Teacher support needed for summer provision

Following the launch of the Report on Summer Programme 2023, published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Autism today, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is calling on Minister Josepha Madigan to immediately clarify what specific additional resources will be put in place for the 2023 Summer programme. We are calling on the Minister to convene a meeting with the INTO to discuss the improvements that will be necessary for another successful summer programme.

Last summer, over 45,000 pupils participated in the programme, with over 1,000 schools running an onsite programme. This was an increase of approximately 18% on the previous year. The number of schools in the primary inclusion programme increased by 23% and the number of schools in the special class and special school programmes and DEIS summer camps also increased.

The nature of the summer programme has always been voluntary for schools and the statistics from the programme in 2022 show yet another increase in the number of schools and programmes delivered.

This expansion is testament to the dedication of teachers and SNAs who have made themselves available during their summer holidays and clearly demonstrates the need to keep participation in the programme voluntary, while adding a much-needed resource package and providing early clarity on further improvements to the programme.

This union believes that there is an urgent need for the Department of Education to establish regional teams to co-ordinate the programme and to take responsibility for organisational matters on the ground.

The INTO is firmly of the view that any further annual expansion of the programme will depend heavily on the provision of resources, incentives and training for those who volunteer to work on the programme including teachers, special needs assistants and health professionals.

As a union, we have worked with the Department of Education for a number of years to improve the summer programme.

We have secured practical solutions to bolster participation, which include:

  • A recognition from the Department of Education of the need to pay teachers and SNAs who take part in the programme promptly.
  • The provision of summer programme co-ordinators to reduce the administrative burden associated with delivering such programmes.
  • Securing increased funding for the programme.
  • Negotiation of a flexible timeframe in which schools could provide summer programmes.

However, additional supports are still required including clear guidelines on behaviours of concern, swift processing of vetting where required, the restoration of posts of responsibility and special education allowances abolished during the austerity period, and the recognition of all staff in the calculation of allowances for school leaders.

We will study the recommendations set out by the Committee on Autism today and intend to further engage with the committee in the coming months. A link to the report is available here.

Speaking after the launch of the report by the Cathaoirleach Senator Micheál Carrigy, INTO General Secretary John Boyle called for additional resources to be provided to primary and special schools to ensure delivery of a comprehensive summer programme next year:

Unfair criticism directed at principal teachers of special and inclusive schools on the national airwaves only serves to undermine the excellent work done by school leaders to deliver an increased level of summer programmes. It also fundamentally misses the point – teachers’ commitment is resolute but resources must follow.

“The government has abdicated responsibility for providing vital support and care services to the families of children with additional needs. Schools cannot be expected to make up for these shortfalls through a voluntary summer programme.

“While our members have continuously demonstrated their unstinting commitment to inclusive education, they cannot be left to carry the can for a state that has repeatedly failed to adequately cater for the needs of its most vulnerable children. If government wants to improve the roll out of this scheme, it must guarantee the delivery of the critical supports and resources that we have long called for.”