Partners in education must be praised for partial reopening of special education

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
01 February 2021

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has praised the patience of the partners in education as special schools are set to gradually reopen from February 11th. The closure of schools continues to cause damage for all young people, and it is vital that those who need it most will return to in-class teaching in due course.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Parents of children with special education needs throughout the country are breathing a sigh of relief this evening with the news that their children will return to schools from 11 February. It is welcome to see that through a process of calm consultation and engagement, a resolution has been found for these students, and I want to praise the hard work of the union, parents’ representatives and partners in education.

“The continued closure of schools is having a negative impact on children throughout the country, however it disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable children. We now need to clarify when SEN students in mainstream schools who do not attend special classes will return to in-class tuition. This cohort of students cannot be forgotten about and must remain a priority for the Minister.

“No group in Irish society will be more affected by these Level 5 restrictions than young people and children with additional educational needs. In order to get as many of these students back to the classroom as possible, I again call on the Government to give strong consideration to allocating the next available round of vaccinations, if supplies allow, to teachers and SEN staff so that we can facilitate a full return to in-school learning.

“Young people have behaved stoically throughout the pandemic, despite the huge level of uncertainty they continue to face. Last week, I called on the Government to provide urgent clarity to this year’s Leaving Cert students regarding the fate of the summer exams. We are now in the month of February and given the levels of community transmission and the uncertainty of new variants, the reality is it will not be possible to hold a traditional Leaving Cert this year. As such, the Department must prepare to offer predicted grades to all students, while look to facilitate written examinations if possible.

“The closure of schools will cause damage for all our young people. The Government must also have the vision for post-Covid education. An analysis must be undertaken to assess the damage caused by the school closures in 2020 and 2021. Disadvantaged and vulnerable children have been profoundly affected by the loss of class-time.”

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