Oireachtas Members' Questions: Covid-19 - Answers Due: Monday, 27 April 2020

 
Oireachtas Members' Questions: Covid-19 - Answers Due: Monday, 27 April 2020
Oireachtas Members’
Questions: Covid-19
Answers Due: Monday, 27 April 2020
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

Contents
1.   Introduction .................................................................................................. 3
2.   State Examinations Questions ................................................................... 4
     2.1. Approach to State Examinations                                                                           4
     2.2. Approach to State Examinations – Guidance to Teachers                                                    6
     2.3. Examination Fees                                                                                         6
     2.4. Impact on Admissions to Tertiary Courses                                                                 7
     2.5. Junior Cycle                                                                                             8
     2.6. State Examinations Logistics                                                                             8
     2.7. Schedule                                                                                                11
3.   Schools Sector Questions ........................................................................ 13
     3.1. Capital Programme                                                                                       13
     3.2. Continuity of Learning                                                                                  13
     3.3. Special Educational Needs Provision                                                                     15
     3.4. Wellbeing                                                                                               15
     3.5. Resources in Irish                                                                                      17
     3.6. Technology and broadband access                                                                         17
     3.7. School Meals                                                                                            19
     3.8. School Transport                                                                                        21
     3.9. School Transport – Providers                                                                            21
     3.10. Staff Relations                                                                                        22
     3.11. Re-opening of Primary Schools                                                                          23
4.   Tertiary Sector Questions ......................................................................... 25
     4.1. Accommodation                                                                                           25
     4.2. Admissions                                                                                              26
     4.3. Admissions – HPAT                                                                                       27
     4.4. Tertiary Level Fees                                                                                     28
     4.5. Covid Payment to Apprentices                                                                            29
     4.6. Extensions to CAO/SUSI/HEAR/DARE Deadlines & SUSI Eligibility                                           29
     4.7. Term Commencement                                                                                       30
5.   Vulnerable Persons/Disadvantage Questions ......................................... 31
     5.1. Addressing Disadvantage                                                                                 31
6.   International Students Questions............................................................. 34
     6.1. International students in Ireland                                                                       34
     6.2. Irish Students Abroad                                                                                   35
7.   Transfers .................................................................................................... 37
     7.1. Transfers received from other Departments                                                               37
     7.2. Transferred to other Departments                                                                        37

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

1. Introduction
The Oireachtas has put in place a new and interim process whereby Covid-19 related queries
can be submitted by TDs on a weekly basis and forwarded to Departments for reply in lieu of
the Parliamentary Question process which has been temporarily suspended. The Minister’s
responses to queries received will be presented in a single document for circulation to all
Deputies and for publication on the Department’s website subsequently.

This document is the third of the weekly response documents prepared under the revised
question system and relates to questions submitted by April 21st in accordance with agreed
arrangements. It has been prepared within particular constraints, namely in a context of
significantly increased demands, in circumstances where Departmental officials are having to
work remotely without access to offices and files and against a background where the
Department itself has had to redeploy staff to meet crisis-related pressures in other parts of
the public service.

Similar and related questions have been grouped for answer to allow this response document
to be as concise as possible whilst also addressing each question received. Section 7 sets
out, for information, any questions received or forwarded on transfer from or to another
Minister\Department.

The Department also maintains a special page on its website for updates on matters related
to Covid-19: https://www.education.ie/en/The-Department/Announcements/information-for-
schools-preschools-and-third-level-institutions-on-the-coronavirus.html

All major announcements are also available on the Department’s website in the “What’s New”
section on the Department’s homepage (when issued) and also in the Press release section
of the website for older items.

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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

2. State Examinations Questions
     2.1. Approach to State Examinations
 No.     Question                                                              TD

 3.36    Can the Department explain the rationale for moving ahead with        Cian
         written exams instead of using predictive grades? I’ve been           O'Callaghan
         contacted by many students concerned that the limitations
         necessarily imposed are affecting their ability to perform at their
         best in the State exams. (List provided)

 3.73    Can you please ask the Minister for Education to explain why          Sean Fleming
         they did not make arrangements for the Leaving Certificate to
         (go) ahead close to the normal dates in view of the fact that
         many people suggested it would have been logistically feasible
         to accommodate the Leaving Certificate with some social
         distancing if the students could be accommodated in a variety of
         halls and rooms throughout schools or in other locations owned
         by the State if needs be.

 3.74    To ask the Minister for Education to outline the reasons why they     Sean Fleming
         decided to proceed with the Leaving Certificate this year and not
         to have it cancelled as requested by some individuals.

 3.138   To ask the Minster for Education and Skills has he developed a        Donnchadh Ó
         contingency Plan in the event that the NPHET decides that the         Laoghaire
         leaving cert cannot proceed in July and August and to outline
         what this plan would entail?

 3.145   To ask the Minister if his department has responded to any            Donnchadh Ó
         proposals regarding estimated grades made to his Department           Laoghaire
         for the leaving cert in the context of the Public Health
         Emergency, to outline such a response and to give the position
         of the Department on Estimated grades

 3.169   To ask the Minister for Education & Skills if his department has      Donnchadh Ó
         responded to any proposals regarding estimated grades made to         Laoghaire
         his Department for the leaving cert in the context of the Public
         Health Emergency, to outline such a response and to give the
         position of the Department on Estimated grades

 3.382   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he considered and     Catherine
         looked into the possibility of instituting a predicted-grades         Martin
         system as alternative to the Leaving Certificate exams prior to
         announcing their postponement; why he decided not to
         implement this option; and if he will make a statement on the
         matter.

