I propose to take Questions Nos. 658, 666 and 667 together.
English language education (ELE) in Ireland is a broad and diverse sector with the vast majority of activity undertaken by private sector providers. I am aware of the challenges that are being encountered in this 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 alongside the representative bodies of students, staff and English language education providers.
This Working Group has recently been reconstituted with an expanded membership to support the sector to develop and refine more detailed reopening protocols specifically for English language education. The ELE protocols will be in line with wider public health guidelines and the Government’s recently published Framework for Restrictive Measures. These protocols will be informed, where appropriate, by existing protocols for comparable educational settings.
Adherence to public health guidelines must be an absolute priority for this sector with an emphasis placed on the safety and welfare of their students. Where there is a concern as regards the safe management of an ELE classroom setting, this should be reported to the appropriate authorities. The Health and Safety Authority is empowered to undertake inspections of providers and where considered appropriate may close a premises that is deemed unsafe.