Oireachtas Members' Questions: Covid-19 - Answers Due: Tuesday, 5 May 2020 - Department of ...

 
Oireachtas Members' Questions: Covid-19 - Answers Due: Tuesday, 5 May 2020 - Department of ...
Oireachtas Members’
Questions: Covid-19
Answers Due: Tuesday, 5 May 2020
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

Contents
1.   Introduction .................................................................................................. 3
2.   State Examinations Questions ................................................................... 4
     2.1. Approach to State Examinations                                                                           4
     2.2. State Examinations Logistics                                                                             5
     2.3. Examination Fees                                                                                        10
     2.4. Impact on Admissions to Tertiary Courses                                                                12
     2.5. Junior Cycle                                                                                            12
3.   Schools Sector Questions ........................................................................ 14
     3.1. Capital Programme                                                                                       14
     3.2. Continuity of Learning                                                                                  15
     3.3. Special Educational Needs Provision                                                                     17
     3.4. Technology and broadband access                                                                         19
     3.5. School Transport – Tickets, Providers & Special Education provision                                     20
     3.6. Staff Relations – SNA Redeployment                                                                      22
     3.7. Staff Relations – School Secretaries                                                                    24
     3.8. Staff Relations – Recruitment                                                                           24
     3.9. Wellbeing                                                                                               25
     3.10. Re-opening of Schools                                                                                  26
     3.11. School Meals                                                                                           28
     3.12. School Tours                                                                                           29
     3.13. Repeating years at primary level                                                                       29
     3.14. Sixth Class Students                                                                                   30
4.   Tertiary Sector Questions ......................................................................... 32
     4.1. Accommodation                                                                                           32
     4.2. Tertiary Level Assessment                                                                               34
     4.3. Tertiary Admissions and Funding                                                                         35
     4.4. Student Supports                                                                                        37
     4.5. Extensions to HEAR/DARE deadlines                                                                       38
5.   Vulnerable Persons/Disadvantage ........................................................... 39
     5.1. Educational Disadvantage                                                                                39
6.   International Study & Students Issues .................................................... 41
     6.1. Irish Students Abroad                                                                                   41
     6.2. English Language Students                                                                               42
7.   Transfers .................................................................................................... 44
     7.1. Transferred to other Departments                                                                        44

——
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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 fourth of the weekly response documents prepared under the revised
question system. 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

 4.214   To ask the Minster for Education and Skills to provide the             Mary Lou Mc
         National Public Health Emergency Team advice which guided              Donald
         the Government’s announcement that it could potentially start
         the Leaving Certificate examinations on July 29th.

 4.442   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that   Thomas Byrne
         the delayed Leaving Certificate will maintain the standards of
         openness, fairness and integrity of the exams process and the
         public health and educational evidence on which he has based
         this position.

 4.546   To ask the Minister for Education if predicted grades been             Stephen
         entirely ruled out in determination of final Leaving Certificate       Donnelly
         marks?

 4.595   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills whether he still          Éamon Ó Cuív
         intends going ahead with the leaving certificate at the end of July
         early August as a result of Covid-19; whether arrangements
         have been finalised with teachers about returning to school for
         the period leading up to the exams; whether his department
         have examined the possibility of using predictive grades based
         on a students school record to date or a mix of predictive grades
         and leaving certificate results as a fairer system; whether he is
         aware that a lot of pupils are anxious and feeling under pressure
         as a result of the lack of school attendance since the 13th of
         March and the deferment of the leaving certificate starting dates;
         and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 4.618   Will the Minister please reconsider his position re practicals,        Norma Foley
         course work and projects. If students of Irish, foreign languages
         and music are to be awarded 100% for the oral/practical element
         of their courses the same amnesty should be extended to other
         subjects with a similar element.

 4.885   To ask the Minister for Education will he now agree to cancel the      Richard Boyd
         Leaving Cert and instead establish an alternative certification        Barrett
         arrangement to remove the stress and uncertainty from leaving
         cert students and to allow them to proceed with their future lives
         in the autumn and to make a statement on the matter.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

            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 a decision to postpone the written Leaving
Certificate examinations until later in the summer and a commitment to confirm by early June
that, subject to health advice then available, the examinations would be held in late July or
early August. The announcement of 10 April also included that the Junior Cycle state
examinations would be replaced 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 were
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 that will be taken in relation to rescheduling the Leaving Certificate examinations
will be based on current health advice and will put the best interests of students first. The
welfare of students and that of their families is front and centre in all decision making.

