The Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan today announced that a summer programme will be in place for 2023 for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage. Once again all schools will have an opportunity to run a programme for those children that need it the most so that we can support them in engaging with education in a meaningful way.
The department is committed to ongoing development of the summer programme with a view to ensuring that children that need it, have access to this support. For 2023 it is a priority that more children in special schools have access to a school-based programme.
This year, over 45,000 pupils will have participated in the summer programme, with over 1,000 schools running a programme. This is an increase in of approximately 18% on the 2021 numbers of participating students.
The Department of Education is also currently reviewing the summer programme and engaging with relevant departments, agencies and stakeholders so that more children can participate in 2023. It is important that schools are given the support they need to be able to run a programme during the summer and the review will also be taking account of administration needs, workforce expansion, and training requirements that are vital components for the schools.
The Inspectorate in the department has also visited schools, including special schools as part of that process, and are liaising with staff, parents and the children who participated to help ensure that the review takes account of the lived experience. The department will also look at innovative way to promote and publicise the programme for next summer to further raise awareness of the scheme and publicise the benefits of running a scheme.
Following the completion of the review, full details, including information and guidance for parents, schools and staff will be published at the end of January 2023 so that adequate planning can take place.
Minister Foley said:
“I am very pleased to make an early announcement of the 2023 summer programme which will allow schools the certainty they require to let them to undertake the necessary planning needed to operate the programme in their school next year.
“I have visited numerous schools and seen first-hand the positive benefits and creative, innovative supports that the summer programme brings to a wide range of students with additional needs or those at risk of disadvantage.
“The department’s ongoing review will ensure that the programme continues to improve, evolve and expand while ensuring that as many children as possible avail of the programme next summer.”
Minister Madigan said:
“One area that has been of particular focus for me as Minister for Special Education and Inclusion is that of a comprehensive summer programme. I have had the pleasure of visiting many of these summer programmes and have seen first-hand the immeasurable difference this programme makes to children with special educational needs and those experiencing educational disadvantage.
“I oversaw an expanded summer programme in 2020 and introduced the first-ever inclusion summer programme in 2021 which has meant that all schools, could for the first time, offer a summer programme in primary, post-primary and special schools. That programme has gone from strength to strength, with 2022 seeing more schools and more students participate than ever before.
“I am aware, however, that parents want this to be available in more schools in 2023 so I am very pleased to be able to announce the funding for a summer programme for 2023 at the earliest possible opportunity. This will allow schools the certainty they require to let them plan for a summer programme in their school next year. In recent years the department has made a range of additional resources and supports available to schools to encourage participation in this essential programme and I hope this announcement today means that schools will commit to running a programme next year.
“The department is also currently undertaking a review of the programme with a view to improving it for next year and with a committed focus on increasing the number of schools participating, particularly special schools and examining the resources being supplied under the programme.”