educational needs have been supported and accommodated. We want to clarify that, in the vast majority of cases, they absolutely have not been. Parents and children with additional needs are anxiously awaiting an update. They were told they were the absolute priority, and now despite weeks of intense negotiations and a partial return to school only for some they’re hearing a different story. We all recognise the importance of the Leaving Certificate and the stress senior cycle students have been under and welcome yesterday’s announcement. However, we urge that the most vulnerable in our society are not forgotten.

“We’re calling on the Government to significantly improve their engagement and communications with the disability sector, and we are seeking an urgent meeting with  Ministers Foley and Madigan to let them be in no illusion on the difficulties children with disabilities are continuing to face at present.”

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