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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                                 TD

 3.397     Will the Taoiseach form a cabinet sub-committee to start                 Thomas
           planning the return to school of Leaving Cert students only on           Pringle
           5th May with all teachers necessary to ensure they can have
           four weeks of classes and sit the Leaving Cert, as scheduled,
           from 3rd June, all while adhering to physical distancing
           recommendations? (transferred from the Department of the
           Taoiseach)

     2.1.1 Response

On 10th April I announced a series of changes to the 2020 State Examinations as part of
measures to respond to Covid-19. This included postponement of the written Leaving
Certificate examinations until late July or early August and the replacement of the Junior Cycle
state examinations with school-based exams to be held early in the new school year. The
dates for some Leaving Certificate practical examinations were also put back to late July/early
August, while the dates for submission of certain project work and coursework was put back
to just before the start of the rescheduled written examinations. These postponements and
rescheduling also applied to elements of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving
Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).
The decision to postpone the Leaving Certificate examinations was taken as part of measures
to respond to Covid-19, on foot of updated advice from the National Public Health Emergency
Team (NPHET).

All decisions taken in relation to rescheduling exams are based on current health advice and
put the best interests of students first. The welfare of students and that of their families is front
and centre in all decision making.

The decision to replace the Junior Cycle state examinations with school-based examinations
took account of the need to prioritise the running of the Leaving Certificate examinations and
the possible need, for social distancing reasons, to make as much space available in schools
for students sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations.

The revised Leaving Certificate examination timetable will be confirmed by the State
Examinations Commission (SEC) in early June.

The final arrangements for the examinations, the examination centres, social distancing and
other measures will be determined by the SEC on foot of public health advice in June. I
consider the holding of these examinations at a later date to be the fairest way of assessing
students and giving them certification of achievement in school and a pathway to higher and
further education and training, apprenticeship or work.

It is my intention to allow at least two weeks of class time, for students to prepare with their
teachers in school, before the Leaving Certificate examinations begin.

I wish to acknowledge the positive engagement with unions, management bodies, the further
education and training and higher education sectors on all of these issues. The Department
has created an advisory group of stakeholders to assist in planning for the revised State
Examinations, taking account of public health advice.
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

The group has met on a number of occasions and is considering a wide range of issues in
relation to running the examinations. The membership includes representatives of students,
parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the State Examinations
Commission, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the National Educational
Psychological Service and the Department.

     2.2. Approach to State Examinations – Guidance to
        Teachers
 No.       Question                                                            TD

 3.157     To ask the Minister for education whether specific guidance will    Donnchadh Ó
           be offered to teachers regarding how to proceed in the teaching     Laoghaire
           of leaving cert students, in the context of a change landscape of
           exams, papers, and timescales, and when such guidance will be
           provided

     2.2.1 Response

Teachers and schools have been working to ensure that students will be enabled to prepare
for July/August exams and have been using many innovative ways to support students in their
learning. The Department has been working with other stakeholders to put in place a range of
supports for schools and teachers engaged in distance learning.

A series of guidance notes to support schools in how to effectively support and engage with
their students continues to be compiled to address challenges in providing programmes of
continued learning in the current context and work is underway to provide guidance to schools
about how best to use digital and other solutions to provide ongoing learning for students at
this time.

Guidance for schools on continuity of learning issued on 2nd April and are available at:
https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/guidance-on-continuity-of-
schooling.pdf

The Department has created an advisory group of stakeholders, including teachers, to assist
in planning for the revised State Examinations. The group will consider a wide range of issues
in relation to running the examinations.

     2.3. Examination Fees
 No.       Question                                                            TD

 3.141     To ask the Minister for education will he now consider waiving      Donnchadh Ó
           the fee on the Junior and Leaving Cert                              Laoghaire

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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

     2.3.1 Response

Given that the Junior Cycle final examinations due to take place in June will be replaced by
later school-based examinations and assessments, fees for Junior Cycle examinations will not
now be charged by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). Fees already paid in respect
of those examinations will be refunded by the SEC.

In regard to the Leaving Certificate fee I will continue to keep this under review.

The closing date for payment of the fee is being extended until after the exams are complete
and the results are to be issued. The initial closing date was 30th April.

If a student or their parents/guardians have a full medical card, an exemption from paying the
exam fees can be claimed. The State Examinations Commission will extend the period for the
acceptance of valid medical cards in order to claim exemption from examination fees to the
time of issue of the examination results. This will allow parents, guardians or candidates who
may now become entitled to a medical card, as a result of unexpectedly becoming
unemployed or other change of circumstances, to provide details of the HSE approved medical
card to the SEC for the purposes of the fee alleviation scheme.

If the exam fee has been paid and students become eligible for the fee alleviation scheme,
then the SEC will refund the money paid.

     2.4. Impact on Admissions to Tertiary Courses
 No.       Question                                                              TD

 3.15      To ask the Minister for Education and Skills in light of the          Marian Harkin
           COVID-19 restrictions, a decision has been made to cancel all
           Oral exams in the Leaving Certificate and award 100% of the
           marks to all students, given that a small minority of students do
           not take any languages other than English, how does the
           Minister propose to equalise, in some way, the results so that
           these students are not disadvantaged in accessing college
           courses. Details Supplied. (I received representations from the
           parent of two children with dyslexia, who because of their
           condition are unable to take languages are being put at a
           disadvantage when it comes to points for college)

     2.4.1 Response

The Minister previously announced that the Leaving Certificate oral language examinations
would be cancelled and candidates awarded 100% for these components. This was
considered the best and fairest decision that could be taken at that time. In deciding to award
full marks for the oral component of the Leaving Certificate language subjects, it was noted
that students taking these subjects in general perform very well in the oral component.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

Consequently, it is not anticipated that any inflation in overall marks for language subjects and
therefore in CAO awarded points will significantly impact on the points necessary for students
to secure third level places through the CAO system for the coming year.

