41% of families state their child’s needs more support
22% of families state their child’s access to an SNA was reduced
Huge majority of parents want school provision for those with additional needs in the event of another lockdown

A survey conducted by three of the leading disability advocacy organisations in the State, Inclusion Ireland, Down Syndrome Ireland and AsIAm, has found that whilst children with additional needs are benefiting from the return to school there have been new challenges particularly around accessing support and being included in schools.

Parents surveyed, reported that many young people attending special classes were not receiving opportunities to participate in mainstream, owing to social distancing requirements, or had been placed on reduced timetables.

382 answered the survey which ran across the three organisations websites and social media platforms. Amongst the key findings, parents reported that:

41% stated their child needs more SNA support.

30% said that reintegrating into regular routines and school settings is their biggest challenge since return.

33% of remain unsatisfied with their children’s present educational provision.

79% of respondents to our survey stated that children would need in-school support to continue their learning, in the event of future school closures. 

Commenting on today’s report Head of Education with Down Syndrome Ireland Fidelma Brady stated Down Syndrome Ireland welcome the findings of this report and acknowledge the members of our organisation, together with the members of AsIAm and Inclusion Ireland, who participated in the survey. The findings bring into the public domain the challenges faced by parents of children with special educational needs as they returned to school in September”

She added:Reductions in the levels of SNA support and SET support, together with the lack of external supports and the continuing use of reduced timetables for our children, are issues that must be addressed immediately, to ensure that, going forward, all children have access to appropriate and beneficial education in schools, and experience inclusion at its best at every stage of their education journey”.

Commenting on today’s report AsIAm’s CEO Adam Harris statedThe challenge of accessing resources was of particular concern for parents. We know that the return to school was a particular challenge for our communities many of whom were unable to participate in remote learning, had lost key developmental skills and continue to experience high levels of stress and anxiety owing to the major changes in day to day life and loss of routine. It is vital that the support young people need to make this year a success, including access to additional teaching time and SNA support, are readily available”.

He added: “We are particularly concerned that a large number of families reporting having insufficient SNA access or have reported seeing a reduction or loss in SNA support. This is in the context of the Department providing the same support to schools as last year but not taking into account the profile of individual students in schools or the impact of the pandemic. At a time where every sector is receiving additional support this simply does not make sense. These learnings must be acknowledged before the Department moves any further towards a frontloading model of SNA support which it proposes to do this coming September.”

A key finding in the survey is the impact of school closures on young people and the strong desire of families to ensure those with the greatest need within the education system never again lose the support and structure of school as they did in the early months. Despite the challenges many young people are greatly benefiting from the return to school and parent want to make sure this continues in the context of any post-Christmas restrictions

Enda Egan, CEO of Inclusion Ireland said: “There is broad satisfaction among parents with the return to education, and this is welcome, but a number of critical issues are highlighted that would greatly enhance participation in learning for children with an intellectual disability. The lack of access to sensory breaks and sensory supports, such as ear defenders or fidget toys, due to Covid-19 compliance stands out. These are essential for many children to achieve their full potential in education and must be looked at. The second big issue is cases where children who are in a special education class, and also in mainstream classes are not being facilitated to access their mainstream classes. Provision must be made to ensure these children continue their inclusion journey.”

The report highlights a number a recommendation which are key to the success of children integrating fully back into the education system. One key measure is greater levels of integration from special classes to mainstream classes.

Full report can be downloaded here.

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