21 August, 2020 – Minister Foley provides further update ahead of the reopening of schools

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today provided a further update regarding the plans to fully re-open schools. 

With some schools beginning to re-open next week, the Minister acknowledged the enormous work being undertaken in school communities and the commitment of everyone involved in providing a safe environment for the return of children to our schools. 

Minister Foley said: “I am heartened by the response of the education sector to the challenge that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented. Principals, school management and staff right around the country have been committed to this re-opening process from the start and we will now see some of our schools begin to return next week. 

“For parents, I understand that you may feel anxious about your child’s return to school. We are living in a new normal. However, we have put in place all the precautions necessary and along with the dedication of the principals and teachers at a local school level, you can be assured that your child will return to a safe and welcoming classroom.” 

The Minister also highlighted the work of the schools re-opening helpline within the Department which is dealing with queries from schools that arise during the reopening process. This dedicated helpline will remain in place for the next period as schools begin to open and will be on hand to provide assistance with any questions from school principals. 

School Transport 

Minister Foley noted that guidance has now issued to parents of children using the School Transport Scheme scheme following the most recent advice received from NPHET. 

The school transport scheme will proceed as planned with additional measures and hygiene requirements when schools re-open. 

At post-primary there will be rolling implementation of the additional measures in line with those required on public transport; that is, using 50 per cent of passenger capacity, which will support physical distancing requirements. 

Discussions are already underway with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, in order to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50 per cent capacity will do so. Over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing.  

For those children who are eligible for transport under the terms of the school transport scheme and whose parents decide not to use post-primary transport for the 2020/2021 school year, arising from the most recent health advice, the Department will provide a grant to support them with the cost of private transport arrangements. Grants will be paid at the end of the school year, following receipt of relevant documentation, confirming the number of days of school attended in the 2020/2021 school year. The grant is based on the distance a family resides from their school of eligibility with a maximum daily allowance payable of €5.10 per day. 

The Minister will continue to work with the Minister for Health and other Government Ministers to identify and consider the additional resources required to support the roll-out of these measures. 

Further information and guidance on the operation of School Transport Scheme Services for the 2020/2021 School Year is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/64a88-school-transport/ 

Materials for students and their families 

The Department has produced age-appropriate guidance for students in the form of animated videos which are intended to help students further understand some of the new routines when they return to school. Guidance is also available for parents. The guidance is also being prepared in several languages. 

These animations will be available at gov.ie/backtoschool and also issued to schools to be disseminated to parents. 

The Department will continue to update all of these practical resources available to schools and parents. 

Update for 2021 exam students 

The Minister has also provided an update for incoming third year and sixth year students who will be taking state examinations in summer 2021. 

The documentation being published today sets out the adjusted assessment arrangements for these post-primary students. These arrangements are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by these students during the 2019/20 school year. 

The adjustments have been arrived at through discussions between the Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders. 

As schools have significant autonomy in determining how to sequence and pace learning for students in their schools, no centrally prescribed adjustment of the curriculum and courses of study would be effective for students taking the certificate examinations in summer 2021. 

Consequently, the most appropriate way to reflect and take account of the challenges for students that have occurred in 2019/20 and may occur in 2020/21 is to incorporate adjustments to the certificate examinations in 2021. The adjustments put in place will play to student strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the examinations while incorporating additional choice. The assessment arrangements provide clarity, certainty and reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools in advance of the start of the 2020/2021 school year. 

These documents can be found here:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Curriculum-and-Syllabus/assessment-arrangements-junior-cycle-and-leaving-certificate-examinations-2021.pdf

https://www.education.ie/ga/Scoileanna-Coláistí/Eolas/Curaclaim-agus-Siollabas/socruithe-measunachta-do-na-scruduithe-teastais-2021.pdf 

ENDS