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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 468-482
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item School Curriculum

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 468-482

Departmental Expenditure

 468. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the cost to her Department to date of all fines paid by Ireland for non-transposition of EU directives into Irish law; the breakdown, by directive of the lump sum cost and the daily cost of each fine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28608/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has not incurred any fines as a result of non-transposition of EUDirectives into Irish law in the last ten-year period.

School Admissions

 469. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her Department was informed or consulted on the change in the admission policy of a school (details supplied); the advice which can be provided to parents whose children are currently pupils of another school and had an expectation that their children would be given priority as a selection criteria to the priority categories of applicants to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28626/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley In relation to school admissions, it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998 and the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in that area.

Under the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, all schools have drafted new policies, which will have been approved by the school patron by 15 September 2020, and should now be published on the schools website.

The act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria in their admission policies. Schools have discretion in relation to their admission criteria and how they are applied, feeder schools are permitted as a criterion under the act, and schools can continue to prioritise selected feeder schools should they wish to do so. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

Schools and their patrons have discretion in relation to their admission criteria and how they are applied and are not required to consult or inform my Department in relation to their selection criteria. My Department has not been informed or consulted in relation to the selection criteria of Dominican College, Muckross Park.

State Examinations

 470. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the reason so many students were downgraded from H1 to H2 in the recent leaving certificate examination, especially when those students were identified as among the school’s highest achievers in that subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28680/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, the Educational Research Centre and international external expertise.

  Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order for each student’s subjects. The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard. We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school. Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. This is to be expected given that there is no national standard on which to base an estimated mark. But to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied.   It was inherent to the system of calculated grades that school estimates would be subject to adjustment through this standardisations process.

  These adjustments resulted in the school estimates staying the same or being revised upwards or downwards. The standardisation process operated on the premise that the school estimates should only be adjusted through the standardisation process where there was credible statistical evidence to justify changing them.

  A standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal.   In the system of calculated grades, the standardisation process applied uniformly across all subject and levels and school types. The degree to which mark changes occurred related to the degree of over or underestimation in the school estimates for each subject and each level. This means that some students experienced mark changes from the school estimates but no changes to the grades based on the school estimates; while others will have experienced marks changes from the teacher estimates leading to grade changes in one or more of their subjects.

  Following standardisation, the estimated percentage mark was converted to a calculated mark and subsequently, a calculated grade which was provided to students on 7 September. It is only at this point that students were awarded a grade.

  Therefore, it is not accurate to state that student(s) were downgraded, or upgraded, through the standardisation process. Rather the grade that was awarded following the standardisation process is the grade for the 2020 Leaving Certificate (Calculated Grades).

  The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year there is 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.    

  In terms of the grades awarded, 83% (almost 340,000) of all Leaving Certificate subject grades are either the same or higher than the school estimates while 17% (under 70,000) grades are lower.

  In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics either at the level of the student or the school.   The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

  On 30 September, I announced that two errors had been found in the Leaving Certificate 2020 Calculated Grades process. These errors related to the way in which the coding for the process utilised Junior Cycle data.

  On 03 October, following a further review of the coding by an independent third party, I announced that a further error had been identified.

  These errors were rectified, and following this, a total of 6,100 students have received higher grades. These students were able to access their improved results from 6pm on 03 October.

Technical details of the Calculated Grades model and standardisation process were published on the date of issue of the results and are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2ed9b-leaving-certificate-2020-calculated-grades-technical-reports/.

Departmental Expenditure

 471. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley further to Parliamentary Question No. 319 of 29 September 2020, if she will provide the total amount of additional Covid-19 related Exchequer expenditure for 2021 for her Department and a breakdown by line items of this additional expenditure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28683/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley As part of the Roadmap for the Reopening Schools an estimated €437 million in additional financial supports are being provided to schools for the 2020/2021 academic year. Of this €437 million, €211 million is being provided for the period August/September to December 2020 and €226m for January 2021 to July/August 2021. These amounts do not include any additional post primary school transport costs arising from the Government Decision of 18 August, on foot of the updated health advice received, to review measures to ensure the safe operation of school transport for post primary school children as those costs are yet to be fully quantified.

  The table below provides a breakdown of the estimated €437 million funding requirements by year and area of support. My Department is, as part of the 2021 Estimates process, engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to agree a mechanism for the provision of additional Covid-related funding required for schools for the remainder of 2021 (i.e. August/September to December 2021).

