Children’s groups welcome news that primary children with special educational needs will be supported to return to school from next week
Priority must now be to enable all children to return to school as soon as possible
AsIAm, Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, DownSyndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, the ISPCC and the National Parents Council Primary have united to welcome Minister Foley’s announcement yesterday that some of our most vulnerable children will be returning to school next week and to advocate for the return to school for all students on 1 February.
Yesterday, the Government announced its commitment to a return to school for children in special schools and primary school special classes, as well as some students with additional needs who attend mainstream classes, from 21 January. Speaking in response to this announcement, the organisations stated:
“We are delighted to see that the efforts of families of children with special educational needs over the past two weeks have not been in vain and their voice has been heard when it comes to the educational needs and wellbeing of their children. We welcome the Government’s announcement of a shared ambition between stakeholders to ensure that children with special educational needs can return to school as soon as possible. We would like to thank Minister Norma Foley and Minister Josepha Madigan on their continued engagement with stakeholders on this issue. Families of both primary and second-level children will need clarity and consistency on the level of service to be expected from next Thursday to help make this a smooth and safe journey back for all involved.”
Speaking on the current restrictions which have closed school doors to other students, the group had this to say:
“For vulnerable children and for the many other children with special educational needs who attend mainstream classes or post-primary schools, every day out of school is a concern to us. We are urging Government to work with stakeholders to support these children to return to their school as soon as possible.”
Schools are the only support bubble for some children
“We are not the only country coming to terms with the new strain of the virus and balancing restrictions while a vaccination programme is rolled out. But no other country has closed schools for all students. Doing so rips the rug out from under the feet of so many children for whom school is a safe haven.
We know that school closures have a profoundly negative impact on children and young students as organisations who fight for children’s rights to be recognised. Public health representatives have repeatedly stated that schools are safe environments and the reality is, for some children school is in fact their ‘support bubble’ – their friends and their teachers."
Avoiding prolonged closures at all costs
"Yesterday's announcement is a welcome one. However, there is much to be done to avoid the immense damage the previous school closures had on our young people. We are calling for a reopening of schools on 1st February for all our students. As the number of cases continue to decrease over the coming weeks, as predicted by public health experts, we call for the Government to make good on their promise to prioritise education as the first sector that will reopen," they stated.
"In the meantime, as children and young people and their families do their best to continue their education remotely, the Government needs to step in to ensure that every student has equal access. We need to see similiar measures as announced today for second-level children with special educational needs. There are also many children with special educational needs who attend mainstream classes who will be disproportionally affected by this extended school closure. It is not clear how many of these will be able to return to school in the coming weeks. We would like to see provisions for these families to return early along with other children with additional needs, or, for further support at home to carry out remote learning. For children experiencing educational disadvantage, we need to see greater urgency and engagement from Government to ensure that support for their emotional wellbeing and their needs in terms of technological support and learning resources are met without further delay.”
Contact: Emma Archbold,Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 0879971410, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorna Cronnelly, Barnardos, Tel: 087 095 7757
Áine Lynch, National Parents' Council Primary, 087 9294949
Notes to Editor:
• Spokespeople from each organisation are available upon request.
Please include details of the following helplines for your readers:
Children's Rights Alliance helpline: 01 902 0494
Open Mondays 10am to 2pm, Wednesdays 2pm to 7pm and Friday 10am to 12 noon.
The National Parents Council Primary is the representative voice for parents of children in early years and primary school education. Helpline: 01 887 4477
Open Monday to Friday, 10am - 4pm
About the Children’s Rights Alliance
• Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL.