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Third Level Education

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Questions (300)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

300. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the plans in place to ensure third level institutions are prepared for, and capable of providing, alternative assessments for students who are deemed medically vulnerable and cannot attend on-site examinations, students who are living with a medically vulnerable family member and cannot attend on-site exams and students who are required to restrict their movements as close contacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58093/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Government statement that there will be no change in current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities in school, further and higher education institutions in line with COVID response plans for those sectors highlights that there is no change planned to the current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities for the further and higher education sector. It is in this context that the sector continues to operate in accordance with the provisions of the Safe Return Plan, which has facilitated the return of over 400,000 learners since September, and which has been supplemented by recent guidance in relation to the sectoral approach for this current phase of the response.

For activities that are context dependent, in such a way that a one size fits all approach will not work across the sector, institutions have discretion to adopt public health measures appropriate to their own context, actively using significant precautionary measures to mitigate risk based on risk assessment and management systems, engagement with their stakeholders and building on the practices that were accrued through onsite provision in the more restrictive context of 2020/21. This encompasses ongoing monitoring and reviewing of plans, practices and measures including the approaches that institutions will take to terminal examinations.

Additionally, the Safe Return Plan and the most recent guidance on the current approach both advocate and support for ongoing contingency planning to ensure that institutions remain flexible and adaptable in response to any changes in the public health environment.

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