As part of planning for the State examinations, I have also established an advisory group of
stakeholders, including representatives of students, parents, teachers, the management and
leadership of schools, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the State
Examinations Commission, and officials of my Department, including the National Educational
Psychological Service. A representative of the Higher Education Authority is also attending all
meetings of the Advisory Group. This group is providing important advice to me that assists
me and the State Examinations Commission in decision-making about the examinations. I
wish to acknowledge the positive engagement with unions, management bodies, the further
education and training and higher education sectors on all of the issues involved.

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 Advisory Group reviewed the
options for the Junior Cycle and on Wednesday 29th April I met with the members of the
Advisory Group following their review of the Junior Cycle to discuss their recommendations.

Last week, I announced revised arrangements in relation to this year’s Junior Cycle. Under
these arrangements students will receive a State Certificate from the Department of Education
and Skills in autumn 2020, certifying that they have completed lower secondary education and
listing the subjects, short courses and/or priority learning units studied by the student as
appropriate.

Students will also receive a written report from their school on their learning achievements in
each subject, short course and/or priority learning unit as appropriate, as soon as possible
after the end of the current school year.

Intensive work has been underway at the State Examinations Commission and within my
Department to plan for the delivery of the Leaving Certificate examinations in July/August 2020
and the advisory group has also been considering these issues at twice-weekly meetings.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

The final arrangements for the Leaving Certificate examinations, including the examination
timetable, arrangements at the examination centres, social distancing and other measures,
and arrangements for course work and practical examinations, will be determined by the SEC
on foot of public health advice prior to the end of the first week in June. The SEC also has the
responsibility to ensure that the high standards of the validity and reliability of the examinations
are maintained.

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. My Department, in
conjunction with representatives of school management and other stakeholders, is examining
the various logistical requirements involved in allowing this return to school by Leaving
Certificate students, to take place safely.

My Department is also looking at options in relation to contingency arrangements and these
will be considered by the advisory group. It is not appropriate to rule any option out given the
uncertainty around the pandemic and the associated health advice.

I am also acutely aware of the stress experienced by students as a result of the Covid-19
pandemic and in particular the stresses that have arisen for students preparing for the state
examinations. The National Educational Psychological Service has collaborated with the HSE,
following intensive engagement with the Irish Secondary Students’ Union (ISSU) to put in
place a comprehensive range of supports for students, details of which are available on the
gov.ie website.

       2.2. State Examinations Logistics
 No.       Question                                                                TD

 4.022     To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to give a detailed         Aodhán Ó
           timetable as to when the Leaving Certificate examinations are to        Ríordáin
           begin, when they are due to be completed, what time period is
           being allocated for their correction and for any potential
           appeals and will he make a statement on the matter?

 4.216     To ask the Minister for Education what supports are currently or        Sorca Clarke
           are being put in place to support Leaving Cert students with
           additional learning support needs such as dyslexia and
           dyscalculia.

 4.327     To ask the Minister for Education the plans for students from           Paul Murphy
           outside of Ireland who attend boarding schools in Ireland. How
           will they be able to complete the Leaving Certificate if they are
           unable to return to Ireland?

 4.331     What measures at exam time will be put in place for Leaving             Cian
           Cert students who live with family members who are at a high            O'Callaghan
           risk if they are infected with Covid 19?

 4.350     To ask the Minister for Education to provide the secondary              Frank Feighan
           principals of my Constituency with some clarity in relation to how
           the Leaving Cert exams might take place later this year with

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.     Question                                                              TD

         regards to what will physically be needed to be in place and
         when does he expect to be able to provide them with a draft plan
         on how this will work in reality?

 4.411   To ask the Minister for Education to outline what                     Cathal Crowe
         contingency plans his department have in place to cater for
         Leaving Cert students, who on medical advice have been
         'cocooning', to sit their examinations later on this year.

 4.412   To ask the Minister for Education if the school transport service     Aindrias
         will operate during the period timetabled for Leaving Certificate     Moynihan
         examinations.

 4.436   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make          James Browne
         provisions for people registered to re-sit leaving cert Irish exams
         this year but are living abroad at the moment and may not be
         able to secure flights owing to the pandemic.

 4.459   Please see below correspondence I have received from a                Jack
         constituent seeking clarification on the supports and assistance      Chambers
         that will be available in this summer’s Leaving Certificate exams
         to students with disabilities and if the supports available in
         previous years will be available this year. Please examine the
         correspondence and queries outlined below and provide
         responses to the queries. (Details supplied)

 4.485   To ask the minister when results of the Leaving Cert will be          Pa Daly
         available as some students who intend to take up a place in a
         university abroad need to have their results before 1st
         September.

