The Government has rejected the statement by the new Special Needs Action Group (SNAG) which questioned the reference in the Minister for Education’s Budget Speech to relations with St Martin’s School Parents’ Association being closer than ever.
The representatives of the St Martin’s parents, as well as of the Little Smiles Charity, met with the Minister on an almost weekly basis during the last lockdown. Meetings have continue since then, totalling eight meetings over the last few months with another one today. This is in addition to meetings with the Chief Minister and the Minister for Health. In addition the Minister for Education has held numerous internal meetings, including visiting both the old and the new school, and has worked incessantly to improve provision.
In addition there has been regular communication between the Association and the Department of Education.
During lockdown the meetings centred on offering children and families options and support while the schools were closed. This was done successfully. Since then there has been discussion on ways to improve multi-agency co-operation and on how to better cater for children beyond school leaving age. A great deal of progress is being made and detailed announcements will be made soon.
With regards to the new St Martin’s, this has been carefully designed with the input of professionals including teachers and therapists, and the process included a visit to a special school in UK. The plans were signed off by the Head Teacher who, as is well known, always has the best interests of the pupils as the main consideration.
On the particular point of allocation of new pupils, this is proceeding in the normal way and places will be communicated as soon as the process is complete.
Minister for Education John Cortes said: “It really is disappointing when I have spent many hours working with parents and professionals to be accused of deliberately misleading Parliament, something that I would never do. It may be that SNAG, being a new group, is not aware of all the work that is being done. I have reached out to them and reassured them. It is a matter for them, but I urge them to co-ordinate their efforts and work together with the Parents’ Association in order to avoid mixed messages. This can only benefit the children who we look after.”