Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Kathleen Funchion TD has warned that no child can be left behind as schools reopen.
“Despite the fact that the new school term has begun and many schools have reopened in recent days, a number of key issues remain unanswered about how children with special educational needs can return to school safely.
“I have spoken with many families who are distraught about the ongoing lack of clarity about how children with special needs can return to school. They desperately want to do the right thing for their children and ensure they receive the education they are entitled to, yet without proper guidance they are anxious and unclear about what to do.
“Many pupils with special educational needs are still unclear about whether, or how, their Special Needs Assistant can continue to support them. Parents of children with autism, in particular, have warned that their children are distressed by teachers wearing masks and they are struggling to read social cues with teachers’ facial expressions covered.
“No child can be left behind as schools reopen. Children with special educational needs are entitled to receive a high standard of education and their families deserve to be listened to and supported.
“We cannot have children with additional needs or underlying medical issues left behind or locked out of education as schools return. I am deeply concerned that this will happen if parents’ concerns are not addressed and if additional resources are not provided.
“The Minister for Education must listen to the voices of parents whose children have additional needs and I am calling on the Minister to make sure that up-to-date, clear guidance is issued, accompanied by the resources needed.”