The current plans for summer schooling for children with intellectual disabilities and autism are against the State’s obligations to people with disabilities.
That is the warning from Inclusion Ireland following briefings with the Department of Education on it’s plans for this summer’s ‘July Provision’.
The programme, which offers additional schooling to children with special needs during the summer months, is being “narrowed” this year, according to the charity.
This is mainly due to the department’s plans to provide summer schooling to children who are in special schools and classes.
Separately, respite will be provided for children with complex conditions through the HSE.
According to Inclusion Ireland, the plans do no include children with disabilities and autism who attend mainstream schools.
“The proposed narrowing of the scheme by the Department is anti-mainstreaming and against the states obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities,” a spokesperson for Inclusion Ireland said.
“Parents for many years have been giving their child the experience of mainstream education to be now told it will cost them a vital summer support.”
In a statement, a Department of Education spokesman said that no decisions about the scheme have been made yet.
“A proposal is being developed and the Minister is due to update cabinet colleagues next week.”
“Anybody who has been eligible in previous years will be eligible again this summer. We are working on providing both a school based scheme and a home based scheme.”
“It is not the case that only children who are in special classes or special schools will be able to avail of the programme or attend any service offered as part of the programme.”
Government wants to maximise number of students back in school
Meanwhile, the Department of Education intends to “maximize” students' return to classrooms at the end of August, the Minister for Education has said.
The advice on reopening schools will be published next Friday after a memo is brought to Cabinet, Joe McHugh told the Dáíl on Thursday.
"Just to reassure people, it's our intention in the Department of Education to maximize the return of students back at the end of August," Mr McHugh said. "There is no ambiguity around that, that is our intention but obviously we are going to be guided completely by the health advice.
“If the current health guidelines stay as they are, we are in a position where we will be looking at a partial reopening [of schools],” he said. Modelling carried out by the Department of Education around the current health advice would mean a partial return, he added.
However, officials in the Department of Education and the public health officials are looking at different advice, and emerging evidence from other countries that have reopened schools. This includes Denmark, France, Greece and the UK. The department is also looking at Northern Ireland.
Ireland has the largest class sizes in Europe, making its return to classrooms more difficult than its European counterparts. That’s according to Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin education spokesman. “It's a shocking indictment of the governments in recent years that we are in this position,” he said.
Parents are frustrated, and want to see the return of some normality when it comes to their children’s education, he added.
Meanwhile, Mr McHugh has asked teachers and special needs assistants who can do so to think about supporting a summer programme for vulnerable students.
The Department of Education is working with the Department of Health and the HSE to develop a programme for students with special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage.
"The length of school closure has been a long one, a lot longer than what we might have hoped for," Mr McHugh said.
Summer provision would give children an important opportunity to reconnect with their schooling, he added.