Secondary School students and their teachers will have to wear a face covering when schools return in September.
The Minister for Education has issued updated guidelines this evening.
She says the new rule will apply in cases where the 2 metre social distancing rule cannot be adhered to.
102 million euro in funding has been issued to schools so far to cover the cost of minor works to create more space in classrooms and to install handwashing stations.
Update on Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School
The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today provided an update on her Department’s work to realise her Department’s plans to reopen schools fully at the end of the summer. The Minister, along with Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and Minister for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD, last week published a detailed plan Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for The Full Return to School, along with details of a financial package of over €375 million to support its delivery.
Commenting today, Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said: “Last week we announced a comprehensive plan that will support our schools to reopen for the new school year. This week I am pleased to announce that a considerable portion of the funding due to schools has been paid, allowing schools to make vital progress in making the changes that are needed to safely reopen.
“For example, €102 million in funding has already issued to primary and post-primary schools to carry out minor works to create more space in the classroom or install additional handwashing stations. Funding has already been made available for schools to hire aides to help reconfigure classrooms and install hand sanitising stations. Guidance has also been circulated to schools detailing how they can best access PPE and hand sanitiser supplies.
“I wish to thank again all members of school staff and parents for the roles they are playing and will continue to play as schools return at the end of August. We will continue to communicate with schools, education partners, parents and students, as schools reopen, and keep a close eye to ensure that the supports are working as intended.”
Updated Guidance around wearing of Face Coverings
The Minister also confirmed that she had been working with the public health authorities to ensure that the public health advice underpinning the safe reopening of schools is fully up to date. The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that all recommendations published in the public health advice by the Minister at the beginning of July including physical distancing guidelines as set out in the recently published roadmap still apply in all schools, with the exception of the recommendations on face coverings which has been updated to reflect the latest research and expertise. It is now recommended that teachers and secondary school students wear face coverings, similar to those worn in shops or on public transport, when a physical distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.
Minor Works Funding
To support the full implementation of the Roadmap, the Department brought forward to August the payment of the annual minor works grant to primary schools, totalling approximately €30 million, which is typically paid in either December/January each year. In addition, an enhanced minor work grant, which matches the 2019 payment, has also been issued to directly to schools. This amounts to €60 million which has now been issued directly to primary schools in minor works grants since the publication of the Roadmap.
In addition a new minor works grant, totalling approximately €42 million, has issued to post primary schools this week.
Support and Supervision
Funding of €4.2m for aide/s to assist with the logistical arrangements in advance of school reopening including physical reconfiguration measures and setting up hand sanitising stations, helping with signage, training and engaging with parents and students.
Funding of €40m has been made available for additional supervision at post primary level. Of this €12.3m has already been paid to schools for the first term with the balance payable in 2021.
Additional Cleaning and PPE
Schools have been provided a Covid-19 specific capitation payment will be used as the mechanism to support the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes in schools. This is intended to allow for an extra 4 to 6 hours cleaning per day in schools.
Enhanced Covid-19 rates are payable in respect of students attending special schools and special classes attached to mainstream schools in order to assist with the extra costs arising from the cleaning of classrooms operating specialist provision. Initial funding to schools for cleaning for the first term is now with schools and further payments will issue in early 2021 for cleaning needs for the subsequent terms.
In addition, significant additional measures are being adopted to increase the supply of teachers at both primary and post-primary level, including offering additional hours to the 2,800 teachers who are working part-time in post-primary schools, allowing job-sharing teachers to work additional hours and making it more attractive for teachers on career break to provide substitution and supervision cover. Schools have been notified of these changes, allowing them to more easily hire additional teachers.
The Teaching Council is also working on a range of measures to increase the supply of registered teachers who may be available to fill posts to support the re-opening of schools for the 2020/21 academic term, including making contact with the 6,000 registered teachers who are not currently active in schools.