Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Ministerial Communications

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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244. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the details of his engagements to date with the British, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland education ministers since the Covid-19 crisis commenced. [6217/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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On 10th April 2020, I spoke with Secretary of State Gavin Williamson to explain the implications of the postponement of the Leaving Certificate and its implications for those Irish students, who applied to UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).  This conversation was followed up with a letter. I hope to talk again with the Secretray of State in the next few days. 

On the same day, I also wrote to NI Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds (with responsibility for higher education) and Minister for Education Peter Weir advising them of the Irish Government’s decision at that point.

Information continues to be shared on a frequent basis between officials in my Department and their counterparts across the UK (including Northern Ireland) on issues such as safe re-opening of schools, schools hygiene, maintaining social distance in education institutions and admissions to HEIs in the UK.

Contacts at official level are ongoing between my Department and UCAS and engagement with higher education institutions in the UK is also underway to facilitate transition to study there for Irish students in as much as is possible in the circumstances. 

It is also important to set these contacts within a wider context.  Last Monday, I participated in a video conference with my fellow EU Ministers for Education on the impact of Covid 19 throughout all Members States' education systems.  These discussions were well aligned with the engagements I have had with the UK - namely, the reopening of education and training settings, and encouraging flexibility in the higher education system in terms of registration and admission of school leavers and possible delays in the publication of their school terminal examinations results.   I was encouraged that all Ministers emphasised the need for flexibility and were advocating for solutions to be found that are in the best interests of our students.

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