Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Department of Education and Skills
135. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the timeframe for the reopening of English language schools; the supports his Department can provide to the sector in view of the impact of Covid-19 on it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9927/20]
My Department is conscious of the issues in the English language education sector arising from the Covid-19 outbreak and has established a specific Working Group for this sector. This group is comprised of representatives of relevant Government Departments and representatives of both students and English language education providers.
As part of the wider Covid-19 response, the Government has introduced a number of measures to support businesses at this time. These measures include a temporary wages subsidy scheme to facilitate employers to keep employees on the payroll throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in order to retain this link for when business increases after the crisis. This scheme is administered by the Revenue Commissioners and is available to providers in the English language education sector. Additionally for those staff in this sector who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, they are eligible to apply for the Government’s Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
In addition to the above, providers in this sector will be eligible to apply, where appropriate, for further Covid-19 business supports made available by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland and through its network of Local Enterprise Offices.
In respect of the safe re-opening of English language education providers, the timeline and arrangements for this will be guided by public health advice applicable at a given time. On May 1st, the Taoiseach announced the roadmap for the gradual lifting of the current Covid-19 restrictions. This roadmap sets out a number of phases with the re-opening of the wider education system contained in the later phases to coincide broadly with the beginning of the new academic year.
My Department will engage with provider representatives within the English language education sector as they develop more detailed plans for the re-opening of their premises on this basis. It is to be expected that ensuring the health and safety of staff and students will be central to the provider's plans and that necessary consultations will be undertaken as part of their development. It is anticipated that the "Return to Work Safely Protocol" recently published jointly by the Department of Health and the Department of Enterprise, Business & Innovation, and designed to support measures being put in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace will be used to inform these plans.
Experience of the re-opening of educational facilities in other areas and jurisdictions will also be relevant.