Social Democrats spokesperson on Education, Gary Gannon highlights the need for inclusion to mean inclusion for students with Down syndrome in July Provision. The Department of Education and Skills announced on the 5th of June that students with Down syndrome would be included for the first time in the July Provision, a measure welcomed by many activists and families across Ireland, the announcement came with no indication that there would be restrictions placed on students with Down syndrome. Following the announcement, criteria that students with Down syndrome in mainstream post-primary or students entering into mainstream primary schools in September will be excluded. Down Syndrome Ireland estimates up to 1,000 students with Down syndrome will be excluded by this discriminatory eligibility from the programme and that these measures completely contradict measures to promote an inclusive education system. The eligibility penalises rather than supports children heading into mainstream primary schools and those in mainstream post-primary schools.
This is on top of continued growing concern and frustration from families and disability groups regarding the lack of guidelines and availability of staff resulting in many schools not taking part in the programme or difficulties sourcing a tutor leaving many children left in limbo if they will be able to take part in the provision.
“I along with many other individuals welcomed the Minister’s decision to include students with Down syndrome into the July Provision. However the praise received is fraudulent, as almost the same amount of students able to avail of the provision, will also be excluded. We can’t be pushing inclusive education when it suits, we need to support all children with Down syndrome whether they are in mainstream education or not. I also have a growing concern that schools and educators will be made a scapegoat in the July Provision. The Department needs to support the schools and educators not the other way round. Despite the doubling of numbers for the provision there is no incentive for schools to take part in the scheme and many schools I’ve talked to have yet again reported lack of clarity and guidelines. The department has said there will be new guidelines in the coming days but they need to be transparent. At the moment it’s a black box. We don’t know how many schools have signed up but we do know there are desperate families and 8,000 students signed up who need this programme.
Since the announcement of the July Provision and announcement of schools reopening, we haven’t gotten a chance to ask questions to the Minister in the Dáil, so today (24th June) is a very important for many students and families to try and get some answers.”