  Summary breakdown of Estimated COVID-19 Financial Supports associated with the Roadmap for the Reopening of School for the School Year 2020/21

Provision Total Costs 2020/21 Total Costs Aug/Sept –Dec 2020 Total Costs Jan – Jul/Aug 2021
Targeted Supports in Advance of Reopening: to facilitate preparatory works to be completed in schools for reopening including refurbishments/reconfigurations of school spaces and the set-up of hand sanitising stations and signage. €79 €79m €0m
Supports to Sustain Reopening: to fund additional teachers in schools, the replacement of teachers and non-teaching staff unable to attend work due to Covid-19, additional release days for teaching principals and deputy principals to implement Covid-19 measures, enhanced cleaning regimes and PPE equipment. €346m €126m €220m
Other Costs to allow for the Safe reopening of Schools: to fund additional educational psychological services to provide for wellbeing supports for students and additional Covid supports for the transport of pupils on the school transport scheme (see note 1) €12m €6m €6m
TOTAL €437m €211m €226m


  Note 1: Additional and as yet unquantified Covid-19 funding requirements are arising from the Government Decision of 18 August, on foot of the updated health advice received, to ensure the safe operation of school transport for post primary school children.

School Staff

 472. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the actions she is taking to end the ongoing pay inequality for teachers here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28694/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. The starting salary for a new entrant teacher in 2012 was €30,702. As a result of the programme of pay restoration, the starting salary of a teacher from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692.

Section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that “the Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.”

The report laid before the Oireachtas on foot of this provision by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform assesses the cost of a further change which would provide a two scale point adjustment to new entrants recruited since 2011. The total cost of such an adjustment across the public sector is of the order of €200 million, of which Education accounts for approximately €83 million. The report also acknowledges that, during the financial crisis, there were policy changes which affected remuneration in different occupations across the public sector (including education).

The matter of new entrant pay is a cross sectoral issue, not just an issue for the education sector alone. The Government supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

The total year one cost of equalising the pay of new entrant teachers to the pre-2011 arrangements is estimated to be in the region of €59 million per annum in year one (€45 million for full resolution of pay scales and €14 million for re-instatement of the H.Dip allowance). The costs would rise in subsequent years as more new entrants join the system.

On 24 September 2018, an agreement was reached between the Government and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay.

This agreement is benefitting 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental jumps for new entrants.

I am fully aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement. These outstanding matters will be given full consideration. This will happen in the context of the next round of pay talks. The positions of each of the parties on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.

The current series of restorative measures for new entrants have been achieved through continued engagement and collective bargaining between the Government and the public service unions and shows the benefits that such engagement can bring.

School Curriculum

 473. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a reply will issue to a person (details supplied) following a letter to her Department dated 2 September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28705/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has issued replies to representations made on behalf of the individual referred to by the Deputy.

  The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September. The Department does not allocate classroom assistants as part of the staffing arrangements.

  As part of the package of supports provided in the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, additional teachers are being provided to support the reopening of primary schools in order to provide enhanced substitution and eliminate the need to mix classes when a teacher is absent.

  Supply panels were established nationwide, the purpose of which is to support schools to manage sick leave and other absences, by having a supply of teachers to cover short term substitute absences, when required.   The school referred to by the Deputy is part of a Supply Panel in the Lifford area.

State Examinations

 474. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the number of leaving certificate students in County Kerry that have had errors with their calculated grades identified; the nature of these errors; and the way they are categorised in tabular form. [28706/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a result of COVID-19, which prevented the State from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations. The purpose of this process was to allow as many students as possible to progress to employment, further education and training, or higher education.

My Department contracted a Canadian company, Polymetrika International Inc. to assist with the development of the model.

On 30 September, I made a statement that advising that two errors had been identified in the Calculated Grades process. These meant that incorrect grades were issued to some students when they received their results on 7 September.

The first error was identified by Polymetrika as having taken place when processing students’ data. The error, in one out of 50,000 lines of code, was in relation to the processing of Junior Cycle data. The system was meant to draw on the core Junior Cycle subjects of English, Irish and Maths, and combine them with the students’ 2 best non-core subjects for all of the students in each class in each school. The coding error instead combined them with the students’ 2 weakest non-core subjects.

The error meant that, in some subjects, some students received Calculated Grades that were lower than they should have been, while some students received grades that were higher than they should have been.

In the course of the complete review which the Department undertook, Departmental staff found a further error in the section of the code dealing with Junior Cycle results. The Junior Cycle subject Civil, Social and Political Education (CPSE) was meant to be disregarded as part of the model but was not. This second error, however, had a negligible impact on results.

