Special needs schools and classes within mainstream schools to remain open
Mainstream Primary and Secondary schools to close but Leaving Certificate Students
can attend 3 days per week.
The news that students who attend special needs classes in both specific schools and mainstream schools will be able to continue their education has been welcomed by Waterford Senator John Cummins. The decision by Cabinet has also extended the opening of schools to Leaving Certificate students.
Senator Cummins said “I have been working very closely with Minister for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan over the last week as our Covid-19 numbers deteriorated and it looked likely that schools would remain shut post January 11th. I fed in a number of case examples from parents that were in contact with my office in recent days and to give credit where it is due to Minister Madigan, she has been steadfast in seeking to ensure that these particularly vulnerable students are able to continue their education during this extended school closure period”.
“People that say the world didn’t fall apart when schools were closed last year don’t perhaps understand the level of anxiety, distress and regression that students with additional needs and their families, experienced during last year’s closure. Throughout this pandemic we have learned so much and the government has adapted its approach as time has gone by. I’m particularly pleased that this is one of the main learnings from last year and the vital link between schools and students with additional needs is being maintained”.
Senator Cummins added “Having worked in a school that has three ASD classrooms and a highly integrated education for students with additional needs, I fully understand the unique challenges that families had to endure during the school closure period last year. You cannot underestimate the importance of routine for students on the spectrum and the distress that it caused so many families is probably not understood by the majority of people and that is why I lobbied to ensure that such students were able to continue to attend school in person and I am glad that with the support of Minister Madigan this has occurred”.
In further news a decision has been made to allow students due to sit the Leaving Certificate this year to also attend school three days per week. NPHET have stated the rate of transmission within schools is well below the level in the community and they consider them a safe setting. Government sources have said the decision to close schools for the vast majority of students is to reduce the rate of travel and movement associated with attendance at schools.
Senator Cummins said “I do believe if leaving certificate students weren’t permitted to attend schools over the coming weeks, the option of holding the traditional leaving certificate exam probably would have gone by the wayside. This particular course of action at least keeps that avenue open but as with everything to do with Covid-19, I expect this to be continually kept under review. I don’t believe anything can be ruled in or out at this point but this year’s cohort will need certainty soon.”
He concluded by saying “I think great credit is due to the whole school community – teachers, students, SNA’s, management, administration staff, caretakers and cleaners for their willingness to adapt to the everchanging circumstances that Covid-19 has presented. The innovation, work ethic and commitment that has been on show throughout the country in the face of great adversity is testament to the fantastic people we have within the Irish education system.”