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'My son is missing out on his education, I want this sorted'

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Fiona Sharkey Carroll’s son Sean has special needs and wants his school to reopen. Fiona and Sean are pictured with dad Peter and sister Aoibhínn.

Fiona Sharkey Carroll’s son Sean has special needs and wants his school to reopen. Fiona and Sean are pictured with dad Peter and sister Aoibhínn.

Fiona Sharkey Carroll’s son Sean has special needs and wants his school to reopen. Fiona and Sean are pictured with dad Peter and sister Aoibhínn.

Fiona Sharkey Carroll says her 16-year-old son Seán has his temperature taken twice before he even enters the classroom, PPE is used and it is a "well-run school".

With that in mind, she is desperate for him to get back as she says there are already signs he is starting to regress.

Seán has Down Syndrome, autism and has sight only in one eye.

Like other students around the country, he had no school from March because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Settled

When St Mary's Special School in Drumcar, Co Louth, did resume in September, Sharkey Carroll said "it took two months for him to get settled".

Her message to the education minister and the unions is: "I would like this to be sorted out quickly. Seán is missing out on his education and his need to progress.

"Children with special needs should be able to progress, but instead what happens is they are regressing."

Parent Jacinta Walsh, who is on the board of Abacus Special School in Drogheda, which has 30 pupils, said "it is really disappointing" that a solution has not been found to allow special education to reopen.

She said a scenario should have been thrashed out with the unions in the autumn "when there was time to work out that if the numbers peaked over Christmas - as was very likely - and the schools could not go back, could we have a phased reopening?"

"Lessons were not learned from the first lockdown or July provision," she said.

"It is a complex issue and the options should have been worked through when there was time in the autumn."

Ms Walsh said principals and school management had spent days "working out complicated rotas, talking to bus people, trying to see what staff were available".

For parents, a lot of the stress is the changing situation.

"We are all getting our information from the news and from Twitter, which is not good, and parents are trying to make plans for their children," Ms Walsh said.

The important thing "is to preserve what is in general the very good relationships between families and their own individual schools".

"It would be terrible if those individual relationships were impacted by what has gone on," she added.


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