Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education Josepha Madigan TD today (Tuesday, 11 May) announced the provision of expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021. Under this expansion of the summer programme, students with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage will have access to an enhanced summer programme of education.The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.The programme’s aims are to support pupils to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.For the first time ever, all schools (primary and-post primary) are encouraged to provide summer programmes and the eligibility criteria have been extended to include post-primary children with complex needs and children at risk of educational disadvantage. Prior to this expansion summer programmes were only available to special schools and pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools. Today’s announcement marks a recognition of the value of such school based programmes for children with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage in all schools. A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for children with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school based programme.Minister Foley said:
“This is an incredibly important Government decision, to significantly expand the summer programme as a specific response to the pandemic, and offer important education provision this summer to children who really need and it.
“We are all acutely conscious that children and young people did not have access to in-school learning for a long period of time. Despite the best efforts of everyone to support and engage with remote learning, not being in school has many adverse consequences. Evidence indicates that it particularly impacts children with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage.
“The summer 2020 programme was extremely successful and its benefit was felt when children re-integrated into their education settings in September. I am delighted we can now extend this vital opportunity to many more children this year.
“I encourage school communities to take full advantage of this opportunity and to provide this valuable programme to their students. We have also listened to concerns of school stakeholders as to the challenges in running summer programmes and have taken significant steps to enhance those supports for schools. Across the country, our children and young people with complex needs, or at risk of educational disadvantage will benefit hugely from today’s decision.”
Minister Madigan said:
“This is an important announcement for young people with additional needs and young people facing educational disadvantage. It is the largest summer programme there has ever been and for the first time, every student with complex needs across all primary and post-primary schools will be eligible to take part. This is something that I have sought to put in place and I welcome the decision to make this expanded programme a reality.
“We know it has been a very difficult year for students with additional needs who might not have been able to engage with remote learning. Parents and families have been worried about regression and loss of key skills.
“Having visited schools hosting summer programmes in previous years, I have seen first-hand the positive benefits that it brings. This summer, all students in special schools, special classes, and those with complex needs in mainstream schools will be eligible to participate in a summer programme. This is the first time that all schools will be eligible to host a summer programme and I urge all schools to do so. It is a very worthwhile opportunity for young people.
“The summer programme has become an important part of special education provision in Ireland. I am delighted that this year’s programme recognises the diversity of needs that exists in Ireland, across our special schools, special classes, and mainstream classes. This programme and the funding that goes with it, demonstrates the commitment of the Government to backing special education and ensuring that every student gets the support they need.”
The five key strands of the programme will run, as follows:
Numeracy and literacy camps in DEIS primary schools
School based summer programme in primary schools with special classes and special schools.
Home based provision for children with complex needs where no school based programme is available;
All primary schools (DEIS and non DEIS) have the opportunity to provide a two-week summer programme for mainstream pupils with complex needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage.
All post-primary schools (DEIS and non DEIS) have the opportunity to provide a two-week summer programme for mainstream students with complex needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes in DEIS schools and the programmes for pupils with special educational needs last year.
Enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage participation of schools in this process, including reducing the administrative process, provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes, earlier payment of school staff and provision to recruit final year student teachers graduating this summer.
Further details on the schemes and how schools can apply will be made available over the coming period at gov.ie/summerprovision
Pupils with complex needs who have transport provided on the Special Educational Needs School Transport Scheme during the school year and are attending the school based programme in either a primary or a special school will be provided with transport.
Following a Government decision today, the Department of Education will also confirm to schools that for the 2021/22 school year there will be no change to the model of allocation of special needs assistants.
The introduction of the frontloaded model for the allocation of special needs assistants will be deferred to the commencement of the 2022/23 school year.
This has occurred as during the pandemic period it has not been possible to provide the necessary information and training to support the implementation of the new model in schools.
SNA allocations for 2021/22 school year will be based on the actual number of SNAs employed by a school on 30 April 2021 and the allocation on that date will be rolled over into 2021/22. No school will receive a reduced allocation and there will be scope for additionality under an exceptional review process to be delivered by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).