• Thu. May 11th, 2023

Statement comes after department sent letters to principals outlining reopening plans

Jan 16, 2021

The union which represents many of Irelands special needs assistants (SNAs) said a deal to reopen schools for children with additional needs next week is not complete.
In a statement last night Fórsa said talks with the Department of Education on the reopening of some schools and classes for children with additional needs from next Thursday had not concluded and a number of issues remained unresolved.
This came hours after the Department of Education said a deal had been reached and that thousands of children with additional needs were due to return to special classes on alternate days from next Thursday, under plans agreed with unions.
On Friday afternoon, letters were sent by the department to primary school principals outlining the plans agreed with Fórsa and the INTO.
In its statement Fórsa last night, said one of the outstanding areas requiring agreement was around enhanced safety measures.
These included the safety of SNAs at high risk of Covid-19 infection and the absence of childcare arrangements.
Under the plan announced by the department yesterday, children in special classes and children with significant additional needs in mainstream classes were due to be able to return on a full-time basis from next Thursday.
Mainstream schools were due to be permitted to provide for in-school tuition for certain vulnerable or disadvantaged students, once they have capacity to do so.
This was set to include, for example, students at risk due to development issues, features of the family or community life or other facts which contribute to educational disadvantaged.
The deal was set to see thousands of special needs assistants and resource teachers will be due back in primary and special schools on a full-time basis.
Mainstream teachers, however, will not be required back in the classroom until schools reopen generally.
Education sources say there is growing hope that schools may be in a position to reopen to more students over the coming weeks if a downward trend in Covid-19 infection rates continues.
The departments priority is to return special needs students in secondary schools – possibly towards the end of January – followed by sixth year students and others in February.
A full reopening of schools to all students will depend on securing public health advice on it being safe to mobilise so many pupils and teachers, according to well-placed sources.
The department letter provides fresh guidance on how children with significant additional needs in mainstream classes will be identified.
They may include students accessing the highest level of support in a schools and who were identified as being eligible for the summer provision programme last year. This includes children with autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments and other disabilities.