Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
265. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that provision will be made for children with underlying health issues such as asthma (details supplied) when schools reopen in the autumn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11205/20]
On Friday my Department published the report to Government “Planning for reopening schools in line with the Roadmap for reopening society and business” .
The report sets out the clear ambition to develop a sustainable plan to fully reopen schools at the start of the next school year in late August/September in line with normal timeframes.
The report also sets out in brief the contingencies that must be considered during the coming period in the context of Covid-19. A key component to reopening schools safely is the development of guidance in relation to infection prevention and control in schools.
These contingencies and guidance will be worked through in detail in the coming weeks with education partners and stakeholders to ensure that the return to school is safe for children and staff.
266. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps being taken to refund school transport charges to parents for the part of the school year lost due to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11207/20]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.
In the current school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, are transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.
Last autumn I announced a review of the School Transport Scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way to meet the objectives of the scheme. The terms of reference and scope of the review have been finalised and a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department established.
The purpose of the Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.
The decision taken by the Government to close schools with effect from 13th March 2020 was taken in the interest of protecting our pupils, their families, teachers and those members of the wider community and is one of the many measures taken to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Given that the school transport services have not been available to children from 13th March, it was recently decided that at the end of the current school year a refund for that period of closure will be issued to parents. The Department is currently engaging with Bus Éireann in considering how best to facilitate these refunds.