Teachers and parents have been left increasingly frustrated over the lack of clarity surrounding the Summer Provision Programme, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
The programme has allowed children with autism and children with a severe or profound intellectual disability to have access to an extended school year.
Commenting on the developments, Fitzmaurice said: “Up until yesterday evening, very little guidance had been provided to principles of schools willing to take part in the programme.
“While some guidance was issued earlier in the week, it left a lot of questions unanswered.
“Specific advice on social distancing guidelines for the children and teachers hasn’t been made clear. Principles are still waiting on what signage they will require.
“All of the essential details have not been finalised it seems, and both teachers and parents are being left in the dark.
“Some schools and facilities had planned to reopen next week. But that has now been ruled out. Some teachers fear that if no progress is made soon, then the whole programme may not run.
“The minister is coming under increasing fire from teachers, parents and advocacy groups given the level of confusion surrounding the programme.
“In the initial announcement, it was revealed that this would be the first year in which children with Down syndrome were going to be able to access the scheme.
“But regulations published by the Department of Education indicate that only children with Down syndrome who are in primary school at present are eligible to attend – leaving many parents understandably upset.
“Any deviation from the initial announcement, which made no distinction when it came to children with Down syndrome, would be discriminatory.
“As well as this, teachers are worried about the protocol when it comes to children over the age of six possibly having to wear masks. This may prove extremely difficult for children with autism, Down syndrome or an intellectual disability to comprehend and follow.
“The minister and his senior department officials need to take the bull by the horns here and provide some clarity, particularly for parents who depend on the programme to get their kids back into some form of a routine when it comes to education for the school year ahead.
“As it stands, people know when they will be able to go and get a haircut or get a meal in a restaurant again – but parents and teachers are being kept in the dark when it comes to the running of this programme.
“Progress needs to be made immediately on this,” the Roscommon-Galway TD said.
Michael Fitzmaurice TD 086-1914565