Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Education and Skills
English Language Training Organisations
191. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the method by which teachers and students are being consulted on plans to reopen English language schools; his views on whether they should be consulted with regarding plans for reopening; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10650/20]
I am aware of the challenges that are being encountered in the English language education sector and the substantial impact that the Covid-19 outbreak has had on students, teachers and providers in this sector.
The timeline and arrangements for the safe re-opening of English language education providers will be guided by public health advice applicable at a given time. The roadmap for the gradual lifting of the current Covid-19 restrictions has set 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.
While my Department will not be issuing guidelines specifically for the re-opening of the English language education sector, guidance to assist the tertiary education sector more generally in planning for reopening is being prepared at present and will be available shortly. 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, supplemented by any guidance issued by the Department for the tertiary sector. The protocol envisions close engagement between staff and their employers during the planning, development and implementation of these new workplace measures. The experience of the re-opening of educational facilities in other areas and jurisdictions will also be relevant.
My Department is also engaging with learner advocates as part of efforts to address student issues in this sector. This engagement will continue and my Department will keep the advocates informed of developments for the planned reopening of this sector.