I provided a further update on 03 October, announcing that improved Calculated Grades would issue to impacted students that day. This announcement was made following a review of essential aspects of the coding by Educational Testing Services, ETS, a non-profit organisation based in the United States.

ETS completed their review and provided it to my Department on 3 October. The review identified one further error, relating to how the code handled cases where students did not sit all three core subjects (Irish, English and Maths) at Junior Cycle level.

As a result of rectification of the errors, a total of 6,100 students have received higher grades. This breaks down as follows:

- 5,408 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in one subject,

- 621 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in two subjects,

- 71 students have received a higher grade, by one grade band, in three or more subjects.

National policy in relation to examination outcomes, as given effect in Section 53 of the Education Act 1998 (as amended), is focussed on guarding against the release of information which would enable the compilation of information (that is not otherwise available to the general public) in relation to the comparative performance of schools in respect of the academic achievement of students. This means that generally examinations performance data analysis will only be presented and/or published on an aggregated, national basis and not at any more granular level, including by school but also by school type, geographic location, regional location, etc.

In addition to the students who received a lower grade than they should have in this year’s Leaving Certificate, some students received a higher grade than they should have. However, these students grades are not being amended.

ETS also identified an issue concerning how the algorithm used in the standardisation process treated students’ marks at the extreme ends of the marks scale (99% and over, 1% and below). However, ETS also stated that this had no material impact on the results and no student could receive a lower grade as a result of it.

Impacted students were sent a text message advising them to log onto the Calculated Grades Student Portal to access their revised results from 6.00pm on Saturday 03 October.

The Department has sent a corrected file of student results to the CAO. The CAO will now establish how many students are eligible to receive a new CAO offer.

The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will work with the CAO and the higher education institutions to see how these students can be facilitated to commence the course that they would, in other circumstances, have been offered in an earlier round.

Any student who would have been entitled to a different offer in previous CAO rounds if they received the correct grade on 7 September will receive this offer or a deferred offer as soon as practicable after the updating of results.

This is in line with the practice that occurs in the appeals process every year.

School Curriculum

 475. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she is satisfied with the levels of computer literacy amongst students leaving secondary school; the computer literacy education second level students receive in all schools; if all students receive a basic level of computer literacy education in secondary schools; if not, to her plans ensure that computer literacy education is provided to all second level students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28745/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Literacy and Numeracy Strategy Interim Review 2017 sets out the objective of embedding achievements in literacy, to include, the enhancement of digital literacy skills of all our learners. Development of the new Literacy and Numeracy Strategy has commenced with digital literacy remaining a key area of focus. Further the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 will continue to improve engagement with digital literacy across the education continuum.

Considerable work has been done in the development of curricula on digital literacy. At both primary and post-primary levels considerable scope for building the capacity of students in the area of digital literacy is provided for through the emphasis on dispositions, competencies and skills as foundational elements of the curriculum. Specifically, in the newly introduced Framework for Junior Cycle digital literacy skills are promoted through the eight Key Skills (all skills have an ICT/digital component) and through the Statements of Learning. In addition, in the ongoing reviews of the Primary Curriculum and of the Senior Cycle the skills of, or skills closely related to, digital literacy, have featured strongly in all discussions on future provision.

Currently at post-primary level, there are several programmes and courses in ICT and Digital Literacy already in place, particularly the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Literacy and the IT courses in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. To a lesser extent, the recently-introduced Leaving Certificate subject in Computer Science also looks at aspects of digital literacy.

In studying the Junior Cycle Short Course in Digital Media Literacy, students learn to use digital technology, communication tools and the internet creatively, critically and safely, in support of their development, learning and capacity to participate effectively in social and community life.

The Information and Communication Technology module forms part of the core curriculum for all Leaving Certificate Applied students. It is intended to develop the students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding of Information and Communication Technology to enable them to use digital technology in both their current and future lives.

In addition, areas such as Wellbeing and its constituent programmes in Social, Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education and Civic, Social and Political Education also underpin skills of digital literacy in engaging with the subject material in these courses.

The Digital Learning Framework is currently being disseminated to all schools. The Framework promotes student engagement in the teaching and learning process and will help towards the development of digital literacy skills. The development and adaption of this Framework is a key objective of the Digital Strategy for Schools which is currently being implemented.

Schools Building Projects

 476. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans for a new educational campus at Fortunestown Lane, Saggart, Co. Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28754/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley A school building project which will deliver a 1000 pupil Post Primary School and a 16 classroom Primary Gaelscoil on the campus site in question is currently at planning permission stage. A request for further information was received from the Local Authority earlier this year and a response to the matters raised was submitted on 10 September. The planning decision is now awaited. When this is received the project will then proceed to tender.

