Longford-Westmeath junior minister hails 'shared commitment to reopen’ special schools

Burke reveals constituency office 'inundated' from worried parents and teachers in recent days

Liam Cosgrove

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Liam Cosgrove

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liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

St Brigid's Special School

Junior Minister and Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke shares a joke with Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton and pupils from St Brigid's Special School in Mullingar recently

Junior Housing Minister and Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke has lauded a government move to work towards efforts to reopen special schools on a phased basis from as early as next week.

 

Education Minister Norma Foley, Junior Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan and various education partners, including teacher unions, are working towards a return for pupils with special needs on January 21, it was revealed today.

Mr Burke said despite finer details of the plan having yet to be ironed out, it was a hugely positive move after revealing how his own constituency office had been "inundated from concerned parents and teachers" since a blanket closure on schools was confirmed last week.

ALSO READ: Return of phased in-person learning at Longford primary schools planned for next week

"We have learned lessons from the first lockdown, and it was clear that children with special needs suffered during their time away from school and many regressed without the support of their teachers, SNAs and the stability of their routine.  We also saw the negative effects this had on mental health, on both students and parents," he said.

The Mullingar based TD said he had spoken with Junior Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan last week on foot of growing concern among parents for special schools to reopen.

Mr Burke said during those talks, he also stressed the importance that no teacher or SNA who had serious health conditions should return to the classroom if it wasn’t safe for them to do so.

"I thank parents and the school community for their patience and I look forward to updating constituents with further details as soon as I have them," he said.

After today’s meeting with the education partners, Ms Foley said all parties shared her objective “to work together so that children with special educational needs, who find it very hard to engage with remote or online learning receive some face to face education in schools before a fuller reopening is possible.