Minister must make good on promise of expanded Summer Provision – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed today’s announcement of an expanded Summer Provision programme this year.
However, he has urged caution that the Minister must deliver on her promises, and not disappoint children with additional needs and their families.
Speaking from Leinster House, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Despite the best efforts of everyone – teachers, school staff, families and the students themselves – it is unfortunately still the case that many children have lost out, and that there has been a learning loss.
“This is particularly the case for children with special educational needs. They have missed out hugely and their routines were turned upside down.
“Sinn Féin recognised this, and called on the Minister to plan for a very substantial summer programme – one which ensures that every child who wants to take part in this programme can, and one which goes beyond the DEIS schools that traditionally availed of summer camps in tackling disadvantage.
“I am glad that the Minister listened to the calls of Sinn Féin and others, and has announced today an expansion of the Summer Provision programme. This year more than ever, it is important that all children who need that additional assistance are supported.
“The Minister must now urgently release guidance to schools, so that they can properly prepare for the programme this summer. In a normal year, the guidance would already have long been released to schools.
“It is unfair on schools and teachers, who will now be expected to pull together a comprehensive summer programme in the space of just a few weeks.
"We want to see as many children as possible avail of the programme; it isn’t good enough that schools are still waiting for comprehensive guidance on how the programme will work this year.
“Many schools will be facilitating summer programmes for the first time this year, and the Minister must provide adequate funding and guidance to support schools through this process.
“I hope that the Minister has done the proper capacity planning, and the preparation required to see this to fruition. I would have some concern that families may end up disappointed, if the Minister overpromises and under-delivers.
“The Minister today has announced that the largest ever number of children will be eligible for the programme this year. The reality is, however, that eligibility doesn’t translate to a guaranteed place on the programme, without the proper capacity planning having been done.
“I sincerely hope that the Minister has put in the work, to ensure that there are teachers and SNAs available to facilitate the programme. I am looking forward to hearing further information on the earlier payment of teachers – removing all disincentives will be crucial to ensuring that the number of spaces available can be maximised.
“Each year, the task for families of trying to find a home-tutor for their children is like finding a needle in a haystack.
"I again today reiterate the call to the Minister to put forward a centralised database of teachers and SNAs who are willing to provide tuition for families, to try and counter these difficulties.
“Today’s announcement will be a great relief to many children and their families. I sincerely hope the Minister will make good on her promise of an expanded Summer Provision programme this year, and I look forward to engaging constructively with her to achieve this."