Four leading advocacy organisations representing children with special educational needs and their families, AsIAm, Down Syndrome Ireland, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland, have cautiously welcomed this evening’s announcement that primary school children with special educational needs (SEN) are to return to school on a phased basis, but warned that the deal agreed today leaves behind thousands of students with SEN in mainstream primary school classes as well as secondary students with SEN.

Commenting on the latest developments on this issue, the groups thanked the Government and educational stakeholders for their continued commitment to re-opening schools for students with SEN and called on them to redouble their efforts to find a solution for the remaining students, adding that today’s announcement must be a first step in restoring education supports for all children with SEN.

Speaking today, a spokesperson for the four organisations said:

“This is a welcome announcement for children with SEN in special schools and classes, and their families. The impact that school closures is having on children with SEN is huge, and the return to routine and in-person supports will come as a relief to many. However, this must be the first step in this process – this announcement does not cater for thousands of children in mainstream classes with SEN, or for students with SEN at second level.

“The additional in-person care and educational support programme, which will commence from 11 February for four weeks, is welcome, but will not be available to all who need it. It is important that engagement continues with a view to restoring full capacity in special schools as soon as possible.

“Attention must now turn to the remaining students with SEN, including secondary students, who continue to go without appropriate education. The majority of young people with additional needs now attend mainstream school and many of these students experienced regression and distress due to being unable to learn online.”

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