Families "angry" after some children with Down Syndrome excluded from summer education programmes

Families 'angry' after some children with Down Syndrome excluded from summer education programmes

Parents of children with Down syndrome are “disappointed, angry and distressed” to see some cohorts of students not included in draft guidelines for summer programmes.

That is according to Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) which said that the initial announcement to include children with Down syndrome in summer programmes for the first time was widely welcomed by parents around the country.

However, draft guidelines later published by the Department of Education outlined that the majority of post-primary students, or students going from primary to secondary school, will not be eligible for the summer tuition.

“It is hard to see children left out, especially students who have complex needs. It is hard enough to fight to be included,” said Nicola Hart, head of member support at DSI.

“We weren’t sure if families wanted to take part in summer programmes this year, given that their children might have additional health needs, so we held a survey.”

This survey found that almost 90% of the 784 people questioned wanted their child to take part in summer programmes this year.

“They can see a regression in their kids during the long break. Children with language, hearing or attention difficulties can find it hard to make progress with online teaching.”

"Parents are disappointed, angry and distressed to now see the restrictions,” Ms Hart added.

Talks between the charity and the Department of Education are on-going. Summer provision for children with special needs is an expansion of the traditional July Provision, a spokesman said.

The Department of Education is continuing to engage with education partners and directly with schools on planning for the provision, he added.

Detailed guidance has been issued on both school-based and home-based tuition. Primary schools and schools with special classes have also been invited to participate in the programme, he added.

Meanwhile, the online application where schools must enter data on students' Leaving Cert calculated grades will remain live until Monday, after a number of schools failed to submit their information.

The application was set to close on Friday afternoon. However, the Calculated Grades executive office has decided it will now remain open until the close of business on Monday, June 22.

"Schools have been engaging extremely well with the process and very good progress has been made," a spokesman for the Department of Education said.

"The extension has been provided to facilitate a small number of schools who have yet to fully complete the process."

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