Welcome news on Summer Provision, but Catch Up Scheme still needed
Welcoming the doubling of school summer provision programmes this year, Labour spokesperson for Children Senator Ivana Bacik has called on the Minister to support this step with a full ‘Catch Up for Children’ fund to offset the impact of the pandemic on children and young people. Such a fund would be targeted at those children who need it most, following an assessment of the impact prolonged school closures on children throughout the country.
Senator Bacik said:
“Parents throughout the country will be delighted to learn that extra support will be made available for the provision of summer education programmes this year. Teachers and parents played a stellar role in the virtual classroom but there is a need to make up for lost class time. The lives of our children and young people have been severely and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and time is of the essence if we are to reverse this effect. The Government must act quickly to identify where is the most acute need for supports.
“Labour calls on the Minster to consider our proposal of a meaningful ‘Catch Up for Children’ fund to offset the worst impacts of school closures due to the pandemic. Ireland needs to look at other jurisdictions that have grasped the nettle and implemented a raft of additional measures to make sure that all children have the full in-class experience, targeting specific supports at the most vulnerable. We estimate that €100 million in funding should be put in place to target recovery in lost learning, focusing on one to one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the return to school and development for disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most.
“For this to be a success, an assessment of the damage caused by school closures must be undertaken without delay. We know that making up for lost learning is an immense challenge. However, we in the Labour Party firmly believe that no child should be left behind. The advocacy of the Children’s Future campaign and the Ombudsman for Children has been exceptional in highlighting this. We will continue to work with organisations representing the youth work sector, children and young people to seek commitments on funding to assess and address the damaging impacts upon children caused by prolonged closures of schools. The evidence is clear, this is an issue that the Government cannot continue to ignore.
“It is also hugely welcome that 990 new SNAs will be recruited and assigned to schools, while schools will also keep their current allocation of SNAs. My colleague Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has long advocated for this commitment and work must now be done to ensure that supports are guaranteed for the longer-term. Teachers and schools have been on the frontline of the pandemic, adapting to online teaching overnight and supporting students through a uniquely challenging number of months. Our school communities are already overworked and under resources.
“More must be done for children with specific educational needs more generally. During Labour’s motion calling for a National Autism Empowerment Strategy, we were inundated with correspondence from parents, schools and advocacy groups highlighting the need for additional supports due to the pandemic. I know in my constituency of Dublin Bay South, there is a stark lack of autism units, and this must be urgently addressed by the Minister and her Department. I have met with parents’ groups who have spoken with me about the difficulties they have had securing school places for their children; and their frustration at seeing their children being bussed into other areas, often for only a few hours of limited class-time, because there are simply no places available in local schools. This is unacceptable; we need to ensure that there is a place for every child.
“We cannot put a price on ensuring that all children in Ireland are given a fair start. Education is the greatest liberator of all. I hope that Minister Foley will engage with the Labour Party to develop the much needed ‘Catch Up for Children’ scheme.”