     2.5. Junior Cycle
 No.       Question                                                              TD

 3.37      Can the department explain the rationale of cancelling the 2020       Cian
           Junior Certificate instead of postponing it to next year during       O'Callaghan
           Transition year? (concern that students will miss out on the
           valuable opportunity of experiencing this important State Exam
           in advance of their future Leaving Cert sitting).

 3.387     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if Junior Certificate    Catherine
           students will receive an official SEC certificate in recognition of   Martin
           their completion of education up to the Junior Certificate
           standard, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

     2.5.1 Response

The decision to replace the Junior Cycle state examinations with school-based examinations
took account of the need to prioritise the running of the Leaving Certificate examinations and
the possible need, for social distancing reasons, to make as much space available in schools
for students sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations.

An advisory group of stakeholders is assisting my Department in relation to contingency
planning for all elements of the state examinations for 2020, including issues concerning
Junior Cycle Assessment. These discussions on Junior Cycle will continue when the group
meets again later this week.

     2.6. State Examinations Logistics
 No.        Question                                                              TD

 3.139      To ask the Minster for Education and Skills in the context of the     Donnchadh Ó
            now delayed Leaving Cert; will the minister outline the               Laoghaire
            preparation that is taking place, for example are additional
            venues being booked, additional invigilators being recruited, and
            persons involved in correcting of papers being recruited.

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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                               TD

 3.140     To ask the Minister for Education how many students will be            Donnchadh Ó
           expected to attend a single exam venue in the delayed leaving          Laoghaire
           cert

 3.142     To ask the Minister for education, whether provision will be           Donnchadh Ó
           made for students who are meant to be cocooning can take the           Laoghaire
           paper without being in the presence of other students, or what
           provision will be made for them.

 3.147     To ask the Minister for Education what provision will now exist in     Donnchadh Ó
           the context of the delayed leaving cert, for appeals of results        Laoghaire

 3.150B    To ask the Minister for education what provision or account for        Donnchadh Ó
           the very adverse circumstances facing students will be taken in        Laoghaire
           the marking of leaving certificates this year

 3.151     To ask the Minister for education how it is proposed that a            Donnchadh Ó
           person who is symptomatic of covid 19 or who has tested                Laoghaire
           positive, will now sit the leaving cert

 3.152     To ask the Minister for education how it is proposed that a            Donnchadh Ó
           person who is bereaved or ill during the leaving cert can be           Laoghaire
           facilitated with a retest this year given the deferral and tighter
           timeframe.

 3.154     To ask the Minister for education whether any appeals process          Donnchadh Ó
           will exist for students in the leaving cert this year.                 Laoghaire

 3.155     Will the Minister for education endeavour to apply social              Donnchadh Ó
           distancing during the leaving cert, including invigilators, scribes,   Laoghaire
           other exam participants and so on

 3.156     To ask the Minister for education if changes to the papers are         Donnchadh Ó
           anticipated for the deferred leaving cert, including whether           Laoghaire
           shorter papers will be considered, or any other measures to take
           in to account the truncated school year

 3.357     Please see below correspondence from a Leaving Cert student            Alan Farrell
           living in my constituency. He has raised a great number of
           queries. Any feedback I can pass along to him would be greatly
           appreciated. (details supplied by email)

 3.372     Will all schools and examination centres receive additional            Richard Boyd
           sanitisation to limit the spread of potential covid 19 clusters?       Barrett

 3.384     To ask the Minister for Education how he intends to enforce the        Catherine
           two week period of school for Leaving Cert students, particularly      Martin
           given that some students may be recovering from Covid-19 or

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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.         Question                                                                  TD

             may be quarantining due to close contact with a confirmed case,
             and if he would make a statement on the matter.

 3.386       To ask the Minister for Education and Skills how the Department           Catherine
             of Education intends to adequately staff exam invigilators,               Martin
             examiners, scribes and exam readers for the Leaving Certificate
             exams given the close proximity of the exams to the start of the
             2020-2021 academic year, and how he will logistically enforce
             the social distancing guidelines, specifically in relation to
             students who require special accommodations, and if he will
             make a statement on the matter.

 3.532       To ask the minister for Education and Skills if Leaving Certificate       Róisín Shortall
             students who have been bereaved in the run up to their
             examinations or forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 during
             their examinations will be given the opportunity to sit their exams
             at a later date (as was done in 2019)?

 3.534       To ask the Minister how long he plans for Leaving Certificate             Róisín Shortall
             students to return for school for in order to prepare for their
             examinations, considering concerns that the proposed two
             weeks would not be sufficient?

 3.535       To ask the Minister will immuno-compromised Leaving                       Róisín Shortall
             Certificate students will be treated when sitting their exams, and
             if plans are being made to employ additional invigilators to
             facilitate these students sitting their exams in isolation from
             others?

 3.538       To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the application for       Róisín Shortall
             invigilators of leaving certificate examinations will be opened to
             non-teachers this year, in light of the fact that many university
             invigilators may become available this year?

     2.6.1 Response

Decisions on how the Leaving Certificate examinations will be run will be based on the advice
of the Department of Health’s public health experts. Guidance in this regard will issue to
schools and to candidates.
The SEC will be working with the school stakeholders to put in place safeguards in schools at
examinations time in order to minimise the risk of infection to candidates, superintendents and
other school staff, acting at all times on public health advice in the best interests of all involved.

