Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Sean Crowe has welcomed the progress towards reopening schools and classes for special education, but warned the Government against again overpromising and under-delivering for the students involved.

Teachta Crowe said:

“Sinn Féin has always been clear in saying that special education is priority number one and we have made this very clear with the Minister for Education in this regard.

“The way that the Government mishandled and bungled the reopening of schools last month caused immense grief and hardship to staff, families, and particularly the children themselves.

“They failed miserably to consult teachers and their unions and gave false hope to parents that their children’s schools would be reopening. There was no clarity on safety for students and teachers, only government spin.

“These children were among those who lost out the most in the last lockdown. It is essential that they get in school support, particularly when remote working is not an option or effective for so many.

“The exact detail of this will be vitally important. Families will need to know in what way 50% attendance will work, and what supports will be available to them when children are not in school.

“They will also want to know how school transport will be applied and rolled out, and when full school attendance will return.

“Teaching staff including special needs assistants will be keen to know what measures are being put in place to ensure they are kept safe, that vulnerable and high-risk staff are given flexibility, and whether there will be additional investment in measures such as PPE including a reversal of the bizarre 40% cut in Government support for such safety measures.

“We all know children are better off in the classroom. I look forward to the date when all children can return safely. I hope that this can happen at the earliest date that public health advice suggests is safe, but a great deal of work needs to be done in advance of that.

“Schools are undoubtedly the best place to learn and Sinn Féin will support a return as soon as possible, provided it is agreed and safe for everyone involved.”