The Government published the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, along with details of a financial package of over €375 million to support the implementation of the measures in the roadmap, following approval by Government.
The roadmap and the funding package recognise the challenges faced by schools in ensuring the safe return of over one million students and approximately 100,000 staff in 4,000 schools in the context of COVID-19. It sets out clear plans and practical guidance on the measures schools need to take to operate safely and minimise the risk of the introduction, or spread, of infection in schools.
The range of supports being made available to all schools in the free education scheme include considerable additional financial supports to provide for PPE, enhanced cleaning and enhanced supervision costs under the COVID-19 response plans.
The first and second instalments of these grants were paid in August 2020 and January 2021 retrospectively.
My Department will be reviewing the funding provided and following this review details of the third and final instalment of these grants for the 2020/2021 school year will be made available in due course.
The HPSC has set out detailed advice in respect of the infection prevention and control measures required for the safe and sustainable operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This advice, aspects of which have been updated throughout the period since from September 2020 to January 2021 has become the basis of the "School COVID-19 Response Plans". The schools plans are also based on the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in compliance with the protocols established by Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Health on "Returning to Work" safely.
The Department of Education’s ongoing oversight and management of schools during this pandemic is also in line with the Government "Resilience and Recovery: 2020 – 2021: Living with COVID-19 Plan" and the successor to the "Return to Work Safely" protocols entitled "Work Safely".
Full details of the range of supports and guidance available to schools, staff and students can be found on gov.ie/backtoschool.