Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD have today (Thursday 16 September) launched guidelines on the use of reduced school days.
These guidelines aim to ensure that the use of reduced school days is limited solely to those circumstances where it is absolutely necessary.
They have been developed following consultation with the relevant education partners. The guidelines give direction to school authorities on the process to be followed where the use of reduced school days is under consideration for a pupil.
The guidelines are underpinned by the following principles: • the use of reduced school days are limited to only those circumstances where it is absolutely necessary • the consent of the parent/guardian (or in the case of a student who has reached 18 years of age, the student) is required prior to implementation of a reduced day • a reduced school day should last only as long as is necessary to facilitate a return to school on a full-time basis.
From January 2022, schools will be required to notify Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) when a reduced school day is being put in place The guidelines will be applicable from January 2022. All schools are now required to review arrangements currently in place and in particular to review the circumstances for any pupils currently on reduced school days, and plan to ensure that the school authorities are in a position to comply with the terms of the guidelines with effect from January 1 2022. This will give schools time to adapt and plan to meet the needs of pupils.
Schools must, prior to consideration of a reduced school day, have previously engaged with the relevant support services and professionals, including the local special educational needs organiser (SENO) where appropriate, and have developed and implemented a student support plan for an appropriate period of time, so that a reduced day is only used where considered absolutely necessary. Where a reduced school day is used, schools will also have a rationale for the use of the measure and must also set out a plan for the child’s full re-integration to a full school day.
From January 2022, TESS will record and monitor the use of reduced school days and subsequently provide reports to the Department. Information gathered will inform future policy development in this area. The guidelines will be subject to review.
Where parents have concerns about the use of reduced school days for their child they can contact Tusla Education Support Service for advice.
The Department of Education will continue to work closely with schools, TESS and the National Council for Special Education to ensure that schools are supported to meet the needs of all learners and that reduced school days are only used as an exceptional measure, and for only time-limited periods.
Minister Foley said:
“These guidelines on reduced school days are an important step in supporting schools, parents and students to ensure reduced school days are used as intended, as an exceptional measure, in exceptional circumstances, and that the focus is always on return to full time schooling as quickly as possible. It will ensure the use of reduced schooldays is reported, and that in the rare circumstances where they are used, schools follow best practice with the interests of the learner to the fore.
“The guidelines have been developed collaboratively with education stakeholders, Tulsa Education Support Service, the National Council for Special Education and my Department. I would like to thank everyone who have contributed to their development and acknowledge the continued work, together with the key role played by our schools, in supporting vulnerable learners and those with high levels of need on their education pathway.
“The Programme for Government committed to ensuring robust data collection in the use of reduced school days and to ensure that they are only used in a limited manner, where absolutely necessary. These guidelines will provide for the achievement of that commitment and are another step providing an education system where every child and young person feels valued and is actively supported and nurtured to reach their potential.”
Minister Madigan said:
“The Government is committed to inclusion in and access to education for all learners and it is essential that all learners are welcomed and treated fairly.
“These guidelines will ensure that in the most exceptional circumstances, schools and parents are guided to ensure that inclusion and fairness will be at the centre of decision making and planning for those learners with the highest levels of need.
“Supporting vulnerable learners and those with high levels of need must be at the heart of what we achieve through education. Funding of €2 billion has been secured for the special education budget this year to make additional provision for children with special educational needs, meaning the numbers of special classes, special education teachers and special needs assistants are now at unprecedented levels.
“A record 2,118 special class opened their doors as schools reopened this September and an additional 990 SNAs are being added. The Department will also spend in the region of €150 million on supports for schools in the DEIS programme, aimed at providing learners at risk of educational disadvantage with an equal opportunity to reach their potential.
“The publication today of the guidelines today is another step in supporting our schools to be welcoming places for learners of all abilities and needs, to provide each with the opportunity to learn from others and reach their full potential alongside their peers.”
Information for schools on the Guidelines on Reduced School Days can be found here