For Written Answer on : 12/12/2023
Question Number(s): 301 Question Reference(s): 54559/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 153 of 25 May 2023, her plans, if any, to evaluate the summer programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Details of the 2023 Summer Programme were announced by the Department in February 2023. All schools were given an opportunity to run a programme for those children that needed it the most.
The main priority in 2023 had been that those children with the most complex special educational needs, especially in special schools, should have access to a school-based summer programme. The preferred approach is that the Summer Programme is provided for children in school settings where children may have access to fully qualified teachers, adapted fun based activity programmes, special needs assistants and interaction with student peers. The school-based programmes also provide a more holistic experience for students and helps to retain the important connection with school and peers. However, the Department does recognise that not all schools would have been in a position to provide a school-based programme. In such instances, a home-based Programme was available for students with complex special educational needs where the school-based programme is unavailable.
The terms for the 2023 programme were implemented following a comprehensive review and engagement with education partners and stakeholders, including the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Autism. My Department has listened to the feedback and designed the programme to encourage even more participation by schools and staff. Also key to understanding the requirements for the summer programme was the Inspectorate’s report of the 2022 programme, which was published in March 2023. This report looked at the impact of the summer programme on children, parents and schools and assisted in the further development of the programme. A further report based on the 2023 summer programme is due to be published very shortly and this will also inform how we structure our programme for 2024 to ensure it is as effective as possible.
Preparations for the 2024 Summer Programme are presently under way. The Department aims to build further on all that has achieved in the Summer Programme as a whole so far to have the best possible programme available. In particular, it will be a priority of the 2024 Summer Programme that, where a school-based programme is unavailable, children will instead be able to access the summer programme in a private group provider setting. To this end, the Department will be working with a number of organisations and private group providers in the coming months.