 4.459   Please see below correspondence I have received from a                Jack
         constituent seeking clarification on the supports and assistance      Chambers
         that will be available in this summer’s Leaving Certificate exams
         to students with disabilities and if the supports available in
         previous years will be available this year. Please examine the
         correspondence and queries outlined below and provide
         responses to the queries. (Details supplied)

 4.543   To ask the Minister for Education how social distancing will be       Stephen
         implemented in schools during exams and teaching time.                Donnelly

 4.544   To ask the Minister for Education What is the plan for the 2          Stephen
         weeks of teaching in July?                                            Donnelly

 4.545   To ask the Minister for Education What happens if there is a          Stephen
         case of corona virus either in the 2 weeks teaching before the        Donnelly
         exams or during the exams themselves?

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.     Question                                                              TD

 4.546   To ask the Minister for Education how students with special           Stephen
         educational needs will be supported in completing their Leaving       Donnelly
         Cert exams under current restrictions.

 4.602   Chun a iarraidh den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén socrú          Éamon Ó Cuív
         atá i gceist a dhéanamh maidir leis an Ard-teist a reachtáil ar na
         scoileanna ar na hoileáin amach ón gcósta de bharr géarchéim
         Covid-19, cén socrú a dhéanfar freisin do na scoláirí ó áiteanna
         éagsúla ar fud na tíre a bhíonn ag freastal ar na scoileanna seo
         ar scoláireachtaí; cén áit a dhéanfaidh siadsan an scrúdú
         ardteiste mar nach bhfuil cead ag daoine ó taobh amuigh de na
         hoileáin dul chuig na hoileáin; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina
         thaobh.

 4.621   Will the Minister please advise how the two hour rule 're Covid       Norma Foley
         19 Stay Safe measures will be implemented for the duration of
         Leaving Cert examinations. Many exam papers require far in
         excess of two/ three hours. Are exam papers to be cut short?
         When will such information be available?

 4.622   To ask the Minister what provision is being made for students         Norma Foley
         who were not in a position to complete study of Leaving Cert
         courses due to inability to participate in remote learning
         initiatives. Will this issue be recognised and compensated for in
         the awarding of results? How exactly could this be done in a fair
         manner for all students? Please advise.

 4.623   Will the Minister advise when he anticipates information will be      Norma Foley
         available to schools so that plans can be put in place 're the
         organisation of state exams and timetabling for the new school
         year. Are principals being included in discussions re the logistics
         of same?

 4.625   Will the Minister confirm what exactly are the plans for the two      Norma Foley
         week return to school prior to the commencement of Leaving
         Cert. How exactly will social distancing be managed in a class of
         25 students with one subject teacher? Have principals been
         notified of how school will operate so that plans can be put in
         place?

 4.634   To ask the Minister to confirm what measures are in place re          Norma Foley
         exam papers. The reality is such that from printing to delivery to
         distribution to students there are myriad hands handling the
         papers. How safe is this with regard to Covid 19 stay safe
         measures? What measures can be put in place to
         guarantee absence of risk to all involved?

 4.637   Will students and supervisors be required to wear ppe for the         Norma Foley
         duration of the Leaving Cert exams? Has the Dept made
——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.      Question                                                              TD

          provision for the sourcing and delivery of such equipment to
          schools in advance of commencement of exams?

 4.641    Will the Minister confirm how exactly the recruitment of exam         Norma Foley
          supervisors will be managed? Will it be a centralised process or
          a local process? How are the following to be managed in the
          midst of a pandemic...advertising/ interviewing/
          appointments/training/ Garda vetting etc? Please advise.

 4.770    To ask the Minister for Education if he can provide further           Donnchadh Ó
          updates on specific arrangements which were described in              Laoghaire
          answers received on the 27th April, regarding students who
          would not be in a position to attend an exam in the ordinary
          manner, because they have a vulnerable medical situation or are
          cocooning, and what arrangements that might involve

 4.772    To ask the Minister for Education for an update regarding the         Donnchadh Ó
          LCA and LCVP programme, and whether oral examinations and             Laoghaire
          practical examinations will take place

 4.773    To ask the Minister for Education for an outline of how he            Donnchadh Ó
          believes that project component of examinations such as the           Laoghaire
          Construction Studies can be completed in a safe and socially
          distant way, including cleaning of equipment

 4.880    To ask the Minister for Education when it is proposed to finalise     Brendan Smith
          all arrangements for the Leaving Certificate 2020 Examinations
          and if he will make a statement on the matter.