Departmental Contracts

 477. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the estimated cost of contracting all third-party companies to deal with the leaving certificate grades in tabular form. [28764/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  As part of initial contingency planning for the Leaving Certificate 2020, the State Examinations Commission procured international expertise through Polymetrika.

  Polymetrika was contracted to provide statistical and psychometric expertise, initially on the basis of contingency planning in the event of the Leaving Certificate not taking place as planned.

  The value of that contract was €71,500 to cover 65 days. Any additional days are to be charged at €1,100 per day.

  Polymetrika played an integral part of the development and running of the Calculated Grades model, and as such the contract for Polymetrika was extended to implement the Calculated Grades model under the pre-agreed terms of the contract. This was done following the decision of Government on 8 May 2020 to postpone the Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  Due to the time constraints the Department availed of the procurement process known as the Negotiated Procedure without Prior Publication. This is used in circumstances where it is a case of extreme urgency.

  To date, the total gross cost of services provided by Polymetrika under contract has been approximately €193,000 which reflects services provided to end September.

  This expenditure reflects their work in both the contingency planning and the development and statistical work around the operation of the model.

  As was announced on 30 September, the Department has also engaged the services of ETS, Educational Testing Service, a US-based non-profit organisation which specialises in educational measurement, to review essential aspects of the coding. ETS submitted their report of the review to the Department on 03 October.

  The cost of services provided by ETS has not yet been finalised.

School Admissions

 478. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the steps that can be taken by a national school to ensure that a neighbouring secondary school continues to recognise a national school as a feeder school in order that children from the locality may have access to a local secondary school as identified (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28770/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley In relation to schools admissions I wish to advise the Deputy, that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils in the area seeking school places.

Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice

A Board of Management may find it necessary to prioritise enrolment of children from particular areas or on the basis of some other criterion, including giving priority to applicants who have attended a particular primary school, commonly known as a feeder school. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the Board of Management on behalf of the school Patron and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters.

School Transport

 479. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when CIÉ will be providing school transport for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28781/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.

The purpose of the Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

In general, children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs. Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENO).

The child referred to by the Deputy is eligible for school transport under the terms of the above scheme, and I am pleased to advise that a service to cater for the pupil was sanctioned by my Department on 28 September, 2020. A new service for this pupil is being set up by Bus Éireann and Bus Éireann will be in contact with the family in regard to the arrangements for this service. The family will be eligible for a grant until such time that the service is up and running.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 480. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a dedicated fund will be established for schools to support the purchase of PPE for medically vulnerable and pregnant teachers in view of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will consider reviewing maternity leave arrangements for pregnant teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28832/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department has published a suite of helpful guidance for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools. Each school is required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe operation through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in line with public health advice. This guidance is focused on the practical steps schools must take to minimise the risk of transmission of infection

  My Department has also published guidance in respect of the COVID -19 operational supports for Primary and Post Primary schools to fully and safely reopen in a sustainable way while minimising risk associated with COVID-19. This is available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

  Following a centralised procurement process, my Department has established a multi-supplier arrangement from which schools can choose a supplier and select the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Consumables and equipment products that best suits their needs and the requirements under the Roadmap https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b264b-roadmap-for-the-full-return-to-school/.

  This ensures schools have access to, on a value for money basis, a secure supply chain of various PPE and consumables under the Roadmap and their COVID-19 School Response Plan including hand sanitisers, sanitiser fluids, face coverings/visors, gloves, wipes etc.

  My Department’s Circular Letter 54/2019 contains the Maternity Leave Scheme for teachers which is regulated by the Maternity Protection Act, 1994 as amended. The general principles to apply to the management of COVID-19 includes the safety and welfare of employees and the minimisation of the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning.

  Under the current HSE guidelines, a pregnant employee is not deemed to be at very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19, unless suffering from a serious heart condition.

School Curriculum

 481. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to develop an online curriculum for primary school children isolating at home due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28847/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley It remains my Department’s key objective for schools to remain open and to continue to operate as normal as possible with due regard to public health advices. There are however certain circumstances when remote teaching and learning will be necessary over the coming weeks and months.

The events surrounding COVID-19 and the public health restrictions which resulted in the emergency closure of schools to learners has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be prepared to continue to support their pupils and be able to provide for continuity of teaching and learning in the event of any further public health measures that require any closures of schools or individual classes. Given the autonomy of schools in the delivery of the curriculum to their learners, schools and teachers are best placed to plan the mediation of the curriculum in the unusual circumstances that present themselves this year.

