The announcement of a new enhanced Summer Programme for students with special educational needs and those facing disadvantage has been heralded as ‘good news’ for students across Laois.
TD Charlie Flanagan has welcomed an announcement from Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan for 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.
Up to €40 million in funding will be available for the programme, a 100% increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.
The programme’s aims are to support pupils to re-engage with education, 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.
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 DEIS 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.
The five key strands of the programme will run as follows: Numeracy and literacy camps in DEIS primary schools; School-based summer programmes 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 and; 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
Speaking from Leinster House, Deputy Flanagan said: “This is a great announcement for students with complex needs in Laois & Offaly.
“Many students and their families will welcome the opportunity to return to the classroom over the summer to benefit from additional support and routine after a very difficult year.
“Fine Gael in Government is determined to support students with additional needs and their families.
“We know that education is vital in ensuring that every child can reach their full potential. Funding for this year’s programme has increased by 100% to €40 million which clearly demonstrates our commitment in this area.
“For the first time ever, all schools will be able to host a summer programme, meaning that more students than ever before will be able to take part.
“The programme will include students in special schools and special classes, as well students with complex needs in mainstream classes.
“I encourage all schools across the constituency to avail of this opportunity for the benefit of local students with complex needs who need it most.”
Laois Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming also welcomed the announcement.
He 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 it.
“This announcement will be of major benefit to the vast majority of schools in County Laois. For the first time ever, all schools will be eligible to participate in this scheme.
“Up to now this scheme was confined to pupils in special schools, pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools. That was excellent for those concerned but now all schools in Laois can avail of this scheme.
“I encourage school communities to take full advantage of this opportunity and provide this valuable programme to their students.
“Minister Norma Foley has listened to concerns of school stakeholders as to the challenges in running summer programmes and has 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 this decision.”