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This document is designed to provide guidance for schools in situations where a partial or full school closure is advised by Public Health HSE because of a case or cases of COVID-19. It is also intended to advise schools on how individual students who may have to self-isolate or restrict their movements can be supported in continuing their learning remotely. It is intended to review the operation of these arrangements at the end of each term while we continue to live with COVID-19.
The Department acknowledges the collective efforts across the system that enabled schools to re-open at the start of the school year. In particular, it acknowledges the leadership shown by principals, deputy principals and management of schools and the degree to which teachers have prepared for and adapted their practice in order to minimise the risk of infection due to COVID-19 in schools. In addition, the efforts of the wider school community in supporting the reopening of schools, including Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), secretaries, caretakers, parents/guardians and others are acknowledged.
It should be noted that decisions around advising students, teachers or other school staff to restrict their movements for COVID-19 related reasons are made solely by Public Health HSE. Schools should refer to the Public Health Guidance Letter to schools dated 27 August 2020 and to Schools Pathway for COVID-19: The Public Health approachprepared by the HSE, both of which are available here.
In addition, schools should refer to Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19, the Government’s risk management strategy for the next six to nine months, designed to allow individuals, families, businesses and services better understand, anticipate and prepare for the measures government might introduce to stop escalation of the transmission of the disease. A set of frequently raised topics entitled COVID-19: Your questions answered about returning to school is available here,
This Department guidance sets out how schools should plan for and support students’ learning in a number of possible scenarios which could occur during the 2020/21 school year. As the extent to which these scenarios may be required cannot be predicted, it is possible that individual or groups of students and teachers may find that they are advised to self-isolate or restrict their movements on a number of occasions during the 2020-21 school year. This may lead to an accumulation of a significant number of days where students learn and teachers work from home. Therefore, it is crucial that all schools make every effort to enable teachers to support the continuation of students’learning effectively during each possible scenario. This is particularly important in the context of students at risk of early school leaving, students with special educational needs and students at risk of educational disadvantage. The examples in Section 4 provide some illustrations of how schools can sustain students’ learning where they are advised to self-isolate or restrict their movements.
Where students are advised to self-isolate or restrict their movements, schools should continue to focus on supporting their wellbeing. Staff and families who are experiencing particularly challenging times can be directed to the support services available at gov.ie/en/campaigns/together/. Families can be referred to the resources and supports provided by agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS). Staff can refer to the Employee Assistance and Wellbeing Programme. Schools may also consult with NEPS in relation to the academic, social and emotional needs of their students.
This document should be read in conjunction with the Department’s previous guidance to schools in relation to supporting continuity of students’ learning during the March to June 2020 school closure period, available at: www.gov.ie