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Government examining how to continue with meals for vulnerable children during school closure

The Minister for Education acknowledged that many children rely on programmes such as the breakfast club at their schools.

Image: Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT IS examining how it can continue with its school meals programmes for vulnerable children while schools across the country are closed.

Last week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced all schools, colleges and childcare facilities were to close until 29 March.

It is now likely that the closures will extend beyond that date and today Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate oral and practical exams have been cancelled, with all students to receive full marks.

At a briefing in Government Buildings this morning the Minister was asked about the British government’s plan to provide food vouchers to parents whose children usually receive free meals in their school.

McHugh said this is “an important point”, which was raised with him at the end of last week by Senator Lynn Ruane. He said he had visited many schools, particularly primary schools, where programmes such as the breakfast club are “a major part of that child’s weekday”.

The minister said the budget for school meals is still there and he has asked his officials to look at this. He said the Taoiseach is supportive of the idea that the State should continue with school meals “in some form”.

However he said his department would have to be “creative” about it, providing support while still working within the parameters of the public health advice on social distancing.

Speaking to Ireland’s young people today, McHugh said he knows they worry about what is happening in the world at large while also dealing with the “enormous pressures” of growing up.

He said they are “resilient” and have a huge role to play in their communities and families “keeping morale high and making us laugh”.

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