Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Department of Education and Skills
364. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will ensure that flexibility is added to the Covid learning and support scheme to address gaps in wrap-around supports for children with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44597/21]
I wish to advise the Deputy that a COVID Learning and Support Scheme (CLASS) has been put in place to help schools mitigate the adverse impacts of Covid-19 on pupil/student learning loss and wellbeing arising from the periods of school closures in 2020 and 2021.
Under the programme, a block of additional teaching hours is being provided to each recognised school, from which schools can provide additional teaching support for the pupils/students who have experienced difficulties in settling back into school and engaging with learning.
The extra teaching hours which are being provided are additional to 13,600 special education teachers who support the additional learning needs of pupils in mainstream primary and post primary schools.
They are also additional to:
- A supplementary education programme which provided additional teaching hours for pupils/students with SEN during the period of school closures in 2021 in which over 14,000 pupils/students participated
- The roll-out of a significantly enhanced Summer Programme for summer 2020 and 2021.
- The early provision of Information Communication Technology (ICT) funding to schools, to support the provision of devices to students and families, where needed.
Under the Covid Learning and Support programme, provision is being made for up to €52 Million in extra teaching hours for schools.
This is in addition to the €40 Million already allocated for this year’s enhanced summer education programme. €10 Million has also been spent this year on the Supplementary Education scheme, which provided extra teaching support for pupils with complex special educational needs.
When combined with the additional provision now being made for the COVID Learning and Support Scheme (CLASS), this will bring the total package of support for enhanced educational programmes this year to €102.6 Million.
The allocations which are being made for schools under CLASS are additional allocations of teaching hours, for each school, which are provided on a graduated and proportionate basis, based on school size, using the 2020/21 school enrolments data, as published on the Primary and Post Primary Online Databases (PPOD)
Enhanced allocations are also being provided for special schools and schools which are in the disadvantaged (DEIS) scheme.
Under the scheme, every school will receive an allocation of additional teaching hours, which they may use in accordance with the needs of their students. This will enable schools to identify students most at risk of learning loss arising from the recent disrupted school experience and put in place specific targeted teaching supports to meet these students’ needs.
The additional hours can be utilized by schools from October of this year, to the end of the 2021/22 school year.
Full detail of the programme is set out in my Department's Circular 045/2021 which is available at
Guidance has also been provided for schools in relation to how the additional teaching hours should be best used as well as details of appropriate control and oversight measures required in schools.
This guidance is available at
The guidance provides for significant levels of autonomy and flexibility to be applied by schools in relation to the manner in which they utilise their additional Covid learning and support scheme teaching hours. Schools are guided as to how they can address the needs of pupils who may have suffered from educational regression, due to the closure of school facilities, including for children with disabilities, and taking into account the individual circumstances of their particular school. The guidance also allows schools to use the additional hours in conjunction with other supports in schools, such as class teachers, and special education teachers.
The CLASS programme will also provide for shared learning opportunities between schools to ensure that good practice in meeting students’ needs and mitigating learning loss is shared and replicated.
My Department will also ensure that research is undertaken both into the impacts of the disruption to learning and the student experience of COVID-19 across a range of areas, and on the impact of the mitigation measures undertaken under this programme.