            2.2.1. Response

Beidh na cinntí maidir le reáchtáil na scrúduithe Ardteistiméireachta bunaithe ar an
gcomhairle ó shaineolaithe sláinte na Roinne Sláinte. Eiseofar Treoir chuig scoileanna agus
na hiarratasóirí maidir leis seo.

Agus iad ag gníomhú ar chomhairle sláinte poiblí ar mhaithe le gach éinne atá bainteach
leis, beidh Coimisiún na Scrúduithe Stáit (CSS) ag obair leis na páirtithe leasmhara chun
bearta cosanta a chur in áit ag am na scrúduithe chun riosca ionfhabhtuithe na n-iarratasóirí,
na bhfeitheoirí agus foirne eile scoile a íodlaghdú.

Tá sé i gceist go bhfillfidh na scoláirí Ardteistiméireachta ar scoil dhá sheachtain ar a laghad
sula dtosnóidh na scrúduithe. Tabharfaidh sé sin coicís do na scoláirí socrú ar ais ar scoil, ar
aghaidh a chéile sna ranganna lena múinteoirí, ionas gur féidir leo ullmhúchán a dhéanamh
do na scrúduithe, agus an caillteanas oideachasúil a d’fhulaing na scoláirí le linn na tréimhe
inar chaill siad amach ar an scolaíocht, a mhaolú.

Tá imscrúdú á dhéanamh anois ar shaincheisteanna éagsúla a bhaineann leis an bplean
teagmhais do na scrúduithe stáit 2020, ag an ngrúpa comhairliúcháin de pháirithe leasmhara
——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

a bunaíodh chun cabhrú le mo Roinn-se. Tá an grúpa tar éis bualadh lena chéile arís agus
arís eile agus tá cruinnithe breise pleanáilte.

Decisions regarding how the rescheduled Leaving Certificate examinations will be run will be
based on current health advice and will put the best interests of students first. Intensive work
has been underway at the State Examinations Commission and within my Department to plan
for the delivery of the Leaving Certificate examinations in July/August 2020.

As part of planning for the State examinations, I have also established an advisory group of
stakeholders, including representatives of students, parents, teachers, the management and
leadership of schools, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the State
Examinations Commission, and officials of my Department, including the National Educational
Psychological Service. A representative of the Higher Education Authority is also attending all
meetings of the Advisory Group. This group is providing important advice to me that assists
me and the State Examinations Commission in decision-making about the examinations. I
wish to acknowledge the positive engagement with unions, management bodies, the further
education and training and higher education sectors on all of the issues involved. I met with
this group last week to discuss their recommendations regarding the Junior Cycle and look
forward to meeting them shortly regarding their discussions on the arrangements for the
Leaving Cert.

State Examinations Commission has also engaged with the management authorities of
schools to examine the many practical and logistical challenges that would arise in the running
of the examinations.

The final arrangements for the Leaving Certificate examinations, including the examination
timetable, arrangements at the examination centres, social distancing and other measures,
and arrangements for course work and practical examinations, will be determined by the SEC
on foot of public health advice prior to the end of the first week in June. Guidance in this regard
will be issued to schools and to candidates.

Students with special educational needs can have special arrangements made for them while
sitting the examinations, through the scheme of reasonable accommodation operated by the
State Examinations Commission (SEC). This can include the provision to undertake the
examination in a special examination centre.

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, or because they have had to return abroad to
their family homes. The SEC and the Department are considering appropriate alternative
arrangements or contingencies so that candidates in this situation are not disadvantaged
compared to their peers.

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 were also put back to just before the start of the rescheduled
written examinations. My Department, in conjunction with representatives of school
——
10
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

management and other stakeholders, is examining the various logistical requirements around
the return to school by Leaving Certificate students.

The revised Leaving Certificate examination timetable will be confirmed by the State
Examinations Commission (SEC) in early June. I recently announced that these examinations
would commence on 29th July. I acknowledge that running the examinations will be very
challenging for all involved and my Department is also looking at options in relation to
contingency arrangements. These will also be considered by the advisory group. It is not
appropriate to rule any option out given the uncertainty around the pandemic and the
associated health advice.

       2.3. Examination Fees
 No.      Question                                                               TD

 4.023    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what consideration        Aodhán Ó
          has been given to waive the examination fee for this year's            Ríordáin
          Leaving Certificate examinations and his views regarding a
          waiver?

