Priority for in-person learning must be based on the wellbeing and needs of the students, according to the Social Democrats.

Gary Gannon TD, spokesperson for Education, stated:

“Throughout this week I have highlighted the need for us to prioritise our most vulnerable students by using a similar model to the UK. While I have welcomed the U-turn from the Minister regarding sixth years, this decision has been conflated with the issues and wellbeing needs of students with additional educational needs.

“Remote learning is not an option for everyone. Students with additional education needs are a significantly smaller cohort than the 61,000 sixth year students and much more vulnerable to regression and learning loss, which is still being experienced from the first closure of schools. This is as much a justice issue as an education one.”

Holly Cairns TD, spokesperson for Disability Matters, commented:

“There has been a clear absence of a rights-based approach from the Minister and her Department. All young people have a right to education, but for those in special schools and classes this requires trained professionals to support the development of young people and adults.

“The reality is that online learning and homeschooling is not appropriate for many of the people affected. The State must meet their needs.

“I’ve been contacted by many families who are concerned about the wellbeing and possible regression of their children without access to the educational system they require. The Minister needs to do everything she can to ensure that special schools and classes can return.”

January 8, 2021

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