Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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222. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a standardised online learning platform and supports for families that are home schooling their children in the event that primary schools do not fully open in September 2020 or are forced to close again if a second wave of Covid-19 occurs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10819/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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There are no plans to introduce a standardised online learning platform of the nature described by the Deputy.  Schools are best placed to determine how best to support 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.

During the school closures teachers were provided with guidance to ensure hat they continued to work and engage with their pupils to ensure the continuity of schooling in the home environment. 

The nature of distance learning, which was necessitated during the current pandemic, has required schools to take on a range of approaches to support their pupils continuity of learning. Assisted by Department funded resources and supports, schools and teachers have demonstrated great innovation in adapting to the new situation including the use of digital technologies and online learning platforms for teaching and learning.  Schools have been asked to be conscious of pupils who may not have access to online facilities or where digital approaches may not be appropriate and to consider this actively in their approaches to provision of remote learning.

My Department published a series of Continuity of Learning Guidance documents to support continuity in students’ learning. Those Guidance documents, together with other advice and the details of supports provided by the Department and its support services/agencies are available at www.education.ie/covid19#guidance. Guidance has also issued to parents/guardians of primary school children and is available at this same link in 12 languages.

This guidance has been developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders – including teachers, parents and learners. There is also ongoing consultation with the management bodies and unions from both sectors on all matters relating to Covid 19, which is an evolving situation.  The current pandemicwill have implications for the operation of the forthcoming school year and which will likely include blended learning approaches. My Department will be providing further supports and guidance to schools to cater for this evolving situation.

On a general note and as part of the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Enhancing Teaching Learning and Assessment, some €160m of funding has issued to date to schools for ICT Infrastructure. This includes €40m recently issuing in the form of a grant payment to all eligible schools and a further €10m top-up funding issued to schools to enable them to specifically support any of their students experiencing difficulty in engaging with remote learning.  In the context of the current public health crisis the funding can be focussed on assisting schools to address ICT needs including the purchases of digital devices, software, essential learning platforms and other ICT solutions as determined by the needs of the individual school.


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