 4.417    To ask the Minister for Education if he will advise why the repeat     Peter Burke
          leaving certificate exam fees are €301 as opposed to standard
          leaving certificate fees of €116.

 4.432    To ask the Minister for Education if the deferred payment of           Cathal Crowe
          Leaving Cert examination fees announced by his department will
          also apply to cases where students are repeating the Leaving
          Certificate.

 4.433    To ask the Minister for Education if there will be any reduction in    Cathal Crowe
          the fees charged to repeat Leaving Certificate students?

 4.532    Will the Minister waive the fee for this year’s Leaving Certificate    Stephen
          exam?                                                                  Donnelly

            2.3.1. Response

Given that the Junior Cycle final examinations due to take place in June will not take place,
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 Leaving Certificate 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

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

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

 4.121    To ask the Minister for Education when cancelling the practical        Catherine
          exams for languages, resulting in some students having                 Murphy
          elevated grades, he considered the impact on those with a
          language exemption, some on the grounds of disability, would
          be adversely affected with respect to CAO points when no
          similar exemption applies to other practical subjects which are
          normally completed under classroom supervision which is now
          not possible; how he intends to deal with this and will he make a
          statement on the matter.

 4.781    To ask the Minister for Education with the decision to cancel oral     Donnchadh Ó
          and practical exams at Leaving Cert and to give all students full      Laoghaire
          marks, how will this impact those reapplying to the CAO on
          previous years' points which may be significantly lower than
          those sitting their exams this year.

            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.
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

 4.617    Will the Minister make a clear statement re the Junior Certificate.    Norma Foley
          In the interest of student wellbeing can he confirm that students
          will complete their Junior Cert cycle on the 29th May 2020 and

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.      Question                                                              TD

          further confirm each student will be awarded a state certificate
          of completion without grades following completion.

 4.771    To ask the Minister for Education whether he is concerned that a      Donnchadh Ó
          cohort of students may now leave school without an official state     Laoghaire
          certified examination qualification due to the change in format of
          the Junior Certificate, that some schools are opting out, and that
          it is in any event not a state certified examination any longer

            2.5.1. Response

I announced revised arrangements for this year’s Junior Cycle on 29 April that the Junior Cycle
State Examinations will not run this year.

The Advisory Group reviewed the options for the Junior Cycle and on Wednesday 29th April I
met with the members of the Advisory Group following their review of the Junior Cycle to
discuss their recommendations.

Under the revised arrangements and in light of the exceptional circumstances presented by
the COVID-19 pandemic, the work and achievement of third year Junior Cycle students will
be recognised with a state certificate of completion from my Department, to be issued in the
autumn. As soon as possible after the end of the current school year, students will also receive
a written school report on their learning achievements in each subject, short course and/or
priority learning unit, as appropriate.

The Certificate of Completion from the Department will confirm the student’s completion of the
Junior Cycle programme of study, including the list of subjects, short courses and/or priority
learning units studied and the level at which the subject was studied.

Schools are being given autonomy to decide whether to run school-based assessments and
what form they take. Options to consider include school-designed examinations, tasks,
projects, assignments, essay style questions, presentations, or other tasks agreed at a local
level. Guidance for schools on reporting to students and parents, developed with the advice
of the advisory group of stakeholders, will be published by the Department. Further advice in
relation to assessment options for schools will be issued by the Department.

The State Examinations Commission is also being asked to put in place specific arrangements
for adult learners to give them an opportunity to take final Junior Cycle examinations for which
they are entered in autumn 2020. The specific dates of the examinations in autumn 2020 will
be determined as soon as possible. These examinations will only be available to students who
meet the specific qualifying criteria.

——
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Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

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

 4.220    To ask the Minister for Education when will school building            Pat Buckley
          projects start again and in particular when will the long delayed
          school extension at St Colman’s Community College, Midleton
          be completed?

 4.221    To ask the Minister for Education when will the newly proposed         Pat Buckley
          schools in Carrigtohill, East Cork be completed and how long will
          it be delayed for because of Covid-19.

 4.351    To ask the Minister for Education if large scale capital               Frank Feighan
          infrastructure projects such as the new building extension at
          Summerhill College in Sligo and other classroom infrastructure
          projects in my Constituency such as the ASD unit at Abbey
          Community College in Boyle, which were announced by the
          Department last year will still be able to commence construction
          next year and if the funding will be in place to ensure these types
          of projects nationwide will be able to develop despite the
          financial realities for the State due to COVID19?

