10 February, 2021 - Ministers Foley and Madigan welcome agreed plan of the return of in-person teaching and learning for children in Special Classes at Post-Primary schools on 22 February

Return to in-school teaching and learning for students enrolled in special classes in post-primary schools

Following a period of intensive engagement with the education partners, Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD today announced details of a return to in-school teaching and learning for students with special educational needs attending special classes at post-primary level.

Students attending these classes will return for in-person teaching and learning from Monday 22 February, the same day on which primary school special classes will return.

It remains a priority for the Department to agree a shared pathway to in-school learning for children with special educational needs in mainstream classes in mainstream schools as soon as possible.

Recognising that remote learning is particularly challenging for some students with complex needs, the Department of Education has also put in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of students with complex needs at post-primary level.

Intensive engagement is continuing with education stakeholders, towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so.

Minister Foley said: “I am pleased that students in special classes at post-primary level will now return to in-person teaching and learning on the same day as primary school students in special classes.

“These special classes support some of our most vulnerable students. The return to in-person teaching and learning is vital to these students and I want to thank everyone who has engaged in this process to reach a solution which is aimed at meeting their needs.

“The supplementary programme will also provide a real benefit for students over the coming weeks as they adjust to returning to in-person teaching and learning and I urge everyone to make full use of this.

“In our ongoing engagement with education partners, we continue to seek a way forward to support the return of in-person teaching and learning for children with special educational needs in mainstream settings.

“The Government is committed to the full and safe reopening of schools for all students as soon as possible, and will continue to work with all stakeholders, in line with public health advice, to achieve this.”

Minister Madigan said: “This is another positive step in the right direction that will give certainty and comfort to students with special educational needs at post-primary school and their families. From tomorrow, students in special schools will return to the classroom, and now from 22 February all students in special classes at both primary and post-primary can look forward to a return to school.

“Over the last few weeks, I have been committed to securing agreement on a return to school for students with special educational needs. We have all heard how challenging distance learning has been for some students. Evidence shows that such an approach does not work for many students with special educational needs, leading to regression and the loss of key skills. This is why the Government and I have sought to prioritise special education as part of the return to school. We have never wavered in this commitment.

“We know that work remains to be done to ensure all students can return to school. This includes students with special educational needs in mainstream classes who struggle to engage with distance learning. As an interim measure, we have put in place a supplementary education support scheme to provide in-person tuition or care by teachers and SNAs in the home over a four-week period. Our aim remains however a full return to in-person education for all students. I am committed to progressing this work and achieving further agreement as soon as possible. I want to thank all the staff and partners in our education system for their dedication and engagement.”

Special classes at post-primary level will be supported in their return by the enhanced school teams put in place by the HSE and the Department of Education. Updated guidance and information on the supports for schools will be made available to post-primary schools in advance of the return.

 

Notes to Editors

Return to In-person Teaching and Learning

 

  • In total 124 special schools will reopen tomorrow, which cater for 8,224 students. There are 3,882 teachers and SNAs supporting these students.
  • There are 1,231 special classes at primary level catering for 7,520 students. They are supported by 3,819 teachers and SNAs.
  • There are 515 special classes at post primary catering for 2,808 students. They are supported by 1,739 teachers and SNAs.

 

 In-person Supplementary Programme

The In-person Supplementary Programme to Support the Education and/or Care Needs of Pupils with Complex Needs scheme is a temporary measure during this period of school closure, in February 2021.  At post-primary level the four–week programme (20 hours) can commence from 22 February and can be used by families at any time up until the end of April.

An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible students. This allocation is intended to supplement, and not replace, the remote teaching provided by the student’s school and can be provided by a teacher or SNA in a student’s home outside of school hours, at evenings and weekends. Participation in the programme is voluntary for families, teachers and SNAs and must be delivered in accordance with Public Health Advice.

These hours supplement existing school provision provided remotely, therefore they cannot be delivered during the school day. They can however be delivered outside of the normal school day and/or at weekends or the Easter break if necessary.

As this will be a supplementary programme, it is voluntary for teachers and SNAs to participate.

Similar to the Department’s home based summer programme, parents will engage tutors/SNAs directly in a private arrangement.

Tutors/SNAs would be paid for this additional work through the Department’s payroll upon receipt of the completed claim form from parents.

Eligibility for the programme will comprise:

 

  • All pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in primary schools and students enrolled in special classes at post-primary schools
  • Pupils in mainstream primary schools who are accessing the highest levels of support in school at the School Support Plus/Support for a Few stage of the Continuum of Support. At post-primary level this is for students who are accessing the highest level of the continuum of support (Student Support Plus for a few).
  • It includes pupils with Autism, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, and other disabilities) as well as pupils who were identified for the summer programme of 2020.
  • Schools have flexibility to identify pupils that require the highest level of support at any given time. This will ensure that pupils presenting with exceptional needs due to the current school closures can participate in the scheme.