Sinn Féin and Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has expressed concern about the rollout of the Summer Provision Scheme and said it is unacceptable that parents and School boards are being kept in the dark regarding guidelines around reopening and how the scheme will roll out

The local TD said that it was essential that as many children as possible could avail of this scheme, and that urgent clarity was needed from the Department to ensure that schools, teachers and SNAs could provide it.

Teachta Crowe said:

“Children with special educational needs are among those who have suffered the most from the COVID19 lockdown. Their routine has been turned upside down and the lack of mixing with other children has affected them deeply. It has also been extremely difficult for their parents. Additional hard won language supports ceased and parents were left to manage during the school closures.

“Despite huge efforts from parents, children and their teachers, there is no doubt that the lack of schooling has seen children fall back with many of them regressing.

“Special and vulnerable children should be top of the priority list for the Department of Education as the lockdown is relaxed and they eventually return to formal schooling.

“A Summer Provision Programme is crucial to give these children some chance to recover the lost ground, provide some opportunities for mixing with other children and learning.

“It is unacceptable that parents and School boards are still being kept in the dark regarding this scheme and no one really knows, including the Minister, when this scheme will actually start.

“Parents with children with special needs also need supports and respite. Many of them are getting in contact with my local constituency office expressing alarm and concern that they cannot find a place in a school, or a tutor for home-based Summer Provision.

“Schools are also in an impossible position because they don’t have any of the detail they need around health and safety protocols or guidelines on reopening their schools. They have also been left in dark around insurance and the availability of school transport.

“If outgoing Minister Joe Mc Hugh and his Department were really serious about this scheme, plans and guidelines would be on the desks of school Principals.

“Due to a lack of any specific detail, many schools will not be reopening and will not be in a position to offer this programme to children. Likewise, many teachers and SNAs are also concerned about the secrecy and lack of guidance or work around plans for their return.

“Clearly, there have been no capacity planning or practical guidelines drawn up and its vulnerable children and their hardpressed parents that will suffer.

“I am deeply worried that many families will end up disappointed as they will not be able to find themselves a programme or a place for their child.

“The outgoing Minister and his government may try to shift the blame on to the schools, but the reality is that it will be because of their failure to plan for this scheme.

“The Minister needs to bring forward the guidelines and protocols as soon as possible, so that the number of spaces available can be maximised and that the largest possible number of children can avail of it.

“It is unacceptable that parents and School boards are still being kept in the dark regarding guidelines around reopening and how this Summer scheme will roll out.”