Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (658, 666, 667)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

658. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the Covid-19 safety guidelines and rules which apply to the English language education and English as a foreign language sector; if these are the same as other higher level educational environments; if there are differences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26386/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

666. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the English language education sector falls under his remit or that of the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht; if the sector should follow the reopening guidelines for tourism or for the higher and further education; and the body responsible for inspecting such schools to ensure compliance with the guidelines. [26350/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

667. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the English language education sector falls under higher education; and if so, if the sector should follow the reopening guidelines for same. [26391/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 658, 666 and 667 together.

English language education (ELE) in Ireland is a broad and diverse sector with the vast majority of activity undertaken by private sector providers. I am aware of the challenges that are being encountered in this sector and the substantial impact that the Covid-19 outbreak has had on its students, teachers and providers.

As part of the response to the pandemic, my Department established a specific Working Group for this sector. This group is comprised of representatives of relevant Government Departments alongside the representative bodies of students, staff and English language education providers.

This Working Group has recently been reconstituted with an expanded membership to support the sector to develop and refine more detailed reopening protocols specifically for English language education. The ELE protocols will be in line with wider public health guidelines and the Government’s recently published Framework for Restrictive Measures. These protocols will be informed, where appropriate, by existing protocols for comparable educational settings.

Adherence to public health guidelines must be an absolute priority for this sector with an emphasis placed on the safety and welfare of their students. Where there is a concern as regards the safe management of an ELE classroom setting, this should be reported to the appropriate authorities. The Health and Safety Authority is empowered to undertake inspections of providers and where considered appropriate may close a premises that is deemed unsafe.

Question No. 659 answered with Question No. 657.