07 August, 2020 - Update on Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today provided an update on her Department’s work to realise her Department’s plans to reopen schools fully at the end of the summer. The Minister, along with Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and Minister for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD, last week published a detailed plan Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for The Full Return to School, along with details of a financial package of over €375 million to support its delivery.

Commenting today, Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said: “Last week we announced a comprehensive plan that will support our schools to reopen for the new school year. This week I am pleased to announce that a considerable portion of the funding due to schools has been paid, allowing schools to make vital progress in making the changes that are needed to safely reopen.

“For example, €102 million in funding has already issued to primary and post-primary schools to carry out minor works to create more space in the classroom or install additional handwashing stations. Funding has already been made available for schools to hire aides to help reconfigure classrooms and install hand sanitising stations. Guidance has also been circulated to schools detailing how they can best access PPE and hand sanitiser supplies.

“I wish to thank again all members of school staff and parents for the roles they are playing and will continue to play as schools return at the end of August. We will continue to communicate with schools, education partners, parents and students, as schools reopen, and keep a close eye to ensure that the supports are working as intended.”

Updated Guidance around wearing of Face Coverings

The Minister also confirmed that she had been working with the public health authorities to ensure that the public health advice underpinning the safe reopening of schools is fully up to date.  The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that all recommendations published in the public health advice by the Minister at the beginning of July including physical distancing guidelines as set out in the recently published roadmap still apply in all schools, with the exception of the recommendations on face coverings which has been updated to reflect the latest research and expertise. It is now recommended that teachers and secondary school students wear face coverings, similar to those worn in shops or on public transport, when a physical distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.

Minor Works Funding

To support the full implementation of the Roadmap, the Department brought forward to August the payment of the annual minor works grant to primary schools, totalling approximately €30 million, which is typically paid in either December/January each year.  In addition, an enhanced minor work grant, which matches the 2019 payment, has also been issued to directly to schools.  This amounts to €60 million which has now been issued directly to primary schools in minor works grants since the publication of the Roadmap.

In addition a new minor works grant, totalling approximately €42 million, has issued to post primary schools this week.

Support and Supervision

Funding of €4.2m for aide/s to assist with the logistical arrangements in advance of school reopening including physical reconfiguration measures and setting up hand sanitising stations, helping with signage, training and engaging with parents and students.

Funding of €40m has been made available for additional supervision at post primary level. Of this €12.3m has already been paid to schools for the first term with the balance payable in 2021.

Additional Cleaning and PPE

Schools have been provided a Covid-19 specific capitation payment which will be used as the mechanism to support the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes in schools. This is intended to allow for an extra 4 to 6 hours cleaning per day in schools.

Enhanced Covid-19 rates are payable in respect of students attending special schools and special classes attached to mainstream schools in order to assist with the extra costs arising from the cleaning of classrooms operating specialist provision. Initial funding to schools for cleaning for the first term is now with schools and further payments will issue in early 2021 for cleaning needs for the subsequent terms.

Teacher Supply

In addition, significant additional measures are being adopted to increase the supply of teachers at both primary and post-primary level, including offering additional hours to the 2,800 teachers who are working part-time in post-primary schools, allowing job-sharing teachers to work additional hours and making it more attractive for teachers on career break to provide substitution and supervision cover. Schools have been notified of these changes, allowing them to more easily hire additional teachers.

The Teaching Council is also working on a range of measures to increase the supply of registered teachers who may be available to fill posts to support the re-opening of schools for the 2020/21 academic term, including making contact with the 6,000 registered teachers who are not currently active in schools.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School

Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for The Full Return to School and the supporting documentation is hosted on gov.ie/backtoschool. This site will be updated over the coming weeks as a live resource for schools and parents for practical guidance, support documentation and resources.

The financial package recognises the very significant challenges faced by schools in reopening and staying open as safely as possible for the entire school community.  Supporting the implementation of the comprehensive public health recommendations for schools reopening requires additional resources to support additional staffing, reconfiguration of classes and a range of wellbeing and other supports to ensure a smooth transition back into school.

The package includes:

  • An additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level at a cost of €53 million,
  • Additional funding, estimated at €84.7 million, so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff. This can occur where staff members are identified, in line with HSE guidance, as at ‘very high risk’ of Covid-19 and advised to cocoon.
  • Additional funding of €41.2 million, to provide primary schools with substitute staff.
  • An additional €52 million for schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools.
  • A €75 million capital grant funding to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening.

Public Health Advice

The Minister also confirmed that she had been working with the public health authorities to ensure that the public health advice underpinning the safe reopening of schools is fully up to date.  Public Health Authorities have confirmed that the recommendations initially issued in July remain current, with the exception of changes to guidance on the wearing of face coverings in a school context. These recommendations from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre confirm that:

  • All recommendations published in the public health advice by the Minister at the beginning of July including physical distancing guidelines as set out in the recently published roadmap still apply in all schools, with the exception of the recommendations on face coverings which has been updated to reflect the latest research and expertise.
  • Face coverings are recommended that are reusable and washed once every day as is consistent with the recommendation to wear face coverings in other contexts such as on public transport, in shops and indoors where a 2m physical distance cannot be maintained.
  • Students at post primary level, apart from specific exemptions will be required to wear face coverings in the classroom.
  • All staff and students using the post-primary school transport service will be required to wear face coverings on the bus.
  • Staff, including teachers at both primary and post primary levels, who cannot maintain a 2m distance from students or other staff will be required to wear face coverings.
  • All SNAs will be required to wear face coverings, or in certain situations clear visors, in the classroom.
  • Other staff, e.g. bus escorts, who have close contact with students will be required to wear face coverings.
  • The Department has met with stakeholders today to reassure school staff, students, parents and management bodies that it is a key priority to support the school community in implementing all of the recommendations from the HSE.  Schools will be provided with additional funding of more than €30 million for the period from re-opening to the end of the 2020 to cover costs related to hand hygiene measures and PPE needs through COVID-19 capitation grant.  This capitation grant rate up to the end of 2020, reflects the fact that there are a number of once off type costs which schools face in implementing COVID-19 Response Plans (i.e. installation of sanitiser units, signage/posters etc.) which will be incurred upfront.

