Summer Education Programme crucial for children with additional needs – Cummins

-   Fine Gael Press Office

A Summer Education Programme is crucial for children with additional needs this year, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Waterford Senator, John Cummins, who prior to being elected to Seanad Éireann worked as a secondary school teacher, has highlighted the importance of what was traditionally known as ‘July Provision’, and has called for it to be expanded further this year for children with additional needs.

Senator Cummins said: “In normal circumstances, July Provision is a much-needed resource for students with learning disabilities and autism. Where an eligible school participates in the programme, an extra month’s education is provided to a pupil who meets the scheme’s criteria. This is vital for many pupils, breaking the educational deficit that exists over June, July & August (July and August for Primary School going pupils).

“However, as we all know, we are not in normal circumstances this year and the public health guidelines dictate that it will not be possible to deliver July Provision in the traditional way.

“I was pleased to hear Minister McHugh prioritising this issue in the Dáil this week and I know that he and his officials are working on the options to provide a summer programme for children with complex needs.

“This kind of programme is more important than ever this year, with pupils having been out of the classroom for so long. I believe there is an opportunity to expand the programme beyond the cohort of students that usually receive July Provision, who have been affected by missing out on school. As they undertake their work on the options, I am asking Minister McHugh, along with his officials, to examine what other students could benefit from such a programme.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult on families where children have additional needs. I have had a large volume of queries from concerned parents, and I also know from my own experience working in a school with ASD classrooms that a summer programme is a hugely important part of the educational programme for students with additional needs.

“It was very encouraging to hear the Taoiseach and Ministers McHugh and Harris prioritising the needs of these families in their recent comments and Dáil speeches. I have raised this matter with Minister McHugh, the Taoiseach and officials at every opportunity and I will continue to engage with them to ensure these pupils get the supports they need this summer. It would be great to see an expanded programme operating as soon as the public health guidelines allow.”

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