 4.542    To ask the Minister if building works on new schools and school        Stephen
          extensions is being considered as being deemed essential               Donnelly
          works?

            3.1.1. Response

In line with National Public Health announcements by Government, all construction sites in
relation to the Education Sector are now temporarily closed. The impacts around the closure
of these sites are currently being assessed.

A sustainable and flexible construction sector is crucial to the delivery of Project Ireland 2040
and the continued contribution of public investment to our economic well-being. The Office of
Government Procurement has published central guidance for managing the impact of Covid-
19 on construction projects and construction procurement arrangements. This guidance
provides a framework for dealing with the impact across the public sector including in respect
of the school building programme. Individual schools and Design Teams are being informed
accordingly and my Department is providing additional support through its responses to
queries etc.

While construction sites are currently closed, the pipeline of projects in design continues to be
progressed albeit in an online and remote working environment. The progression of this
pipeline will help smooth the impact of Covid-19 on the overall rollout of Project Ireland 2040
within the education sector.

——
14
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

My Department is also engaging with School Patrons and relevant schools in relation to
necessary school accommodation provision for the 2020/21 school year in light of any impact
of COVID-19 on project delivery timescales and develop and implement contingency
arrangements as required.

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. This engagement helps to ensure that planning applications for
schools are progressed as quickly as possible during this time.

My Department will continue to follow public health guidelines in relation to the remobilising of
the construction sector and what are deemed essential projects.

       3.2. Continuity of Learning
 No.      Question                                                               TD

 4.104    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what assistance is        Catherine
          being provided to schools which have an additional burden of           Connolly
          posting out educational materials in circumstances where
          students have difficulty accessing the internet; if he has met with
          An Post to discuss facilitating such an arrangement; and if he
          will make a statement on the matter.

 4.217    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he recognises the      Mairéad Farrell
          extra financial burden incurred due to the requirement for
          primary and secondary school teachers to send physical packs
          and class work to pupils via An Post in cases where households
          have limited or no access to broadband or are having difficulty
          using the digital resources with children; if he will consider
          provision of a Freepost allocation for teachers effective until
          June 2020 so that there is no financial consideration attached to
          the provision of appropriate educational materials; and if he will
          make a statement on the matter.

 4.330    To ask the Minister for Education to provide an update on what         Jack
          his department is doing to update the circular on primary and          Chambers
          secondary education to schools/teachers as the Covid 19
          pandemic continues and schools remain closed?

 4.445    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the process by            Thomas Byrne
          which the Department of Education is monitoring students who
          do not engage with distance learning in the period for which
          schools are closed.

 4.563    To ask the Minister for Education and skills what measures will        Roderic
          be put in place to allow for additional educational supports for       O’Gorman

——
15
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.      Question                                                                TD

          students undertaking the Leaving Certificate in advance of 29th
          July and will he make a statement on the matter?

 4.564    To ask the Minister for Education and skills if direction has been      Roderic
          given to secondary schools around the country regarding the             O’Gorman
          level of educational support to be provided to 6th Year students
          studying for the Leaving Certificate and has the Department
          been specific regarding the type of education support (online,
          provision and correction of written work, provision of notes, etc)
          and will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

 4.763    To ask the Minister for Education to explain what translation           Aengus Ó
          services for pupils who do not come from English speaking               Snodaigh
          homes during the Covid-19 crisis and especially those due to
          undertake state examinations this summer

 4.766    To ask the Minister for Education whether consideration is being        Donnchadh Ó
          given that those currently in fifth year will have next years work,     Laoghaire
          including the Leaving Cert, revised to reflect the difficulties they
          have faced this year

             3.2.1. Response

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 documents set out strategies for schools to use in engaging with pupils and
ensuring that there is continuity of learning for all learners. The role of Tusla Education Support
Services (TESS) is highlighted.

The guidance is informed by feedback from school surveys and prompted by a growing
demand in some schools 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.

——
16
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

The nature of distant learning has required schools to take on a range of approaches to
support their students. Schools and teachers have demonstrate great innovation in adapting
to the new situation. 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 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
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 for pupils of Gaeltacht schools and
Gaelscoileanna. These broadcasts are a supplement to the ongoing learning being provided
by teachers.

As part of the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Enhancing
Teaching Learning and Assessment, funding of €210m for ICT Infrastructure will be distributed
to schools over the five years of the Strategy. €110m has issued over the lifetime of the
strategy to date. €50m is issuing now in the form of a grant payment to all eligible schools.

