The Impact of COVID-19 on Primary and Secondary Education makes 10 recommendations
The Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has launched a report entitled The Impact of Covid-19 on Primary and Secondary Education, containing concrete and feasible recommendations including 10 key recommendations for implementation without delay.
“From the outset when our committee was established in September and throughout hearings with key stakeholders we recognised that the impact of Covid-19 on primary and secondary education was an urgent priority and undertook to examine the key issues in a timely way," explained Committee chairperson Paul Kehoe TD.
“The Committee recognises the great suffering young people have endured and acknowledges their great positivity and resilience in returning to school and continuing their education in very challenging circumstances. It also recognises the trojan work performed by the other members of the school community.”
The report examined three main areas of concern:
1. Ensuring schools are open in a manner that is both safe and sustainable.
2. 2020 Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades and 2021 Leaving Certificate preparations.
3. Other key issues issues such as the use of reduced timetables in schools, school bullying including cyberbullying and educational disadvantage, which have had a significant impact on young people.
Chair Kehoe explained: “We heard from a wide range of witnesses including teachers and other school staff’s unions, the National Parents Council (primary and post primary) and the Irish Second level Students Union (ISSU), Education Minister Norma Foley and officials from the Department of Education, Dublin City University (DCU), and Cork Life Centre. In particular, the engagement with the ISSU and the Cork Life Centre gave a voice to brave and articulate young people.
“The Committee genuinely believes our recommendations can be implemented without delay, and will impact positively on the whole school community and be transformative. The Committee is committed to ensuring that specifically the 10 key recommendations are implemented as expeditiously as possible.”
Ten key recommendations
1. The Minister for Education should formally request the Minister for Health to instruct the HSE to undertake a review of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidance for vulnerable students and families, including a review of the risk assessment and attendant categorisation.
2. The Department of Education should develop A National Online Learning Programme to be rolled out to all primary and secondary schools as a matter of urgent priority. This would include: one centralised learning platform, appropriate support and training for all principals and teachers and parents who are home schooling, remote device purchase that ensures disadvantaged students have access to devices for online learning, adequate broadband for online learning, provisions for blended learning, and transition measures for schools as the plan is rolled out.
3. Emotional counselling and therapeutic supports should be provided in all primary and secondary schools as an urgent priority.
4. The provision of hot meals to vulnerable students should be expanded to cover periods of school closures and holidays, and a Hot Meals Programme should be rolled out nationally to all schools on a phased basis.
5. The Department of Education should undertake a Review of Primary and Secondary School Funding to include: an assessment of the short-term additional funding needs, an assessment of the disparities between primary and secondary level funding, an assessment of school leadership posts at primary level, and consideration of the need for additional AP1 posts at secondary level with a more equitable allocation of deputy principal posts across schools of different enrolments, beginning with DEIS schools.
6. The Education (Student and Parent) Charter Bill 2019 should be enacted as expeditiously as possible and then fully implemented as a key priority of Government.
7. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Senior Cycle Review Advisory Report should be published by end June 2021 with due regard to the need for continuous assessment, increased vocational options and international best practice.
8. The Department of Education should publish the Final Guidelines on the Use of Reduced Timetables in Schools by the end of March 2021.
9. The Department of Education should update the 2013 Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Secondary Schools to include guidelines for addressing homophobia and transphobia.
10. Air monitors/meters should be installed in all primary and post primary schools by the end of December 2021.
Chair Kehoe concluded: “The Joint Committee asks that immediate action be taken to implement the recommendations in this report. It is imperative that these key national issues are treated as a matter of top priority by the Department of Education. Young people are our future, and the Joint Committee also requests that the issues raised in this report be the subject of a debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas.”