Future of School Education: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire on Tuesday, 28 July 2020:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— schools have been closed for over 130 days and the new school year is due to start in just over four weeks;
— the closure of school buildings brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on the education of a generation of Irish children, despite the considerable efforts of parents, teachers and school staff;
— this negative impact has been felt particularly severely by vulnerable students, including children with special educational needs, children and young adults who have limited access to technology or high quality Wi-Fi, and young people are at risk of becoming detached from education;
— the delivery of Summer Provision 2020 for children with special educational needs has fallen far short of Government announcements, which callously raised the expectations of parents of children with special educational needs only to dash them; and
— the experience of parents trying to combine home schooling with working from home has been demanding and exhausting, and that the burden of this was particularly heavily felt by women;
agrees that:
— achieving a safe and full return to school has been made particularly challenging in this State due to having among the highest class sizes in the European Union (EU), and due to successive Governments, who have underfunded and understaffed education;
— the shared objective of all involved in education is a full and safe return to schools in line with public health advice, and that this can only be delivered by way of significant and large scale investment in hygiene and personal protective equipment, staffing, funding for schools and significantly increased capacity; and
— already, parents must spend far too much each year on the return to school, and that in the context of high unemployment and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, any additional costs must be met by the Government and not passed on to parents; and
calls on the Government to:
— immediately begin the process of drastically reducing class sizes, with the objective of achieving a pupil teacher ratio in line with the EU average of 20:1 within the lifetime of the Government, and ensure that class sizes of 30 students and above are abolished and never return;
— develop a dedicated strategy to prioritise those who have lost out most, including additional support for special education, special education teachers, Special Needs Assistants, as well as investment in the Home School Community Liaison Scheme, Guidance Counsellors and the School Completion Programme; and
— develop a well-being strategy for students, and staff, in response to the challenges of the pandemic by the National Educational Psychology Service.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words following “Dáil Éireann” and insert the following:
“notes that:
— the Minister for Education and Skills has obtained Government approval for a comprehensive range of measures to support the full reopening of schools in time for the start of the new school year;
— these measures and the financial support to underpin the measures are necessary to:
— enable schools to prepare for reopening, including making adjustments to the physical arrangements and layout of classrooms as necessary;
— implement enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures in line with public health requirements in all schools;
— recruit additional staffing resources to support the safe and sustained reopening of schools in a Covid-19 context; and
— support school leaders to implement Covid-19 measures;
— the Roadmap for the Return to Schools has now been published alongside the details of the financial supports of more than €370 million with further funding for sanitisation and personal protective equipment (PPE) to be available for reopening schools in accordance with previous commitments given in the House to do so by the end of this month;
— significant additional funding has been secured to specifically provide at primary level for:
— an enhanced Minor Works Grant to support full implementation of Covid-19 response plans;
— the employment of an aide to help with the school reopening logistics;
— increased management support for schools, to allow for additional release days for principals and deputy principals;
— the extension of the current pilot supply panel for substitute teachers on a nationwide basis; and
— additional financial supports to provide for additional cleaning, hand hygiene and PPE costs under the Covid-19 response plans;
— significant additional funding has also been secured to specifically provide at postprimary level for:
— a new Minor Works Grant to post-primary schools to support full implementation of Covid-19 response plans;
— the employment of an aide to help with the school reopening logistics;
— 1,080 additional teaching posts, including 120 guidance posts;
— enhanced supervision supports; and
— additional financial supports for schools to cover additional cleaning, hand hygiene and PPE costs under Covid-19 response plans;
— the Minister for Education and Skills plans a communication campaign during August for students, parents and the school community to support the safe reopening of schools; and
— the Minister recognises that promoting the wellbeing of our school communities is a fundamental element of the overall plan to ensure a successful return to school and which will include the restoration of guidance supports in schools by providing 120 guidance posts and an increase in the number of National Educational Psychological Service psychologists to support schools; and
further notes:
— that in preparing the Roadmap for the Return to School the engagement with stakeholders, which had been ongoing since the closure of schools in March, intensified and focused on plans for reopening schools following receipt of the ‘Interim Recommendations for the reopening of schools and educational facilities’ from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre which was published on 1st July, and which allowed the Department of Education and Skills, working in conjunction with bodies representing school management, staff, student and parents, to develop consistent plans, advice, protocols and guidance across the system to allow schools and staff to return as safely as possible;
— the successful delivery of an enhanced summer programme of educational support to children with the greatest needs with:
— 245 schools participating in the summer-based programme for children with complex needs, benefiting 3,900 students;
— 10,604 parents registering for the home-based summer programme, benefiting 11,350 students;
— 231 schools participating in the Literacy and Numeracy Summer Camp in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) primary schools, benefiting an expected 7,600 students; and
— 81 schools participating in the DEIS post-primary summer-based programme, benefiting an expected 2,700 students; and
— that these programmes are providing a crucial stepping stone in rebuilding the connection between students and their schools before they return more fully in the autumn as there is a particular focus on re-establishing relationships, building connections, meeting emotional needs and re-engaging in routines to support participation and learning.”
- (Minister for Education and Skills)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding the future of school education. On Tuesday, 28 July 2020, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 80(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 36; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Denise Mitchell and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Amendment declared carried.

Can I take it then that the motion, as amended, is agreed to?

It is not agreed.

The Deputy did not say it was agreed but he did not say "Votáil".

I am not deaf. I did not hear "Votáil". If the Deputy is going to call "Votáil", he should at least put on his microphone in order that we might hear him. Gabh mo leithscéal.

It is not agreed.

Record it. It is as simple as that, a Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputies' opposition is recorded. The Deputies are against the adoption of the motion, as amended. That opposition is registered and recorded.