It is likely that some students may be unable to attend examination centres on health grounds,
as they may be ill or in quarantine or isolation. The SEC and the Department are considering
appropriate alternative arrangements so that candidates in this situation are not
disadvantaged compared to their peers.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

The intention is that Leaving Cert students will return to school at least two weeks before the
exams begin. This will give students two weeks class time, face to face with their teachers, to
settle back in to the school, to prepare for the exams and to help mitigate the educational loss
suffered by them over the period of missed schooling. The dates for submission of certain
project work and coursework was also put back to just before the start of the rescheduled
written examinations.

     2.7. Schedule
 No.       Question                                                              TD

 3.10      How will the pandemic affect the LCA examinations, including          James Browne
           the practical, oral and task examinations.

 3.148     To ask the Minister for Education, upon what date the Leaving         Donnchadh Ó
           Cert will begin, and if this is not known when a decision will be     Laoghaire
           made

 3.150     To ask the Minister for Education what date has now been given        Donnchadh Ó
           for practical and projects for the leaving cert due to the            Laoghaire
           postponed dates, and what access to schools will be provided
           for these subjects

 3.477     To ask the Minister for Education to confirm when the leaving         Robert Troy
           cert LCVP link modules exam will take place. I am aware it was
           to go ahead on the first Wednesday in May however is it now
           postponed with other exams until late July/Early August. Also
           Are the fifth year LCA enterprise task and interview and the 6th
           year personal reflection task postponed until the end of July/start
           of August also, a statement pertaining to same would be
           appreciated as students are looking for clarity

 3.621     To ask the Minister for Education that given the Leaving              Aindrias
           Certificate practical coursework exam was on-going when               Moynihan
           schools closed on the 12 March and the finish date for this exam
           work was 3 April, how is this time going to be made up to
           complete this practical exam work and also prepare for both the
           life drawing element of the exam (due to take place in school in
           early May) and the art history element of the exam with
           suggested class contact time with the art teacher before
           the exam and if he will make a statement on the matter.

     2.7.1 Response

On 10th April I announced a series of changes to the 2020 State Examinations as part of
measures to respond to Covid-19, including postponement of the Leaving Certificate written
examinations and of other practical, project and course work components of these
examinations. The decisions were taken based on advice from the National Public Health
Emergency Team (NPHET).
——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

Plans are being put in place for the postponed written Leaving Certificate examinations to be
rescheduled to commence on 29th July, subject to public health advice. The deadline for
submission of project work and course work across a number of subjects was put back to
immediately prior to commencement of the rescheduled written examinations. A number of
examination components of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate
Vocational Programmes (LCVP) were also rescheduled to take place in late July/early August,
with an LCA Personal Reflection Task to be completed immediately prior to that period.

The revised Leaving Certificate examination timetable will be confirmed by the State
Examinations Commission (SEC) in early June.

A number of issues relating to contingency planning for the 2020 state examinations are being
examined by an advisory group of stakeholders which was set up to assist my Department.
The group has met on a number of occasions and further meetings are planned.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

3. Schools Sector Questions
     3.1. Capital Programme
 No.       Question                                                               TD

 3.158     To ask the Minister for education whether he is aware if planning      Darren O’
           applications for new and temporary school buildings, including         Rourke
           special schools, have in any way been delayed or impacted by
           the pandemic and its impact on the capacity of local authorities

     3.1.1 Response

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has provided flexibility to local
authorities to extend time periods for the operation of the planning process. Officials from my
Department have ongoing engagement with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local
Government and the Local Authorities in relation to housing, development plans and
planning applications for schools as we work through the impacts on our planning
applications as a result of Covid 19. This engagement will help to ensure that planning
applications for schools are progressed as efficiently as possible in this current period.

     3.2. Continuity of Learning
 No.       Question                                                               TD

 3.136     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to outline any            Donnchadh Ó
           metrics his Department has for the success or otherwise of             Laoghaire
           distance learning at post primary and primary level, his plan to
           tackle this and to tackle the digital divide.

 3.497     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what additional           Catherine
           measures he intends to introduce to ensure that the Leaving            Martin
           Certificate class of 2021 are not subjected to further disruption of
           their coursework, particularly if there is a delay in returning to
           school due to the postponement of this year’s exams, and if he
           would make a statement on the matter.

 3.537     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration can      Róisín Shortall
           be given to using a free-to-air service, such as Oireachtas TV,
           as a teaching tool, to broadcast leaving certificate classes on a
           daily basis, so that children who cannot access online classes,
           due to lack of technology or low – income, can access classes,
           as I understand that some teachers, in particular those who work
           in DEIS areas, would be happy to consider volunteering as they
           are anxious their students would not fall behind with their

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                              TD

           Leaving Certificate studies and end up at an even worse
           disadvantage?

     3.2.1 Response

Whilst schools are closed until further notice it is not envisaged that classes will be scheduled
beyond the end of the normal school year with the exception of students who are preparing
for this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations as previously announced.

Since the announcement that schools would close and the extension of that closure, my
Department has made it clear that teachers and other staff in the education sector would
continue to work and to engage with their students. The Department has written to school
management and asked schools to put in place arrangements to continue the delivery of
education to students. A series of guidance notes to support schools in how to effectively
support and engage with their students continues to be compiled to address challenges in
providing programmes of continued learning in the current context.

Guidance on the continuity of schooling for primary and post-primary schools issued on
Thursday 2nd April. Further guidance issued on 22nd April with a particular focus on
supporting students with special educational needs and students at risk of educational
disadvantage. all guidance documents are available at: https://www.education.ie/en/covid-
19/#guidance

The guidance is informed by feedback from school surveys and prompted by a growing
demand in some schools who were seeking such guidance. The reaction from schools is that
this material is particularly useful as they navigate the challenges associated with the new
teaching and learning environment that has emerged through enforced closures of schools
during the public health crises.

