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14 August, 2020 – Minister Foley provides update on Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today provided a further update on the plans to fully reopen schools at the end of the summer.

Significant progress is being made towards a full reopening of schools since the publication of ‘The Roadmap for the Full Return to School’. Schools are using the resources and grants provided by the Department effectively, to plan their re-opening. 

Minister Foley said: “I would like to pay tribute to the work that is being undertaken at a local school level to ensure that we can reopen our schools at the end of the month. We are fully focused on ensuring our children have a safe environment to return to and the work you are doing is critical to achieving that goal.”

Schools have now received grant funding to assist with the logistical arrangements in advance of school reopening, and additional teaching resources have also been sanctioned. To date almost €160 million has issued to schools in direct funding to cover minor works, employing support to assist with reopening, cleaning costs and PPE costs. This does not include the cost of the additional teaching posts sanctioned.

Schools are using the multi-supplier arrangement to 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 are included in this arrangement.

In addition to the significant funding available, the Department is also keen to ensure that practical supports are provided to schools which will help in their preparation for return. The materials below will be sent directly to schools and available online on gov.ie/backtoschool from early next week. These resources include:

–          250,000 age-appropriate posters on handwashing, face coverings and other hygiene measures are being sent to schools next week.

–          All schools will receive a resource pack with multiple copies of posters and a link to download additional copies if they require. Further communication will be issued to school principals today outlining the supports and guidance that is being made available to them.

–          The Department is also providing a series of induction training videos for all school staff at primary and post-primary level. This is in line with the Government’s Return to Work Safely protocol. 

–          As well as providing induction training for all school staff, this series of videos includes further detailed information for Cleaning in schools, SNAs, School Bus Escorts and the new Covid-19 Lead Worker Representative in schools. This training will outline the steps that all staff need to take to ensure a safe return to schools for everybody.

–          Schools are encouraged to contact the dedicated school reopening helpline set up by the Department with any school reopening queries that they have.

In addition to the guidance published previously for schools on the overall approach recommended to support the wellbeing of school communities, the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of the Department has developed separate webinars for primary and post-primary schools – Supporting the Wellbeing of the School Community: Returning to School after Covid-19 School Closure.  These webinars are accompanied by a Wellbeing Toolkit which includes a range of easily downloadable, user-friendly materials, practical information, activities and resources. The webinar and toolkits will support the school community in the transition back to school and in the future, and will support school staff in integrating wellbeing promotion into their practice.

Minister Foley said: “I hope that these extra resources are of value to schools as they continue their preparations. It is important that we put an emphasis on the wellbeing of the whole school community as this year’s school reopening will pose different challenges for everyone.

“We will continue to communicate with principals, students, parents and all stakeholders over the next couple of weeks and update all materials as necessary.”

Notes for Editors

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

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

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

The package includes:

An additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level at a cost of €53 million,

Additional funding, estimated at €84.7 million, so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff. This can occur where staff members are identified, in line with HSE guidance, as at ‘very high risk’ of Covid-19 and advised to cocoon.

Additional funding of €41.2 million, to provide primary schools with substitute staff.

An additional €52 million for schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools.

A €75 million capital grant funding to support schools to prepare their buildings and classrooms for reopening.

Wellbeing Supports

The Wellbeing Webinar and Toolkit are available to all school staff.

They comprise an overview of the approach to wellbeing promotion in schools at this time, together with a combination of NEPS-developed materials and information collated from other acknowledged sources that promote resilience for all and recovery for those with additional educational needs.  Areas covered in the Toolkit include Staff Wellbeing and Self-care, Preparing for Reopening and Settling Back to School. 

NEPS psychologists will be linking with schools in the months ahead to provide support for the wellbeing of all during the transition back to school.  Over the course of this academic year NEPS will continue to develop and share resources for wellbeing. NEPS will also work with schools to deliver the usual range of supports in new ways which take account of the changed environment in which we will all be working.

The Department has worked closely with its broad range of support services and agencies[1], and with the HSE/HSE-funded services and the Tusla Education Support Service to create an aligned and coherent package of supports and resources to assist schools in this regard. Supports will include:

  • A comprehensive communications campaign, delivering universal messages of safety and wellbeing to all
  • Webpage (gov.ie/backtoschool) with access to all information relating to the reopening of schools, including information about wellbeing, with links to specific resources, guidance and support
  • Access to a range of support/resources and professional learning opportunities from:
  • Department’s Teacher Education Support Services including the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT), Centre for School Leadership (CSL) and National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT).
  • National Council for Special Education Support Service (NCSE)
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)
  • National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE)
  • HSE’s Health Promotion Team
  • Tusla Education Support Service (TESS)
  • Enhanced services for wellbeing provided by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). An additional 17 NEPS psychologists will be appointed.
  • Approximately 120 posts will be provided for guidance to support student wellbeing recognising the particular importance for this support in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic challenges.
  • e-mental health services, including on-line counselling, provided by the HSE/HSE-funded service providers including spunout.ie, Jigsaw, MyMind, Childline and Turn2Me 

[1] The Department’s Support Services/Agencies include the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT), Centre for School Leadership (CSL), National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT), National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Support Service, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) and National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).

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