Government to expand summer programme places for young people with special needs

All schools in state can host programme aimed at 81,000 pupils

Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan will bring a proposal to Cabinet on Tuesday, seeking a significant expansion for the scheme. File photograph: Crispin Rodwell

There will be a four-fold increase in the number of students eligible to participate in this year’s summer programme, focused on children and teenagers with special and complex needs.

Minister for Education Norma Foley will bring a proposal to Cabinet on Tuesday, seeking a significant expansion for the scheme, which has also had input from Minister of State for special education Josepha Madigan.

For the first time, all schools in the State will be allowed to host a summer programme, including special schools which already ran the programme.

The total number of students eligible for the 2021 summer programme will be more than 81,000. This is almost a four-fold increase on eligibility numbers from last year, which totalled 23,000.


There was uncertainty over the programme last year due to the pandemic but it was allowed as Covid infection numbers began to ease in the run-up to the summer holidays.

Previously, specific summer provision programmes were available primarily to young people in special schools and special classes.

The budget for the 2021 programme is also being doubled, rising to €40 million compared with €20 million last year.

There will be a centralised application process, which will allow schools flexibility in deciding the timing of the provision of the programme in July or August.

Key to the expansion is a widening of the scheme’s eligibility criteria to include post-primary children with complex needs and those that do not neatly fit into diagnostic criteria and children at risk of educational disadvantage.

Ms Madigan has spoken previously about her aim to expand the programme.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times