Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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196. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the expected long-term impact of school closures in the upcoming school years including new entrants to primary school, secondary school and to senior cycles and students in year one of the senior cycle; if this issue is being examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5858/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department is taking a number of actions to minimise the impact on schools due to the Covid 19 crisis.

A range of guidance has already been published to assist schools and teachers to ensure continuity of learning to support students while out of school. This guidance has issued to schools to support the continuity of teaching and learning, to support those with special educational needs, to support those at risk of educational disadvantage and to support the wellbeing of students. Further guidance is being developed to support students at each of the key stages of transitions.

This guidance has been developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders – including teachers, parents and learners. There is also ongoing consultation with the management bodies and unions from both sectors on all matters relating to Covid 19, which will continue for the foreseeable future.

Schools have adopted various ways to engage with their students and these will vary in accordance with the technology and broadband resources available in school and at the home. Schools are engaging with students and parents using various means such as by post, e-mails, communication apps or the school website. Where technology permits, students may have regular engagement with their teacher/s on platforms such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Office 365 and Edmodo or participate in live meetings through the use of tools such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Webex.  Schools have been asked to be conscious of pupils who may not have access to online facilities and to adapt approaches so that these pupils continue to have the opportunity to participate in learning. The aim of these distant learning approaches is to ensure that children stay connected with learning to facilitate progression to the next level of their education.

A group has also been established within my Department to look at the reopening of schools in the Autumn. This involves two strands:

- the logistics of reopening; health and safety; hygiene; social distancing, etc. and

- curriculum considerations, i.e. what needs to be put in place to support ongoing progression for learners and addressing any shortfall that may result from school closures.

- The development of guidance on reopening of schools will be informed by this group and by learning from other jurisdictions who are further down the road of reopening their society, including their school systems.

- My department is continuing to review and monitor the situation in accordance with the advice from public health authorities.

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