I propose to take Questions Nos. 283, 307 and 325 together.
The public health restrictions which resulted in the closure of schools in March 2020 highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be agile in providing for continuity of schooling in the future. As a contingency measure against the possibility of partial or full school closures, my Department has already provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to facilitate the continuity of learning. These are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.
This documentation has been complemented by Circular 0074/2020 (Communication/Teaching & Learning Platform) which requires all schools to have in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure that they are prepared to continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of schools arising from Public Health advice.
As part of the guidance, schools were advised to research various digital platforms for facilitating communication between teachers and pupils and supporting pupils learning remotely. Schools should use the most appropriate whole-school approach for their context. In some schools, the use of digital communication platforms may not be appropriate or possible for some pupils.
It is crucially important that the learning of all pupils/students are supported at this time. Teachers should continue to engage with their pupils/students and differentiate teaching and learning in line with their pupils’/students’ needs to minimise disruption to their learning and progression.
It is acknowledged that this is a challenging time for pupils, teachers, other school staff and parents, and a strong focus should be kept on wellbeing and self-care during this time. Resources to support the wellbeing of school communities when schools are closed have been revised by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of the Department and include a guide for parents on supporting children and young people with daily routines while schools are closed, advice on how to calm and support your child and advice on managing stress and anxiety. These resources can be accessed on www.gov.ie/backtoschool.