Laois Fianna Fáil TD and Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Seán Fleming, has welcomed the announcement by his colleague Minister Foley that the provision of expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021.     

The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.     

Minister Fleming commented, “This is an incredibly important Government decision, to significantly expand the summer programme as a specific response to the pandemic, and offer important education provision this summer to children who really need it.     

“This announcement will be of major benefit to the vast majority of schools in County Laois.  For the first time ever, all schools will be eligible to participate in this scheme. Up to now this scheme was confined to pupils in special schools, pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools. That was excellent for those concerned but now all schools in Laois can avail of this scheme.  

“I encourage school communities to take full advantage of this opportunity and provide this valuable programme to their students. Minister Foley has listened to concerns of school stakeholders as to the challenges in running summer programmes and has taken significant steps to enhance those supports for schools.      

“Across the country, our children and young people with complex needs, or at risk of educational disadvantage will benefit hugely from this decision.”     

The programme’s aims are to support pupils to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on  to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.     

For the first time ever, all schools (primary and-post primary) are encouraged to provide summer programmes and the eligibility criteria have been extended to include post-primary children with complex needs and children at risk of educational disadvantage. Prior to this expansion summer programmes were only available to special schools and pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools. Today’s announcement marks a recognition of the value of such school based programmes for children with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage in all schools.     

A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for children with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school based programme.