Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin Bay North, Fianna Fail)
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220. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if teachers in primary schools will be encouraged to teach live online or by the use of recorded lessons while schools are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10811/20]

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.

Following the school closures in March 2020 my department developed and published a series of guidance to ensure continuity of learning for students while out of school. This guidance includes guidance to primary and post-primary 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. Guidance has also issued to support parents at this time. The latest guidance issued deals with the continuity of schooling in primary schools and separate guidance on Sixth Class Transitions during COVID-19 School Closures. The documents were developed in consultation with the education partners and were informed by Departmental engagement with schools through its Inspectorate and surveys of parents of primary and post-primary students conducted in collaboration with the National Parents’ Council – Primary (NPC-P).

Consultation is ongoing with the management bodies and unions from both sectors on all matters relating to Covid 19,including work now underway to develop guidance and advise on the reopening of schools in the context of the overall Roadmap for reopening society.

Schools have been very innovative and have adopted various ways to engage with their students to ensure continuity of learning. These methods 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 and is the appropriate medium for the student cohort, 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 age of the children also factors in the methods of engagement used by schools. 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.

Schools are best placed to determine the most appropriate solution to adopt in terms of supporting the learning needs of their students based on their own context and circumstances. Central to this is the role of the teacher in ensuring that continuity of engagement, regardless of the mechanisms chosen for that purpose and support of school management in addressing issues around engagement and participation of students. My Department will continue to support schools with relevant guidance as required and continue its engagement with the school sector to inform that guidance.

The recent allocation of additional funding for ICT can be considered in supporting the equality of digital access. The relevant circulars are available at Circular 0031 2020 (ICT Grant) and Circular 0032/2020 (ICT Top-Up Grant). To support the continued use of technology, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) has produced an overview video of the range of resources available on their website.

My Department is continuing to review and monitor the situation in accordance with the advice from the HSE and National Public Health Emergency Team.


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