CORK TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has described the failure of the Minister for Education to bring teachers and SNA's onboard to deliver a return to special education on Thursday as 'profound'.
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education expressed his disappointment with the failure of the government.
“It appears that, yet again, the government's plans for schools and crucially for special education has collapsed,” he said.
"The government's entire approach to this has been characterised by chaos, miscommunication, a failure to properly engage, and most of all a failure to plan and to prepare. Twice in as many weeks, a mess has been made of this. It is utterly unacceptable."
The Cork South-Central TD bemoaned the fact that staff, parents, and children will all lose out following the decision to postpone plans to re-open special education tomorrow.
“There were no contingency plans, yet there were announcements and self-congratulations ahead of actually getting an agreement with workers," he said. "It is truly a mess. Staff, parents, and children lose out here. They face uncertainty and are justifiably angry at the handling of this.
"In particular children with special educational needs are the cohort of students that missed out the most when schools closed last year.
"They will be the ones who will suffer most again, through no fault of their own."
Mr Ó Laoghaire was speaking in the aftermath of the Government making the decision to postpone the phased return for children with special educational needs to in-school learning on Thursday.
Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan confirmed that the reopening of the schools "will not be possible owing to a lack of co-operation by key staff unions in the primary sector".
It comes following a meeting between the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation's (INTO) Central Executive Committee (CEC), and the Fórsa Education Executive on Tuesday evening to determine how best to ensure the safety of everyone in the school community in returning to school.
Following the meeting, both unions called on the Government to postpone the resumption of school-based special education needs (SEN) services.
In a statement, Minister Foley said it is "hugely important to provide in-person learning to this vulnerable cohort of children" and that she regrets that this has not been possible.
“The needs of this group of students are such that no-one should be in any doubt of the importance of this goal, and its urgency. We all understand how vulnerable these children are, and how much they need to be in school.
“We have provided guidance and flexibility in relation to staff members who are at high risk of Covid-19, to ensure their safety. We have put in place flexibility for schools to manage this situation and return to in-person learning over the coming days, to organise and manage their staffing in this context.
Minister Foley said that the Government "will now need to consider how best to proceed in the interests of children and their families".
"The needs of our most vulnerable young people are at stake here, and I will continue to pursue every avenue to ensure that they can be restored to the in-person learning that they need as immediately as possible," she added.
Both the INTO and the Fórsa Education Executive are due to hold specially convened meetings this afternoon. They are expected to respond to the sharp criticism from the Minister for Education.