Extensive guidance and supports has already issued by my Department provides advice to assist schools in planning for a contingency situation where there may be a need to ensure that teaching and learning can be delivered remotely for pupils who cannot attend school for health reasons related to Covid-19, for situations where a school may be faced with closure for a period due to public health advice and/or for supporting pupils at “very high risk” to COVID-19. My Department worked closely with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in the preparation of the advice.

The guidance includes links to a range of materials and supports developed by the Digital Technologies team of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (a Department support service for teachers) such as learning platforms and online tools which can be used to support remote/distance teaching and learning. Those resources continue to be available to schools.

In order to further support remote teaching and learning my Department has also issued ICT grant funding to schools which, in the context of the current public health crisis, can be used to address ICT needs including digital devices, communication/learning platforms, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning. Additional grant aid will issue during the current school year subject to the availability of exchequer funding.

To further support schools new guidelines will be published by my Department. The guidelines are designed to provide further guidance for schools to provide remote teaching and learning in situations as set out above and to individual students who may have to self-isolate or restrict their movements.

It builds on the Continuity of Schooling guidance documents provided by the Department to post-primary schools during the Covid-19 crisis. Details of online resources, provided by my Department’s support services, are set out along with how these resources will support schools in providing remote teaching and learning. The documents should be read in conjunction with the Department’s previous guidance to schools in relation supporting continuity of pupils’ learning during the March to June 2020 school closure period, available at: www.gov.ie.

Communication and effective engagement are important elements in the remote learning environment. In this regard, and building on work already done by schools, my Department is also in the process of drafting a circular that will support schools to put in place appropriate arrangements to facilitate engagement and communication with and between staff, between staff and learners and with the wider school community including parents. The supports set out in the circular will also facilitate schools in the development of online approaches to remote and blended learning that will help limit the impact of any future closures. Consultation with stakeholders to inform the final draft of this circular is underway at present.

School Curriculum

 482. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to develop an online curriculum for post-primary school children isolating at home due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28848/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley It remains my Department’s key objective for schools to remain open and to continue to operate as normal as possible with due regard to public health advices. There are however certain circumstances when remote teaching and learning will be necessary over the coming weeks and months.

The events surrounding COVID-19 and the public health restrictions which resulted in the emergency closure of schools to learners has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be prepared to continue to support their students and be able to provide for continuity of teaching and learning in the event of any further public health measures that require any closures of schools or individual classes. Given the autonomy of schools in the delivery of the curriculum to their learners, schools and teachers are best placed to plan the mediation of the curriculum in the unusual circumstances that present themselves this year.

Guidance already issued by my Department provides advice to assist schools in planning for a contingency situation where there may be a need to ensure that teaching and learning can be delivered remotely for pupils who cannot attend school for health reasons related to Covid-19, for situations where a school may be faced with closure for a period due to public health advice and/or for supporting pupils at “very high risk” to COVID-19. My Department worked closely with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the State Examinations Commission (SEC) in the preparation of the advice.

The guidance includes links to a range of materials and supports developed by the Digital Technologies team of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (a Department support service for teachers) such as learning platforms and online tools which can be used to support remote/distance teaching and learning. Those resources continue to be available to schools.

In order to further support remote teaching and learning my Department has also issued ICT grant funding to schools which, in the context of the current public health crisis, can be used to address ICT needs including digital devices, communication/learning platforms, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning. Additional grant aid will issue during the current school year subject to the availability of exchequer funding.

To further support schools new guidelines will be published by my Department.The guidelines are designed to provide further guidance for schools to provide remote teaching and learning in situations as set out above and to individual students who may have to self-isolate or restrict their movements.

It builds on the Continuity of Schooling guidance documents provided by the Department to post-primary schools during the Covid-19 crisis. Details of online resources, provided by my Department’s support services, are set out along with how these resources will support schools in providing remote teaching and learning. The documents should be read in conjunction with the Department’s previous guidance to schools in relation supporting continuity of pupils’ learning during the March to June 2020 school closure period, available at: www.gov.ie.

Communication and effective engagement are important elements in the remote learning environment. In this regard, and building on work already done by schools, my Department is also in the process of drafting a circular that will support schools to put in place appropriate arrangements to facilitate engagement and communication with and between staff, between staff and learners and with the wider school community including parents. The supports set out in the circular will also facilitate schools in the development of online approaches to remote and blended learning that will help limit the impact of any future closures. Consultation with stakeholders to inform the final draft of this circular is underway at present.


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