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– Minister must set out return to school plan

Education Minister Norma Foley needs to immediately reconvene talks and deliver a return to school plan for students with additional needs, according to Social Democrats Education spokesperson Gary Gannon.

Commenting, Deputy Gannon said:

“There is a need to identify exactly what measures must be put in place and for the necessary funding to be allocated in order to ensure the safety of children and staff. The Minister needs to commit to these.

“There are valuable lessons to be learned from the experiences in Northern Ireland and the UK where government did the advance planning and provided the additional funding necessary.

“The buck stops with the Minister. There was hope last week with the announcement of a return date and engagement with unions. However, the Minister did not deliver the return to school plan that was required and students with additional needs will lose out as a result.

“The education partners must be brought back around the table today to identify what measures need to be put in place so that students with additional needs, teaching staff and SNAs can return to the classroom safely.

“The Minister should set out a phased plan which deals with the issues facing special schools, special classes and a pathway back for students with additional needs in mainstream schools. That needs to be the focus.

“A failure to engage today will compound what has been a colossal failure of leadership on the part of Ministers Foley and Madigan. Everyone in education deserves better than what they have delivered to date. The dialogue needs to be thorough and genuine and aim to resolve the outstanding issues promptly and effectively.

“Students with additional needs and their families must be the priority in this.”

January 20, 2021

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