Minister needs to guarantee that students with special needs won’t lose out under roadmap to reopen schools

29 July 2020

The Minister for Education needs to guarantee that students with special needs won’t lose out under the roadmap to reopen schools according to Labour Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

Under the policy outlined in the roadmap, students or teachers who feel in any way unwell are required to, in the first instance, stay at home which could result in Special Education Teacher’s being drafted in to substitute for class teachers.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“The Minister needs to guarantee that Special Education Teacher’s won’t be taken from their students, many of whom have complex additional needs and learning difficulties and be drafted in to cover sick leave for their colleagues who teach mainstream classes.

“At a time when students have missed half the school year, students with special needs, need additional supports now more than ever. If their Special Education Teacher is withdrawn to cover for a mainstream teacher, we risk a lost generation in terms of literacy and numeracy. Minister Foley as a teacher herself is surely in no doubt as to the importance of Special Education Teachers and retaining supports for these students.”

“She needs to ensure that this will be allowed to happen and that enough substitute teachers will be available to provide cover without principals poaching SET teachers and leaving students with special needs high and dry.

Ó Ríordáin continued:

“Parents of children with special needs are already concerned that their children have regressed due to psychological effects of lockdown and long term absence from school, if these children, some of whom are the most vulnerable in the education system lose their Special Education Teacher, the consequences for their development will be catastrophic.

“Minister Foley needs to clarify that Special Education Teachers will not be used to plug gaps on substitution panels for mainstream classes.

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