No agreement reached on special schools reopening - Fórsa

ireland
No Agreement Reached On Special Schools Reopening - Fórsa No Agreement Reached On Special Schools Reopening - Fórsa
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James Cox

Agreement has still not been reached to enable schools for special needs children to reopen next Thursday.

The Department of Education wrote to principals last night to outline the plans for over 20,000 children to return to class.

It applies to special schools, and children with special needs in mainstream primary schools.

Fórsa represents 12,000 staff involved, and the union said efforts to reopen the schools “were still underway”.

Safety measures

A statement said “agreement had yet to be reached on enhanced safety measures that would facilitate the safe resumption of services”.

Fórsa added that talks with the Department “had not concluded and that a number of issues remained to be resolved”.

The issues include “the safety of SNAs at high risk of Covid infection” and childcare arrangements for workers.

In response to reports of an agreement to reopen special schools, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said while it supported the reopening of school for children with additional needs, this will require evidence that it is safe to do so.

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“While supporting the continuity of learning remotely is far from ideal, we hope to be able to return to our classrooms fully, but it remains to be seen if the public health landscape improves enough to enable the resumption of classroom-based learning,” said INTO general secretary John Boyle.

Four leading advocacy organisations, AsIAm, Down Syndrome Ireland, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland, have expressed deep concern at the lack of clarity being provided to children with additional needs, and the families, on the scheduled return to in-school support next Thursday.

A spokesperson for the four organisations said: “We have received calls and emails from many deeply upset and worried families today. Children with additional needs, and their parents, went to bed last night confident that the week ahead would see a much-needed return to the classroom and woke up this morning to mixed messages and deep confusion.

“Our young people have suffered greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many students with additional needs are unable to learn remotely and have lost core skills in communication, personal care and social interaction which have a lifelong impact.

“At a time when families are struggling to cope with supporting their children on a 24/7 basis, often whilst juggling work and other care commitments, it is totally unacceptable for stakeholders to get their hopes up or to give mixed messages. Our children should be a central stakeholder in the return to school as they are the thousands of children with additional needs who will benefit from a reopening.”

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