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Cathal Crowe, TD

Reassurance sought for Clare schools taking Ukrainians


SCHOOL places for Ukrainian children fleeing the war will be allocated based on capacity and existing enrolment, the Education Minister has told a Clare TD.

On foot of three Dáil questions from Deputy Cathal Crowe, Minister Norma Foley outlined a range of supports for children forced to flee Ukraine and come to Ireland.

She said the Department of Education already has school capacity data based on annual enrolment returns. However, the location where families are living will also have a bearing, she confirmed, and coordination will take place with other Government departments.

In the first instance, Deputy Crowe asked what steps that her Department of Education has taken to mark sure schools “are adequately equipped with teachers, accommodation, furniture, schoolbooks, special needs assistants and so on, to cater for the influx of Ukrainian children that will be entering their schools”.

Deputy Crowe also asked that Departmental staff might be appointed as coordinators “to oversee the even distribution of Ukrainian children to primary and secondary schools across the country”. He then asked if the registration of Ukrainian-trained teachers to help assimilate the Ukrainian children.

Giving an assurance that the Government is committed to welcoming those fleeing the war, Minister Foley said her Department is working with all relevant authorities, education partners and school communities to ensure Ukrainian children are provided with supported to continue their education.

“Our schools have a strong tradition of welcoming children of all nationalities and backgrounds and have experience of doing this throughout the school year,” she said. “As the Deputy will know, we already support a linguistically and culturally diverse community in Ireland.”

She outlined that her Department is responding to immediate needs through the provision of school places locally as need arises. She added that planning is underway for “the medium and long-term in alignment with the whole of Government approach, having regard to the need for rapidity and scale”.

Minister Foley said a helpline is open schools who have queries regarding Ukrainian students, and that her Department will be sharing information online and on social media in relevant languages to support parents accessing school places.

“The utilisation of capacity within existing schools across the country will be a very important aspect for addressing the need for education provision for Ukrainian children,” she said.

“My Department already has data on capacity and under/over subscription at individual schools from its National Inventory of School Capacity based on schoolsannual enrolment returns, and utilises its Geographic Information System to facilitate spatial analysis of this and other data.

“At both primary and post-primary level there are significant variances in available capacity at local and regional level across the country, in both rural and urban areas.

“Ultimately, the location of the accommodation provided for the Ukrainian families will be relevant in maximising the utilisation of existing school capacity to meet their education needs and my Department is coordinating with other Government Departments in this respect, with a view to ensuring alignment of our planning processes as much as possible.”

Minister Foley said that schools with capacity will be supported with the provision of additional furniture and language support, where required.

She added that a working group has been formed to consider language and cultural resources and supports for teachers and schools.

The group includes representatives of the Department, including the National Educational Psychology Service (NEPs) its inspectorate, the teacher education support services, the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) and the Education and Training Board (ETB) sector.

“The group is assessing and sharing existing relevant resources and supports, and identifying any gaps which need to be addressed through the provision of additional resources and supports both in the short term and over the medium to longer term,” Minister Foley said.

“All relevant resources and supports are currently being collated and made available on one central website for schools and teachers to access.”

Minister Foley added that The Teaching Council is working closely with the Department to assist and prioritise the registration of any Ukrainian nationals who arrive in Ireland and who are teachers.

“Arrangements to support the registration of Ukrainian teachers by providing a streamlined process and reasonable accommodations are being put in place,” she said.

“A dedicated email address ukrainianteachers@teachingcouncil.ie has been set up and Ukrainian teachers are encouraged to use this to get advice and assistance from the Council.”

ENDS

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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