Senator Eileen Flynn
Independent Senator Eileen Flynn has called for transparency and action to provide for the educational needs of children with additional needs.
“From speaking with families of children with additional needs I know families feel devastated and forgotten. They have been let down three times, as they wait for schools to reopen.
“We have seen time and again this past year how the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted social inequalities and this is no different. This is another stress test on the State and we can see how we are failing in our care of those with the greatest need.
“Education is an essential service. Vulnerable children are being left behind and we can’t stand for that,” she said.
Senator Flynn said four national advocacy organisations, AsIAm, Down Syndrome Ireland, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland have said that children with special educational needs and their families and carers have been almost completely forgotten about in these talks.
These advocacy organisations have called for urgent interim measures to be put in place while schools remain closed for children with special educational needs.
Senator Flynn said the interests of vulnerable children must be prioritised.
"Of course everyone wants our students, teachers, SNAs, and school staff members to be safe. We also want our most vulnerable students to receive the education and education supports they deserve.
“We see in Northern Ireland, not even 50 miles down the road from where I am now in Donegal, many schools provide in-person teaching to children with special educational needs. We are also an outlier in Europe, in not providing in-person teaching. What do we need to do to make that happen here?
“I can understand the frustration of children and their families. This is not the time for a ‘blame game’. Now is the time to find solutions and to give children with special educational needs the education and supports they deserve.
“I call on the Government, the Department of Education, and all stakeholders to re-engage and come to an agreement on education supports, including the re-opening of schools for children with special educational needs.
Senator Flynn said she also supported the call from AsIAm, Down Syndrome Ireland, Family Carers Ireland and Inclusion Ireland for a meeting with the Taoiseach on this important issue.
“I hope this meeting will take place soon,” she said.
“If we are all in this together, as we hear over and over again, we cannot forget the most vulnerable in our society,” Senator Flynn said.
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