Summer Programme isn’t working

 

Sir, – The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon quite rightly highlighted that the Summer Programme/July Provision in its current form does not deliver its objective of continued multi-disciplinary support to the most neglected and deserving of children within the educational system (Health & Family, June 26th).

It is just a cruel gesture of tokenism by the Government.

The low uptake of the programme by so many schools including that of my own son’s autism class is scandalous. There are key reasons for this which can be easily addressed. It is an opt-in programme in which special schools and schools with autism classes agree – or not – to participate.

Teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) also have the option to take part, but one disincentive is that they are not paid for this work until the end of October and are heavily taxed when they finally are. Many have children of their own with zero Government support towards providing the childcare required to allow them participate.

Why does the Government leave it to the last weeks of the school year to greenlight schools to establish their summer programmes when the need for them is obvious and inevitable. This places ridiculous time pressure on already over-stretched principals.

An obvious solution is for the Department of Education to create a database of opt-in teachers and SNAs to create a pool of staff to assist principals with the staffing of these programmes. This should be established from the beginning of the school year and could also be open to graduating students of teaching, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy,

With my son’s school not participating in the programme, he along with so many other deserving children with additional needs will miss out on the fun, socialisation and friendships that the programme’s structure would offer him.

Children with additional needs like my wonderful autistic non-verbal son deserve and are entitled to this programme and the Government is shameful in not providing the supports to implement the summer programme they grandiosely promised. – Yours, etc,

LIZANNA KIRWAN,

Co Kildare.