The nature of distant learning has required schools to take on a range of approaches to
support their students. Many schools are using digital resources and remote teaching as well
as communicating with parents through email and digital apps to provide work for students.
The Department is aware that many post-primary schools are using e-platforms to enable their
teachers to provide work to students, particularly to students in examination classes, and to
enable students to complete tasks and tests for assessment.

Resources to support the transition to distant learning are being provided by the Department
support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), at
https://www.pdst.ie/DistanceLearning. Scoilnet the Department’s educational portal provides
access to a wide variety of resources and information developed by various services including:
the PDST, Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT), the National Educational Psychological Service
(NEPS), the National Council for Special Education. These resources can all be accessed at
https://www.scoilnet.ie/support/. Scoilnet also provides access to extensive educational
resources including Worldbook Online, at www.scoilnet.ie

RTÉ has developed the RTÉ Home School Hub, which is an additional support for parents
and primary school pupils. Pupils are able to watch, download and engage with curriculum-
based content, project work, and fun activities to keep them entertained and learning. The
——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

presenters are bilingually qualified teachers, identified and engaged by RTE, and many
aspects of the programme are delivered in both English and Irish. In addition, TG4 has
launched “Cúla4ArScoil” to support learning at home. These broadcasts are a supplement to
the ongoing learning being provided by teachers.

The Department is also engaging with IBEC on the potential for companies to donate devices
and other supports to be targeted at disadvantage students who otherwise would not have a
device.

The Department will continue to work with the education partners to provide solutions in areas
where digital and remote learning options may not be possible, and work is underway to
provide guidance to schools about how best to use digital and other solutions to provide
ongoing learning for students at this time.

     3.3. Special Educational Needs Provision
 No.       Question                                                             TD

 3.4       Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the provision of the regular       James Browne
           July provision for home tuition?

 3.133     To ask the minister for Education and skills to outline any          Donnchadh Ó
           proposed or potential changes or extension to the July               Laoghaire,
           Education provision for children on the Autism Spectrum, and         Claire Kerrane
           whether consideration might be given to addition provision being
           available throughout the summer break

     3.3.1 Response

We want students to continue their education as far as possible and to progress. The
Department intends to run the extended school year (ESY) scheme – also known as the July
Provision Scheme – this year if possible given the current school closures. The Department,
in conjunction with the public health authorities, will keep the situation under ongoing review.
The Department is considering contingency measures, including changes to the format of the
scheme, should it prove necessary to delay the start of the scheme. Any changes will be
communicated widely.

     3.4. Wellbeing
 No.       Question                                                             TD

 3.149     To ask the Minister for Education what supports resources and        Donnchadh Ó
           counselling is being made to support students at a time when         Laoghaire
           they are deeply concerned and under severe pressure due to
           the leaving cert postponement in particular in relation to their
           mental health, and if a dedicated helpline will be set up?

——
15
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                            TD

 3.379     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if extra provisions    Catherine
           will be put in place to ensure that the mental wellbeing of         Martin
           Leaving Cert students will be protected given the added stress of
           the extended school year and the Covid-19 crisis, and if he
           would make a statement on the matter.

     3.4.1 Response

NEPS, the Department’s National Educational Psychological Service, has developed advice
and resources for keeping Children and Young People well during Covid-19. These resources
aim to support children and young people’s learning and wellbeing at this time. All of these
resources are aligned with the main messages from the Government and the HSE. These
resources include:

       Advice to young people while schools are closed
       Plan for the Day
       Relaxation Techniques (including podcast)
       Guide for Parents Supporting Children with Routines
       Advice for parents and schools on talking to children and young people about Covid-
        19
The resources are on the Department’s website. In addition the resources have been made
available by other organisations including the HSE, Professional Development Service for
Teachers (PDST), Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) and the National Centre for Guidance in
Education (NCGE). The resources will also be made available on Scoilnet.ie. Scoilnet is the
Department of Education and Skills’ official portal for Irish education.

The three key messages to young people at this time are:

            1. Stay responsible and informed
            2. Stay active and connected
            3. Stay positive and calm

School closure and social/physical distancing are very challenging for our young people and
there are evidence-based strategies that children/young people can use, and can be helped
to use, in order to manage themselves, and their physical and mental health. NEPS advice is
built around building daily routines that include physical activity, social activity (on-line),
enjoyable/creative activity and schoolwork. Routines provide a sense of control and of
security and safety which are essential to support wellbeing at this time. We have included
this in our guidance.

Critical Incidents
NEPS is updating resources and reviewing its approach to supporting schools that experience
critical incidents. In addition NEPS is encouraging all schools to update their own critical
incident management plans.

Access to NEPS Psychologists
NEPS psychologists continue to be available to provide advice and support to school
principals, teachers and school communities. NEPS is proactively exploring a number of

——
16
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

innovative ways to continue to provide educational psychological services to school
communities at this time.

Supports for exam year students
NEPS will be developing a series of supports (podcasts/other resources) for exam year
students to support them as they prepare for their examinations during the unprecedented
Covid-19 situation. These will include information on managing their wellbeing, and managing
stress, anxiety and coping with uncertainty.

     3.5. Resources in Irish
 No.       Question                                                            TD

 3.446     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if online resource     Catherine
           materials, including mental health supports will be made            Martin
           available in Irish for students in gaelscoileanna, and if he will
           make a statement on the matter.

     3.5.1 Response

The Department of Education and Skills’ NEPS psychologists have developed advice and
some resources for young people to manage and stay well when schools are closed. These
resources are available in Irish on the Department’s website at

https://www.education.ie/ga/Scoileanna-Coláistí/Seirbhísí/An-tSeirbhís-Náisiúnta-
Síceolaíochta-Oideachais-NEPS-/follaine.html

NEPS psychologists have also developed guidance for parents supporting children to create
new routines at home. This resource is available in Irish on the Department’s website at

https://www.education.ie/ga/An-Roinn/Fogra%C3%AD/treoir-do-thuismitheoiri-chun-tacu-le-
leanai.pdf

In addition, TG4 has launched “Cúla4ArScoil” to support learning at home.

