Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

School Admissions

4:30 pm

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I reiterate to the House the Government's commitment to welcome people fleeing the war in Ukraine and seeking protection in Ireland. That welcome is extended across society. The Department's primary concern is to ensure children and young people of schoolgoing age from Ukraine are provided with appropriate educational opportunities. I acknowledge, as I did at the outset, the tremendous work that our students, school leaders and staff are doing and continue to do in welcoming Ukrainian children and young people into our schools over the past three months. I acknowledge the professionalism and care and welcome that they give to Ukrainian families every day. Specifically, as I have outlined, a suite of resources is being made available to schools and being drawn down by them. I have seen that first-hand, whether that includes English as an additional language or additional teaching hours and additional teaching posts as required, depending on the numbers that arrive to our schools. That has been acknowledged.

We are currently seeking to roll out the English for speakers of other languages, ESOL, project, which is where we are putting in place additional language tutors for those who do not have English as a first language. That resource will be available to post-primary students and adults. A community and family approach is being taken to accessing language. Regarding planning for the new school year, all the requirements that schools currently have for additional staffing and resources are being provided for. The Deputy will appreciate that it is a fluid situation. Families continue to arrive at different times and they will continue to arrive over the summer. Whatever resources are required in September will also be put in place. The Deputy referred to counselling and NEPS facilities. NEPS psychologists are on the ground working with schools. All resources required to ensure that children and young people are adequately, suitably and appropriately catered for in schools are being put in place. That supplements the excellent work taking place in school communities.

I have visited many counties and there has been positive feedback on REALT. Schools are not required to take students if they do not have capacity. It is REALT's function to find appropriate accommodation in appropriate schools where there is capacity or to make alternative arrangements. As I said earlier, we know that we have great capacity in some areas and less in others. We are working closely with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to ensure that, if at all possible, accommodation matches capacity in our schools. I appreciate it can be difficult to do that.


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