Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (385)

Seán Sherlock


385. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if her Department has considered the introduction of a dedicated scheme to ensure that children and young persons who have missed out on educational and related benefits are enabled to catch up after the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided; her plans to target supports at vulnerable children and young persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8172/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

During the current period of school closure, schools are required to put in place their plan of action to enable continuity of learning for all pupils. This involves all teachers who are medically fit to work, including SETs, providing remote teaching and learning to all pupils in their class or on their caseload.

It is crucially important that the learning of all pupils/students, especially those with special educational needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage and/or early school leaving, are supported at this time. These supports include teachers engaging with their pupils/students on a regular basis, through a blend of guided and independent learnings tasks and experiences. Chosen learning tasks provide an opportunity to demonstrate a student’s learning in a clear and concise way. These learning tasks enable teachers to monitor progress and provide constructive, developmental feedback to support learning.

When pupils have started back in school, the principal and teachers can assess their needs and adapt their teaching programme so that any gaps in their learning resulting from the temporary closure of schools can be addressed.

My Department has agreed a plan with the relevant education stakeholders for the phased return to in-person learning for children in special schools and children in special classes in mainstream schools. This phased reopening commenced last Thursday 11th February with children in special schools returning on a 50 per cent minimum shared basis from that date. From Monday 22nd February pupils and students in special classes will return to school.

A supplementary in-person care and educational support programme to support the education and/or care needs of pupils and students with complex needs is also available to families for weeks from 11 February at primary and 22 February at post primary.

The full re-opening of our schools for all students remains a top priority for Government and my Department is focussing on mitigating educational disadvantage and the safe return of all pupils and students to school on a phased basis in March.