Thursday, 25 February 2021
Department of Education and Skills
211. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the return of third level students to campuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10704/21]
As was announced on 23rd February, the Government has agreed that Level 5 as set out in the Plan for Living with COVID-19 will remain in place until midnight on 5 April 2021. Level 5 measures designate higher and further education as essential insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely. On 6th January I confirmed that further and higher education will continue to operate primarily online with most activities delivered remotely. This will likely continue for the remainder of the 2020/2021 academic year but this remains subject to the overall public health situation and advice.
As with the previous operation of Level 5 restrictions up to early December, there are some priority activities which can continue onsite subject to the appropriate protective measures, guidelines and local assessment such as practical tuition, workshops and skills-based learning (including in relation to apprenticeships) and engagement with vulnerable learners. Institutions will use their existing discretion, taking account of the public health situation nationally and locally, to restrict onsite attendance further, only allowing the most essential work to take place onsite. Local assessment will focus on activities that are not capable of being delivered through alternative means, and are time-critical for students and learners during this period. Reflecting the scale and diversity of third-level provision, further and higher education institutions are best equipped to determine where onsite presence is required.