In the context of the current public health crisis the funding can be focussed on assisting
schools to address ICT needs to support the provision of remote learning. This can include
the purchase of ICT devices that can be shared with students who do not have access to
devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of
remote learning.

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.

       3.3. Special Educational Needs Provision
 No.      Question                                                              TD

 4.073    To ask the minister for Education given that In a normal              Richard Boyd
          academic year, July Provision is there to facilitate extra supports   Barrett
          to children with additional needs, including children with
          ASD, intellectual and learning disabilities. What arrangements
          has the Minister/Dept made in order to ensure these additional
          and much needed supports are provided this year and what time
          frame does the dept envisage the Provision being made? Will
——
17
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.     Question                                                               TD

         July Provision be provided at a later time in the year? And, if not,
         will children with additional needs who normally partake in July
         Provision be given supports in a different mechanism/format to
         ensure these children are not further disadvantaged by the
         Covid 19 Pandemic?

 4.114   To ask the Minister for Education & Skills the position in relation    Michael
         to July Provision for children with additional needs this year in      McGrath
         the context of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a
         statement on the matter.

 4.318   To ask the Minister for Education if July Provision is going ahead     Peter Burke
         this year, how a family can apply for July Provision if their son
         has just been diagnosed with autism and is aged 3, and if he will
         make a statement on the matter.

 4.320   To ask the Minister for Education what services his department         Peter Burke
         and schools offers to those who have been diagnosed with
         autism, if these services have been suspended during the
         COVOD-109 crisis and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 4.326   To ask the Minister for Education is “July provision” going ahead      Paul Murphy
         this summer given the coronavirus?

 4.346   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills whether a case by         Éamon Ó Cuív
         case review will take place in relation to the decision to close all
         schools because of the Covid-19 in relation to special schools
         with very small numbers that cater for children with serious or
         profound disabilities and where the lack of such schools is
         putting severe strain on families due to the continuous and
         intensive 24/7 support and services needed by these children;
         whether special consideration will be given to allowing these
         schools open partially or fully with strict health and safety
         protocols because of these circumstances; and if he will make a
         statement on the matter.

 4.319   To ask the Minister for Education what ASD/ Early Intervention         Peter Burke
         preschools are available in the Mullingar area, if his department
         are changing open days and admissions policies due to COVID-
         19 and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 4.646   To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to clarify the position   Catherine
         in relation to the July Provision Programme given the importance       Connolly
         of the programme; whether consideration has been given to
         extending the closing date for applications; and if he will make a
         statement on the matter.

——
18
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

            3.3.1. Response

The timeline and arrangements for re-opening schools is being guided by the public health
advice applicable at a given time. An Taoiseach announced on Friday last, as part of the
roadmap to lifting current restrictions, that there would be a number of phases with the re-
opening of schools to be in the later phases in time for the new academic year. The
Department will engage with relevant stakeholders to assist with the development of
contingency plans for the operation of schools in an environment that may require social
distancing, hand washing arrangements etc. This work will be informed by guidance and
experience from other jurisdictions.

While it had been the Department’s intention to run the extended school year (ESY) scheme
– also known as the July Provision Scheme – this year if possible given the current school
closures and public health restrictions, and the Department is now reviewing this.

The Department is considering contingency measures, including changes to the format of the
scheme. Any changes will be communicated widely.

The decision to close schools was taken on foot of public health advice and no distinction was
made between different types of schools. The decision to reopen schools, including special
schools, will be done within the parameters of the public health advice.

       3.4. Technology and broadband access
 No.      Question                                                              TD

 4.153    Will the Department of Education follow best practice in other        Cian
          countries including the UK and provide laptops for                    O'Callaghan
          disadvantaged students that need them; and especially for those
          studying for the Leaving Cert?

 4.215    To ask the Minister of Education what the qualifying criteria will    Sorca Clarke
          be put in place for schools to avail of the proposed multi-million-
          euro ICT package in relation to DEIS schools, division between
          primary and secondary schools, home schooled students, adult
          learners, the prioritisation of same, if access to high quality
          internet or broadband in the home will be covered by same and
          who will be responsible for the purchasing of equipment, the
          insurance of equipment and the setting of minimum and
          maximum specification of equipment.

 4.444    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills, in light of a recent    Thomas Byrne
          survey which indicated that one in five pupils do not have access
          to quality broadband, the actions being taken by the Department
          to monitor access to broadband and ICT equipment, the actions
          taken to provide additional hotspots, dongles and other items
          where appropriate to pupils, the actions taken to support schools
          providing learning resources to students without access to the
          internet where other options are not available and if he will make
          a statement on the matter.