     3.6. Technology and broadband access
 No.        Question                                                            TD

 3.160A     To ask the Minister for Education what provisions have been but     Martin Browne
            in place to make allowances for students living in areas of
            insufficient broadband coverage who now find themselves at a
            disadvantage as a result of the lack of broadband infrastructure

——
17
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.        Question                                                              TD

            and In light of the announcement that the leaving certificate
            examinations will now be postponed to later in the summer

 3.166      To ask the Minister for Education what his department is doing        Martin Browne
            for those Students in deprived areas and rural areas who don’t
            have access to broadband and are unable to engage in online
            courses and if the Minister will make a statement on the matter

 3.351      To ask the Minister for Education what measures are being put         Pádraig
            in place for students that are studying for the Leaving Cert and      O'Sullivan
            have no access to laptop/computers to facilitate online/distance
            learning; have no access to grinds due to limited financial
            means; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 3.370      What procedures have been put in place for students with no           Richard Boyd
            access to a broadband/internet/laptops and are struggling within      Barrett
            a virtual learning environment?

 3.380      To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he intends to         Catherine
            provide sufficient internet access and extra online learning          Martin
            resources for Leaving Cert students; specifically disadvantaged
            students who require extra support and students preparing to sit
            their exams as Gaeilge, and if he would make a statement on
            the matter.

 3.456      To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements         Éamon Ó Cuív
            being made to ensure a level playing pitch for those leaving
            certificate students that do not have access to broadband within
            2km of their homes in view of the closure of schools and the limit
            on travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a
            statement on the matter.

 3.566      What efforts are being carried out during Covid-19 to address         Jennifer
            the Digital divide most evident in children who are currently         Whitmore
            outside of their normal school environment and whose families
            may not have adequate access to hardware/software or have
            limited internet data, all of which may negatively impact on
            children’s ability to learn.

     3.6.1 Response

Schools have been asked to be conscious of students who may not have access to online
facilities and to consider this actively in their responses. School buildings have been available
to staff who wished to access the facilities in order to provide online delivery, or essential
services, as long as this was in line with public health advice.

In addition to a €40 million fund to support technology in schools I announced a special €10
million fund to support the purchase of technology and devices for disadvantaged students on
——
18
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

guidelines. A total of €7 million additional funding will be provided in the post-primary sector
and €3 million in the primary sector. A circular to schools will be issued providing the details
governing the funding for the grant and the top-up funding.

Officials in my Department have liaised with colleagues in the DCCAE to raise the issue of
barriers to connectivity impacting access to remote learning. Minister Bruton has announced
a package of additional supports from the telecoms companies including that access to
healthcare and educational resource websites identified by the Government will be zero-rated
for all customers where technically feasible.

The Department is supporting a pilot initiative, under which Cisco and IBM are providing
support directly to schools to operate the WebEx platform. This facilitates schools, with no
alternative capability, with a collaborative platform to enable them engage with their students
and staff.

My Department is also engaging with IBEC on the potential for companies to donate devices
and other supports to be targeted at disadvantage students who otherwise would not have a
device.

The Department will continue to work with the education partners to provide solutions in areas
where digital and remote learning options may not be possible, and work is underway to
provide guidance to schools about how best to use digital and other solutions to provide
ongoing learning for students at this time.

     3.7. School Meals
 No.      Question                                                              TD

 3.131    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the supports being       Donnchadh Ó
          put in place to ensure that the School Completion Programme           Laoghaire
          and in particular the School Meals Programme is kept up amidst
          the COVID-19 restrictions; if there has been clarity regarding the
          capacity of an Post to deliver as a last resort, and if guidance
          has been given to principals on how best and most effective to
          ensure delivery of meals

 3.164    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills, in view of the          Sean Crowe,
          COVID-19 Pandemic, can he outline how many schools in the             Dessie Ellis
          Dublin South West & Dublin North West Constituencies (that
          have some of highest levels of poverty and deprivation in the
          State) were unable to arrange deliveries of promised food
          parcels through An Post; can he outline what new plans or
          proposals have been circulated to schools; what new
          arrangement, if any, have been put in place, following the failure
          of An Post, supposedly because of volume, to deliver school
          meals particularly in many urban areas

 3.165    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills, in view of the          Martin Kenny
          COVID-19 Pandemic, can he outline how many schools across

——
19
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                             TD

           the State were unable to arrange deliveries of promised food
           parcels through An Post; can he outline what new plans or
           proposals have been circulated to schools; what new
           arrangement, if any, have been put in place, following the failure
           of An Post, supposedly because of volume, to deliver particularly
           in urban areas

 3.167     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the meals            Dessie Ellis
           provided for schools are going to continue and additionally how
           these meals will reach the children concerned during this Covid-
           19 crisis.

     3.7.1 Response

The Government has issued schools with updated guidance to help them operate the School
Meals Programme amid the extended Covid-19 restrictions. Tusla Education Support Service
staff are liaising with Principals to ensure that children/families in need of the School Meals
Programme are identified and supported.

Schools have been asked to arrange a regular pack of provisions which can be delivered to
pupils. Schools have been provided with details of how to link into local community support
networks and An Post have agreed to facilitate delivery of non–perishable food packets.

The Government’s decision on school meals was announced on Thursday 26 March and
detailed guidelines are available on my Department’s website.

