Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (145)

Catherine Connolly


145. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 136 and 290 of 20 January 2021, the analysis her Department has carried out into the efficacy of the current remote learning system for children in DEIS schools; her plans to make additional funding available to DEIS schools for the postage of learning packs to their students in view of ongoing uncertainty regarding the timeline for the reopening of schools and in view of the fact that schools will remain closed for longer than originally envisaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7602/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Since last March, my Department has put in place a number of measures to support vulnerable learners and those at risk of educational disadvantage during possible partial or full school closures due to Covid19. It has also continued to engage with schools and the education partners during this time.

The Inspectorate is continuing to collect information about how well the system is adapting to the challenges at the current time and how schools are providing for remote teaching and learning. Since the beginning of January, inspectors have engaged with principals in 968 schools, including 272 DEIS schools and provided advice as necessary on how the provision for remote teaching and learning can be further developed. The findings of these telephone surveys of principals indicate that primary and post-primary schools have established and are implementing arrangements for remote provision in almost all cases. The Inspectorate has also carried out surveys of parents in a sample of primary and post-primary schools that included DEIS schools. Initial findings from these surveys are also positive and indicate that teachers are engaging regularly with their students and that students are receiving regular feedback on their work. The Inspectorate is also working with schools to develop approaches to enable inspectors and schools to evaluate the quality of education provision in a remote learning environment more comprehensively. Further information on the Inspectorate’s engagement with schools during this term is available in Circular Letter 0001/2021.

My Department has provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to facilitate the continuity of learning for all pupils/students in a Covid-19 context. These are available at My Department has also provided specific updated guidance to advise on how schools and teachers can support continuity in the learning of vulnerable students and those at risk of educational disadvantage during school closures due to Covid-19. The guidance sets out approaches that schools can take and my Department has asked schools to ensuring that there is a specific focus on ensure that these pupils are supported. Many schools have already introduced a range of strategies and measures to ensure that the needs of these pupils are catered for, including pupils who have limited access to technology or whose parents are not in a position to support their learning.

My Department’s ongoing engagement with public health and the education partners is focussing on the safe return of all pupils and students to school at the earliest opportunity while supporting the provision of remote learning at this time.