——
19
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

 No.      Question                                                                 TD

 4.762    To ask the Minister for Education to provide clarify how schools         Aengus Ó
          should provide support to families with limited or no access to          Snodaigh
          technology during the Covid-19 crisis and if he has considered
          allocating further additional funding in addition to his recent
          announcement? E.G Under the GRANT SCHEME FOR ICT
          Infrastructure – 2019/2020 A DEIS 1 Primary school with 250-
          499 pupils will receive €1500

 4.768    To ask the Minister for Education if he is seeking further funding       Donnchadh Ó
          to tackle the digital divide that has opened between students,           Laoghaire
          given the fact that it currently will only stretch to a limited number
          of computers per school

            3.4.1. 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.

As part of the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Enhancing
Teaching Learning and Assessment, funding of €210m for ICT Infrastructure will be distributed
to schools over the five years of the Strategy. €110m has issued over the lifetime of the
strategy to date. €50m is issuing now in the form of a grant payment to all eligible schools.

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
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 has issued providing the details
governing the funding for the grant and the top-up funding.

Officials in my Department continue to liaise 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.

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 will continue to provide
guidance to schools about how best to use digital and other solutions to provide ongoing
learning for students at this time.

——
20
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

       3.5. School Transport – Tickets, Providers & Special
          Education provision
 No.      Question                                                                TD

 4.029    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if families will           Catherine
          receive a refund in respect of fees paid for school transport for       Connolly
          the period of the closure of the schools, or if such monies will be
          reallocated to the cost of next years' fees; and if he will make a
          statement on the matter.

 4.030    To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to clarify the position    Catherine
          in relation to the payment of funds to school transport providers       Connolly
          since the closure of the schools; and if he will make a statement
          on the matter

 4.549    Will the Minister for Education, in conjunction with Bus Éireann,       Cathal Crowe
          partially refund primary and secondary school students who paid
          or school bus services for the duration of the 2019 / 2020
          academic year or will a system be put in place to ensure that
          these service users are credited with several months of free
          school bus travel in lieu in the 2020 / 2021 academic year?

 4.639    To ask the Minister for Education if school transport application       Seán Sherlock
          deadlines have been amended for those families with children in
          ASD units in view of the fact his Department did not amend the
          deadline for school transport applications. Children with ASD
          units typically require two signatures as part of their application,
          usually from a SENO or principal, and naturally this is difficult to
          obtain with the travel restrictions and physical distancing. Hence
          the question if families of those in ASD units are being given
          leeway by the Department or Bus Éireann so that they are not
          penalised for transport for all of the next school year.

 4.765    To ask the Minister for Education & Skills if he will ensure that all   Matt Carthy
          relevant families will be refunded school bus fees in respect of
          the period of school closures due to Covid-19; and if he will
          make a statement on the matter

            3.5.1. 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.

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the
Department. In the current school year there are over 120,000 children availing of school
transport, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, at a cost of over €219
million in 2019. The purpose of the School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available

——
21
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19

resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their
nearest school.

Given that the school transport service has not been available to children for the last number
of weeks, I decided 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.

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 applied 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
decided that contractors will continue to be paid at 50% while schools are closed in the current
school year as a result of the public health restrictions.

While the closing date for applying for school transport for the upcoming school year was
Friday 24th April, applications for SEN transport are received and accepted on a year-round
basis. In addition, and in order to ensure continuity during this period of restrictions for the
benefit of children who require SEN Transport, my Department and the National Council for
Special Education have agreed a temporary process to allow for SEN Transport applications
to continue to be submitted at this time. The process replaces on a temporary basis the normal
process which heavily relies on the postal system with a process whereby applications may
be submitted and accepted via email. Information for parents/guardians is available on School
Transport Section of the Department’s website:
https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/School-Transport/temporary-procedures-for-
sen-transport-applications.pdf

       3.6. Staff Relations – SNA Redeployment
 No.      Question                                                              TD

 4.021    To ask the Minister of Education and Skills if he will provide        Aodhán Ó
          clarity to Special Needs Assistants that they will not be             Ríordáin
          redeployed outside of the education setting over the course of
          the COVID19 pandemic and will he make a statement on the
          matter?

            3.6.1. 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. The HSE has now finalised the details of a new service which SNAs
will provide during the school closure period.
——
22
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