Procurement process completed for schools to access their PPE requirements

Following a centralised procurement process, the Department has established a multi-supplier arrangement from which schools can choose a supplier and select the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Consumables and equipment products that best suits their needs and the requirements under the Roadmap.  This ensures schools will have access to, on a value for money basis, a secure supply chain of various PPE and consumables under the Roadmap and their COVID-19 School Response Plan including hand sanitisers,  sanitiser fluids, face coverings/visors, gloves, wipes etc.

Guidance to schools on how to order products directly from suppliers, and the breakdown of the COVID-19 capitation grant will be available to schools from today.

Teacher Supply

Information Note for the Recruitment of Teachers in Primary Schools for the upcoming school year (Information Note TTC 0006/2020 on Circular 44/2019)

The Department has published an Information Note for the Recruitment of Teachers in Primary Schools for the upcoming school year, which sets out changes that may be implemented by the Boards of Management of recognised primary schools/ETBS to facilitate the timely recruitment of teaching staff and the appointment of Principals/Deputy Principals (open Competition) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At primary level:

Substitute Teacher Supply Panel Scheme in Primary schools

The Substitute Teacher Supply Panel Scheme was launched on a pilot basis in 6 locations (2 x Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Cork and Galway) in the 2019/20 school year.  The scheme is being expanded nationwide for 2020/21 with up to 90 additional locations to meet the anticipated increase in demand for substitute teachers arising due to the Covid-19 emergency.  Over 250 additional posts will be allocated to the new panels. Arrangements for the operation of Substitute Teacher Supply Panels are set out in Circular 0059/2019, available at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0059_2019.pdf

  • This scheme will be expanded nationwide for the 2020/21 schools year, with up to 90 additional locations catering for schools of different patronages, including special schools and Gaelscoileanna.  A number of panels will also be established in Gaeltacht areas. Over 250 primary teaching posts will be allocated to provide substitute cover through these panels. This will support schools to manage sick leave and other absences by having a supply of teachers to meet substitution needs when required. The expansion of the Teacher Supply Panel Scheme will operate alongside normal teacher substitution arrangements for schools and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
  • Agreed timelines in relation to recruiting primary teachers have been reduced in order to assist recruitment in that sector.

At post primary level, the range of measures being adopted include:

  • Offering additional hours to teachers employed in the school with part-time hours. Some 2,800 teachers had part-time hours in post-primary schools in 2019/20.
  • Following engagement with the Teaching Council, higher education institutions are adopting flexible arrangements for student teacher placement in post primary schools. This will enhance the availability of student teachers, while on placement in the school, to be offered additional paid hours in the classroom outside of their placement requirements. It is estimated that up to 1100 post graduate student teachers, in their final year of a teacher education programme for post-primary, would be available to schools.
  • 120 guidance posts have also been allocated to schools to support student wellbeing. These posts are allocated in a transparent manner and are ring fenced for guidance provision. Schools have flexibility to consider how best to align this resource with their School Guidance Plan. This allocation of guidance posts will bring guidance provision in schools back to the level last seen before the financial crisis in 2012.

In addition to the sector specific measures detailed above, the Department is also introducing the following measures in both primary and post-primary schools for the coming school year to make additional teaching resources available to all schools:

 

  • Limits on employing teachers on career break are suspended. In 2019/20 approximately 2,030 primary teachers and 650 post primary teachers were on career break (excluding ETB post primary schools).
  • Teachers who are job sharing will be allowed to work additional hours. This is an entirely new source of teacher supply for the 2020/21 year. In 2019/20 approximately 2,800 teachers were job sharing at primary level and 1,300 teachers at post-primary level (excluding ETB post primary schools).

 

The Teaching Council is also working on a range of measures to increase the supply of registered teachers who may be available to fill posts to support the re-opening of schools for the 2020/21 academic term.

 

These include:

  • Making contact with the estimated 6,000 registered teachers who are not currently active in schools, to encourage their participation to support the return to school, if they are in a position to provide more substitution, supervision or to fill vacancies.
  • Making regulations that will enable, on an exceptional time bound basis, teachers who are newly qualified, having studied abroad, to complete their induction in Ireland. This potentially makes 600 additional teachers available across the primary and post primary sectors.

Additional posts for Guidance

Approximately 120 posts has been allocated to schools for guidance provision. This allocation is provided separately and transparently on each school's staffing schedule.  These posts have been ring-fenced so they can only be used for guidance activities and to meet the guidance needs of the school.

Minor Works Grant

€75m additional funding for minor works in schools was also announced as part of the July stimulus programme to allow schools to make facilitate structural modifications needed to schools. This includes a reserve fund of €3m which is being retained by the Department, to be targeted at individual schools that require greater levels of re-configuration works, which will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Primary

An Enhanced Grant for Primary which is a doubling of the previous year’s allocation to each school.

For instance, a 60 pupil school which received €6,610 in 2019 will receive €13,220 in 2020, a 300 pupil school which received €11,050 in 2019 will receive €22,100 in 2020.

Post-Primary

A new, once-off minor works payment of €42m has been made available to all post-primary schools.

This measure will involve payment of a once-off minor works to schools ranging from circa. €30,000 to €110,000 for each school depending on overall enrolments.

For instance, a 600 student school would receive €70,000 and a 1,000 student school would receive €110,000.