Segregating children with special needs not good

Ministers Foley & Madigan risk health and education with their proposal to segregate children with special educational needs:

Dr. Fidelma Healy Eames

Jan 18th, 2021

‘I am dismayed at the risks to which Ministers Foley and Madigan are prepared to expose children with special education needs (SEN), teachers, special needs’ assistants and ancillary staff by insisting on a return to school from Thursday while community transmission of the Covid19 virus remains so high’.

Listening to Dr. Ronan Glynn today on the Department of Education webinar with over 5000 teachers, he said ‘schools are threatened with the current high levels of community transmission’. His colleague Dr. Abby Collins, referring to the virus said, ‘what happens in the community, it follows in the school environment’. They also confirmed that there has been a higher incidence of cases among children with SEN.

Yet,  our Ministers are prepared to take these risks for the sake of 7 school days over and above the expected school return date of Feb 1st. It makes no sense to take these health risks. Special Education teachers are teaching the children with SEN remotely at present, and safely, in partnership with their parents. What is wrong with letting the case numbers come down for the sake of the whole school community and allowing whole schools to return on Feb 1st as planned. The Ministers appear to have forgotten about the importance of a ‘whole school approach’ which incidentally is Department of Education policy.

Neither are the Ministers thinking of the damage segregating children with special educational needs from their mainstream peers will cause. Research confirms that fundamental to being a learner is how you view yourself as a learner. Singling out children will reinforce difference and damage their self-esteem which could be detrimental to their education in the long-run. Both Ministers appear to be unaware that Department of Education policy is ‘Inclusion’ of children with Special educational needs in mainstream and the life of the school, not segregating them.

As educators we are committed to Inclusion in practice, not segregation’.

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