With the planned re-opening of SEN schools and classes to take place in two days, there have been calls for Taoiseach Micheal Martin to intervene in the re-opening.
Labour spokesperson on Education, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, has called on the Taoiseach to intervene and show leadership on the issue, saying that there has been ‘mismanagement’ by the Department of Education in the reopening process.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said: “Despite the many missives from the Minister, the re-opening of SEN schools and classes on Thursday looks increasingly unlikely. Children with special needs are regressing rapidly, and their parents are at breaking point.
“This is just not good enough. This is a mess entirely of the Department’s own making.
“Through mismanagement, they have damaged the partnership approach that has worked since September. While everyone’s ultimate wish is to resume in-person special education, this is only on the basis that it is safe to do so in agreement with the unions.
“Given the dire situation we now find ourselves in, I’m calling on the Taoiseach to intervene and rapidly rebuild the trust between groups that the Minister has forfeited.”
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Ó Riordan says that he is ‘concerned about the Government’s narrative’ on trade unions, and that there needs to be a clear line of communication between the Department of Education and parents of students ahead of their return.
“All parties need fully up to date public health guidance to make a fully informed decision on this. I’m also very concerned about the narrative building from Government about the unions.
“Any Government attempt to blame trade unions for its own ineptitude should be rejected by all who genuinely want to see a safe return for SEN students.
“With less than 48 hours to go before re-opening, we should not find ourselves in this situation. The Minister has a duty to these families to be upfront and honest about what’s going to happen.
“At this point, it’s clear that there is a lack of leadership on education. Our Leaving Cert’s were suddenly recalled, a decision that was reversed once the Minister actually considered the public health advice. What’s more, we’re still waiting on some form of communication about the plans to hold this year’s State examinations – or not.
“I am urging the Taoiseach to step up and intervene in this mess. Education is a crucial aspect to the development of our society.
“The Taoiseach cannot stand by as the most vulnerable children are disrespected by the State.”