Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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289. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding flexibility in application of regulation (details supplied) in the context of the practical difficulties and challenges posed to the education system by the current pandemic; the level of engagement he has undertaken with an organisation in consideration of a request made by same; his views on whether the cycle of transition caused by the continuous turnover of directors in centres potentially delimits the capacity for leadership across the network; and his views on whether the shortened tenure increases the likelihood that the role may be viewed as untenable and undesirable by future prospective candidates. [11516/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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Education Centres are statutory bodies recognised under Section 37 of the Education Act (1998) and are managed by local voluntary Management Committees which are elected annually.

My Department arranges for the secondment of teachers from their teaching posts for the purpose of developing and providing CPD for teachers and for the appointment as Directors of Education Support Centres (ESC's). While on secondment, teachers retain their school post, the terms and conditions that apply to teachers and receive their salary and a secondment allowance which are met in full by my Department.  

Section 37(6) of the Act makes provision to make regulations relating to a number of matters in Education Centre's such as the appointment of management committees, funding, staffing, provision of information to the Department & other operational matters.

In September 2017, Regulation 394 for the appointment and secondment of directors of Education Centres was introduced.

The regulations make provision for an annual Ministerial approval of the secondment of teachers to the role of Director of an Education Centre, subject to a maximum of 5 years on secondment whether those years were as a Director or otherwise. The Regulations provide a legal basis which offers clarity and certainty in the application of public policy and as I'm sure you can appreciate, there is no discretion in their application which would allow for a derogation beyond the 5 year limit set out in the Regulations.

The timeframes outlined in the Regulations are important and are designed to ensure there is sufficient time for Management Committees to run competitions where necessary, and for school boards of management to release teachers and appoint replacements.  The overall aim is to ensure that new Directors and their replacement teachers are in place in good time for the start of the following school year.

Regular turnover of seconded teachers is now an established practice with teachers returning to enrich their schools so the investment in their skills is not lost.  Since 2017, 16 Education Centres have successfully recruited new Directors and the work of the Centres has not been negatively affected with each Centre confirming to my Department that the Director has performed satisfactorily.

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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291. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration of the mental health of primary school children was taken into account during the decision making of the timeline for reopening of schools. [11535/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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The well-being and mental health of our school communities is a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to ensure a successful return to school as we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is crucial that we support the well-being of our students and school management and staff in order to support successful re-engagement with teaching and learning. 

Guidance will issue to schools on logistical, curricular arrangements and well-being supports to be put in place to facilitate the phased re-opening of schools. All decisions taken in relation to re-opening schools are based on public health advice.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department is leading on supporting the well-being of schools communities. The response to support the well-being of all within school communities on the return to school requires a structured, psychosocial response which is compassionate and largely preventative and proactive.  This requires a whole-school team approach to planning in order to ensure that staff, students and parents feel safe and secure.  This response will be aligned with the HSE guidance on such responses, and based on the five key principles of promoting a sense of safety, calm, connectedness, self- and community-efficacy and hope.  My Department will work in partnership with the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to ensure that the well-being needs of all members of the school community are met.


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