The School Meals Programme is under the remit of the Department of Employment Affairs
and Social Protection (DEASP) and it provides funding towards provision of food services for
disadvantaged school children through two schemes. In general, schools are funded to
provide school meals and the sourcing of a provider for these meals is arranged by the
schools. There are a variety of school meals providers throughout the country. There are a
small number of main suppliers who supply significant numbers of schools, and also some
smaller locally based providers.

The type and range of meals provided, as well as the method and logistics of supplying the
meals, are decided by the individual local groups and schools that operate the projects.

The current initiative is school led. Schools have been asked to identify those most in need
and to contact parents to ask if they wished to avail of the service during the school closure
period.

The Department is aware of issues which have arisen in relation to capacity at some An Post
offices where there were bulk deliveries by food suppliers for delivery via An Post. Due to
local demand it may not be possible for An Post to meet all of the demand in some areas. The
Department of Education and Skills is working with An Post to put in place a pre-booking
system. Schools have been notified of alternative options available and are encouraged to use
these where possible. Some schools have availed of support available via TUSLA Education
Support (School Completion Programme and Home School Community Liaison co-ordinators)

——
20
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

and others have availed of delivery arrangements via the local community and voluntary
networks. An Post will continue to provide assistance for schools on a complimentary basis
during the current crisis, within agreed limits, to supplement these arrangements where
needed.

     3.8. School Transport
 No.       Question                                                                 TD

 3.159     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered        Rose Conway
           the possibility of off-setting school bus transport fees for Mar-Jun     Walsh
           2020 against fees for the 2020/2021 school year; and if he will
           make a statement on the matter.

 3.162     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what measures are           Mairéad Farrell
           being taken to alleviate financial pressures on parents who have
           paid for School Transport, which is currently not being used due
           to COVID 19, and if he will consider a refund or credit scheme
           for the new academic year

 3.574     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills whether it is               Éamon Ó Cuív
           intended to refund school transport fees paid by parents for
           students attending primary and secondary schools for the period
           from the 12th of March, the date on which schools closed, until
           they open again or the end of summer term, whichever happens
           first, as this is a major cost for parents for a service not provided;
           and if he will make a statement on the matter.

     3.8.1 Response

The decision taken by the Government to close schools with effect from 13th March 2020 was
taken in the interest of protecting our pupils, their families, teachers and the wider community
and is one of the many measures taken to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Given that the school transport service has not been available to children for the last number
of weeks, I announced last week in the Dáil that at the end of the school year, when the exact
impact in terms of numbers of weeks of school closure is known, a refund for that period of
closure will be issued to parents.

     3.9. School Transport – Providers
 No.       Question                                                                 TD

 3.163     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to detail what              Sean Crowe
           supports have been given thus far to the providers of School

——
21
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.       Question                                                               TD

           Transport and detail what further supports may be given during
           the time the schools remain closed

     3.9.1 Response

Following the initial announcement that schools would be closed from the 13th to the 29th
March to support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, and in light of the exceptional
circumstances, it was agreed that school transport contractors would be paid at the normal
rate for the period up to 29th March 2020.

It was decided that a payment of 50% would be afforded for the week commencing Monday
30th March until Friday 3rd April 2020. Thereafter, the normal arrangements apply for the
period of scheduled school closures associated with the Easter Holidays (6th April – 17th April
inclusive).

In light of the most recent announcement that schools will remain closed until further notice I
announced last week in the Dáil that contractors will continue to be paid at 50% while schools
are closed.

     3.10. Staff Relations
 No.       Question                                                               TD

 3.135     To ask the Minster for Education and Skills for a further update       Donnchadh Ó
           regarding the redeployment of SNAs; specifically, what role will       Laoghaire
           be provided, whether all work will be remote work, and what
           options exist for SNAs with vulnerable relatives to not
           participate.

 3.483     To ask the Minister for Education if he will give clarity on the       Jackie Cahill
           deployment of SNAs during the Covid crisis.

     3.10.1 Response

The Minister announced on 1st April a contingency plan for all Special Needs Assistants
(SNAs) to be available for a new temporary assignment scheme as part of the Government’s
response to Covid-19.

Since then, discussions have taken place between the Department, the HSE and Fórsa trade
union with a view to developing an appropriate way for SNAs to support their students and
families during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The HSE has now finalised the details of a new service
which SNAs will provide during the school closure period.

SNAs will be asked to provide support to those students in receipt of HSE Disability services
by way of remote working through the use of telephones, smart phones or laptops. They will
work under the guidance and direction of the child’s ‘key point of contact’ who will be a clinician

——
22
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

such as a speech and language therapist, psychologist or occupational therapist who is
familiar with the student and will explain what support each student and family might require..
The key point of contact will provide strategies for working with the child / family and will
signpost the SNA towards any resources required. Communication channels between the
school and the SNA will be facilitated where appropriate to ensure that SNAs can receive
guidance where educational issues arise during the course of the suite of supports being
provided by the HSE teams during this period.

SNAs will be matched with students, and wherever possible this will be their own allocated
student(s). If this is not possible, SNAs may then be matched to support children with whom
they are not familiar. Students and families requiring the greatest level of support will be
prioritised.

To ensure that SNAs receive appropriate support and have regular opportunities to engage
with the HSE’s multidisciplinary teams, SNAs will be able to access resources at the relevant
HSE or disability service premises and will be provided with a letter identifying them as an
essential worker to facilitate travel to these centres.

It is intended that the work of the SNAs will be underpinned by dedicated ICT supports.
Therefore, where the SNA prefers to work remotely or has an underlying health condition or
particular circumstances that impact on their ability to leave their home and has access to the
appropriate technology this can be facilitated with the agreement of the Service Manager and
key point of contact.

