Tuesday, 7 July 2020
Department of Education and Skills
453. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her views on the issues facing the language school sector in view of the fact that 70% of its revenue is generated during their peak season from March to September but the schools have remained closed during this time; the supports which will be put in place to assist English language teaching organisations with these issues; and when these schools can reopen in view of the fact that they have not been included in the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. [14345/20]
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 its students, teachers and providers.
As part of the response to the pandemic, my Department established a specific Working Group for this sector. This group is comprised of representatives of relevant Government Departments and representatives of both students and English language education providers.
As part of this process, the representative bodies for English language education providers have engaged with the Working Group surrounding the loss of revenue experienced by their members and their proposals for supports to aid the recovery of this sector. In this forum, the providers have been advised of the measures introduced by Government, as part of the wider Covid-19 response, to support businesses at this time. These measures include the temporary wages subsidy scheme to facilitate employers to keep employees on the payroll throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in order to retain this link for when business increases after the crisis. This scheme is administered by the Revenue Commissioners and is available to providers in the English language education sector. Additionally for those staff in this sector who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, they are eligible to apply for the Government’s Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
Further to the above, the provider representatives have been advised of the eligibility of businesses in this sector to apply, where appropriate, for further business supports made available by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland and through its network of Local Enterprise Offices. A full list of these supports and related information is available for providers here: .
The timeline and arrangements for the safe re-opening of English language education providers is guided by public health advice and by the Government's Roadmap for the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Following its re-phasing, the re-opening of all adult education facilities is now part of Phase 3 of the Roadmap, which has allowed these facilities to re-open from June 29.
While guidelines specifically for the re-opening of the English language education sector will not be issued, guidance to assist the tertiary education sector more generally in planning for reopening is being prepared at present and will be available shortly. Further engagement will be undertaken with the provider representative bodies within the English language education sector in relation to their detailed plans for the wider re-opening of their premises and as they seek to provide greater clarity for their member providers. 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 are undertaken as part of their development and implementation. 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 inform these plans, supplemented by any guidance issued for the tertiary education sector when available. This 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 shared as part of this process.