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Oireachtas committee request extension to school year for special schools

An extension on the school year for special schools has been sought by the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters.

Members of the committee have written to ministers Norma Foley and Josepha Madigan calling for the extension of the school year in special schools, the Irish Examiner reported earlier today.

According to the committee, this is being proposed in order to reduce the impact of the long summer break, and are also seeking confirmation from the Department of Education regarding the publication of the guidelines for the Summer Program 2022 and any reasons for any delay.

Committee chair Deputy Michael Moynihan said that feedback from parents reveals that 26 out of Ireland’s 126 special schools have already advised parents they will not run any school-based summer program this year, even prior to guidelines being issued on July provision.

He said: “Parents have communicated to the committee that schools have told parents that the reasons for their school not participating in the Summer Program this year include unavailability of staff due to family commitments and personal circumstances and lack of guidelines from the Dept of Education. “

The committee also said that home-based programs may not suit children with complex disabilities, who miss out on socialization, adding that there is now the need to target past educational and behavioral regression due to school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, they are further concerned about the low uptake rate in 2021, claiming that parents highlighted that 80 per cent of children attending special schools did not participate in the Summer Program in 2021.

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