Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Legislative Measures

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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206. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether legislation is required to maintain a minimum level of education to children in view of the ongoing closure of schools and likely phased reopening of schools in September 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5947/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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Since the announcement that schools would close, and the subsequent extension of that closure, my Department has made it clear that teachers and other staff in the education sector would continue to work and to engage with their students. My Department has written to school management and asked schools to put in place arrangements to continue the delivery of education to students. 

Guidance on the continuity of schooling for primary and post-primary schools issued on Thursday 2nd April. Further guidance issued on April 22ndwith a particular focus on supporting students with special educational needs and students at risk of educational disadvantage. All guidance documents are available on my Department's website.

The guidance documents set out strategies for schools to use in engaging with pupils and ensuring that there is continuity of learning for all learners. The role of Tusla Education Support Services (TESS) is highlighted.

Decisions on the re-opening schools will be guided by the public health advice applicable at a given time.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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207. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the legislation which may be required for the education sector in order to complete that part of the Roadmap for Re-opening Society and Business, published on 3 May 2020. [5948/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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The Roadmap for Re-opening Society and Business sets out how Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted. In Phase 1 of the Roadmap, which commenced on 18 May, teachers are allowed access to school buildings for the purpose of organising and distributing remote learning. This access will continue in Phase 2 of the Roadmap.

Phase 5 of the Roadmap, scheduled to commence on 10 August, provides for the phased re-opening of educational institutions including schools, third level institutions and adult education centres for the beginning of the new academic year. Decisions on the re-opening educational institutions will be guided by the public health advice applicable at that time and will have regard to the National Return to Work Protocol also.

My Department has commenced engagements with relevant stakeholders to assist with the development of contingency plans that may be necessary for the operation of schools in an environment that may require social distancing, hand washing arrangements and other measures. This work will be informed also by experience from other jurisdictions.

I attended the meeting of EU education Ministers on May 18th where the approaches being taken in Member States was discussed and I will continue to engage at this level so that experiences in other countries can inform our approach.

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