The HSE will provide induction for all SNAs who are asked to participate in the new service.
Where possible they will ask SNAs to attend one of their offices to do this but where SNAs are
self-isolating, have underlying health conditions or have childcare or other caring
responsibilities, the induction can be done remotely.

The HSE are providing a dedicated IT platform which will allow the HSE to match SNAs to
children / families. This platform will also allow the SNA to log their interactions with the family
and to report on same. SNAs can use their own phone, tablet or laptop to carry out this work,
and access to appropriate resources and technology will also be available at the HSE /
disability premises.

At all times during this temporary assignment scheme the HSE will continue to comply with
contemporaneous public health advice provided by the National Public Health Emergency
Team.

     3.11. Re-opening of Primary Schools
 No.       Question                                                                TD

 3.607     To ask the Minister for Education & Skills what plans his               Aodhán Ó
           department has to reopen primary schools in June 2020, what             Ríordáin
           childcare provisions may be available to teachers in the event of
           creches and other childcare facilities still being closed and will
           he make a statement on the matter?

——
23
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

     3.11.1 Response

All schools will remain closed until further notice. My Department is engaging on a continual
basis with the school management bodies and others, and meeting regularly via conference
call to deal with any emerging issues, including the question of how, or when, schools will re-
open. This will be done within the parameters of the public health advice and what is right for
society.

We will continue to review the impact of decisions taken in other countries to re-open schools
in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

The Taoiseach has said that we will set out the plan before May 5th as to how we might move
beyond the current restrictions. We will not act prematurely and we cannot jeopardise the huge
effort that everyone has made in recent weeks to flatten the curve. We cannot lose sight of
our primary objective and we must also minimise the risk of any second wave of infections.

——
24
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

4. Tertiary Sector Questions

     4.1. Accommodation
 No.     Question                                                             TD

 3.132   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to outline what steps   Donnchadh Ó
         he and his department are taking to ensure that 3rd level            Laoghaire
         students are refunded for accommodation costs from when the
         institution closed for physical student attendance

 3.134   To ask Minster for Education and Skills what actions                 Donnchadh Ó
         his Department are taking to ensure deposits and rent are            Laoghaire
         refunded for accommodation that students are no longer using
         and has he engaged with Universities and Institutes of
         Technology to resolve this issue

 3.161   To ask the Minister for Education to call on landlords in both the   Mairead Farrell
         university and private student accommodation sector to provide
         refunds to students who have left their accommodation early due
         to the Covid19 restrictions

 3.170   To ask the Minister for Education & Skills if his Department has     Donnchadh Ó
         held discussions with the Minister for Housing regarding the         Laoghaire
         need for assistance for students who have Vacated private
         rented student accommodation, and have not succeeded in
         getting the deposit back or the rent halted, and to make a
         statement on the matter

 3.492   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills how, in light of the    James Browne
         pandemic, he/she intends to assist 2020/2021 third level
         students who attend colleges such as UCD and normally sign
         leases for private rented accommodation in May before the
         colleges resume in September; and if he will make a statement
         on the matter.

 3.617   To ask the Minister to clarify the responsibilities of private       Joan Collins
         providers of student accommodation as a result of Covid-19.
         These students, where told to leave their purpose built student
         accommodation on the 17th of March and to make arrangement
         to travel home, they had paid the rent up to June the 6th 2020.
         These students resided in Point Campus student residency on
         Mayor Street upper, Dublin 1. The company Host Student
         housing Ltd & Host student Management (UK) ltd. They are not
         refunding, these students, the rent from the March to 6th of
         June. Some students have, on the back of the students Union,
         making representations received their outstanding rent.

——
25
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

     4.1.1 Response

The majority of students in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) have vacated their
accommodation. A limited number of students have opted to stay due to circumstances such
as vulnerable family members in the family home, difficulties to return to their home countries,
or ongoing medical placements. The universities have confirmed that these students will be
able to remain in their accommodation. My Department is working closely with the higher and
further education and training providers to estimate and assess the financial impact of COVID
19 on the sector.

Six of the seven universities (TCD, DCU, UCD, NUIG, UCC and MU) who own student
accommodation have confirmed that students who have vacated their accommodation will
receive pro-rata refunds of their accommodation fees. UL has informed students that they can
claim back their deposit, but that their accommodation fees will not be refunded. The
Department has engaged with UL on this issue to ask that it reconsiders its approach.

A number of reports have been received of private owners of PBSA refusing to refund
accommodation fees in cases where students have vacated their accommodation. The
Minister has indicted that he would like to see private providers of student accommodation
provide pro-rata refunds.

At the moment, where private PBSA remains open for students, refund and cancellation
policies are governed by the licences or contracts signed by the students. In other cases, the
students should engage with their accommodation provider in the first instance to see if an
arrangement can be reached in regard to a refund. If this is not possible, under the Residential
Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services
of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

     4.2. Admissions
 No.        Question                                                                 TD

 3.137      To ask the Minster for Education and Skills, given the                   Donnchadh Ó
            postponement of the leaving cert is now confirmed; what are the          Laoghaire
            implications of this for 3rd level admissions and what is the most
            up to date information available regarding the ability that will
            exist for Irish students to gain access to international institutions
            including the UCAS system

 3.150A     To ask the Minister for education if a date is available for the first   Donnchadh Ó
            and second round of offers under the CAO system.                         Laoghaire

 3.373      Is it possible for third level institutions to allocate places for       Richard Boyd
            2020/21 based on subject aptitude tests or through another               Barrett
            informed method which might allow students to complete a
            foundation programme prior to the commencement of there
            desired area of study for people who have completed their CAO
            and if he will make a statement on this matter?

——
26
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