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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Julien Behal Photography The roadmap was launched by Minister Norma Foley and Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening.
# Back To School
Here's a breakdown of where the government's €376m funding to re-open schools will be spent
The plan includes €53 million for 1,000 extra teachers at post-primary level and a €52.2 million school cleaning grant.

THIS EVENING, THE government announced a string of measures aimed at allowing pupils return to school safely at the end of August. 

Schools around the country have been shut since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the roadmap for how they could re-open safely had been long awaited.

At a post-Cabinet press conference this evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “we can’t just declare the schools are open and carry on as if nothing had happened”.

He said there was “no zero risk scenario” but that the package being offered by government was comprehensive and would allow children return to school as safely as possible. 

The total package – which has seen the government commit €376 million – will be delivered in a range of areas.

Here’s a breakdown of what the government says it will spend to support schools heading into the next school year:

  • Minor capital grant – €75 million

Already included within the July Stimulus, this €75 million will facilitate preparatory works to be completed in schools to help them re-open.

This will include the refurbishment of school toilets and the reconfiguration of school spaces.

  • School cleaning grant – €52.2 million

“This will allow all schools to have enhanced cleaning regimes in place to minimise the risk of introduction and spread of Covid-19,” the government said.

“This is being provided on a per pupil basis and is intended to allow an additional four to six hours cleaning per day in schools.”

  • Return to School Grant (employ an aide) – €4.2 million

This is to allow “schools to employ an aide to implement the logistical changes needed in schools”. 

This could include moving furniture, changing classroom layouts, set up hand sanitising stations, signage etc.

The amount given to each school will be calculated on a sliding scale to reflect pupil enrolments and school type, the government said.

  • Replace teachers who are unable to work due to being at “very high risk of Covid-19″ – €70 million

The government said this would allow schools to replace teachers who’ve been assessed as unable to return to the workplace.

“These staff can work from home in line with arrangements that are consistent with the approach for the civil and public service,” the government said.

  • Replace teachers for absences which are not currently covered by the existing substitute scheme – €41.2 million

This money will go towards preventing the splitting of classes in primary schools which increases the introduction and spread of Covid-19. Examples when this can happen includes absences for self-certified sick leave, exam leave, witness in court etc.

  • Replacing non-teaching staff unable to work due to being at “very high risk of Covid-19″ and whose absences aren’t covered by existing arrangments – €14.7 million

This applies to the likes of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), caretakers, secretaries and cleaners.

The government said it’s vital that schools have these staff and are able to replace them if they are unable to work.

  • Release time for Lead Worker Representative (LWR) to comply with COVID-19 requirements – €3.8 million

There is a requirement under the plan for a LWR in each workplace.

The designated LWR provides what the government called an “important support to schools to manage the risk of Covid-19 infection”.

  • Release days for teaching Principals and certain categories of Deputy Principals in Primary Schools – €10.2 million

There is a particular requirement to support principals and deputy principals in schools where many also undertake teaching duties. 

“This will provide additional time for those teachers to manage the implementation of Covid-19 measures in the schools,” the government said.

(Release time and release days are essentially periods set aside from traditional responsibilities to allow an employee work on specific tasks)

  • Additional teaching and guidance posts in post-primary schools – €53 million

A marquee feature of the supports is the plan to recruit an additional 1,080 teaching posts at post-primary level.

This includes 120 guidance posts to support student wellbeing. The initial allocation will include 600 posts made available to post-primary schools. 

The government said: “Additional teaching posts allows these schools the flexibility to manage a variety of complex arrangements including challenges with class sizes and some additional support for school management. 

These posts will be allocated based on school type to reflect enrolments and special education provision, along with a reserve of posts to support schools who have specific identified needs in implementing COVID-19 measures.
  • Supervision in post-primary schools – €40 million

The government said supervision in post-primary schools is “more complex” as a result of Covid-19.

This comes from additional supervision on corridors, greater oversight for morning, lunch and evening, at lockers, bathrooms and in suspected cases of Covid-19.

This funding will be allocated to schools on a sliding scale to reflect the number of enrolments.

  • Hand sanitiser and PPE grant – TBC

This remains the subject of a public procurement process at this time. 

Once completed it will allow schools to drawdown from a national framework the necessary hand sanitiser, PPE including gloves, aprons, masks, visors etc.

A grant will be provided to schools based on a sliding scale to reflect enrolments at the school. 

  • Additional educational psychologists – €1.25 million

This will allow schools access 17 additional educational psychologists through the National Educational Psychological Service to provide for the wellbeing of students, including students in special schools. 

  • School transport – €11.3 million

This will help to meet the additional costs that will arise to support the safe transport of pupils on the national transport scheme. Services operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education will fully operate as normal. 

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