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Tánaiste backs school catch-up plan for students during summer months

Fine Gael is to launch a Youth Commission to consider how the party can “regain the top spot among voters under 35″.

Image: PA

A CATCH-UP PROGRAMME for students in the summer months is needed so they can catch up on learning lost to the pandemic, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Young Fine Gael conference this evening.

The leader of Fine Gael said he will work with colleagues at Cabinet to provide summer provision for those pupils “who need it the most”.

“The catch-up programme will ensure that no matter what the student’s background they can fulfil their potential,” said Varadkar. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made £1.7 billion of “catch-up” funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption from school and college closures during the pandemic.

As part of the recovery package, summer schools will be introduced for pupils who need it the most and tutoring schemes are to be expanded.

Varadkar told the conference that he has already spoken to Education Minister Norma Foley and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris about exploring one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes like the UK. 

The Department of Education said in February that it intended to support an expanded summer programme this year on the back of last year’s for children with special educational needs as well children who were at risk of educational disadvantage.

“Details of the programme will be worked through and there will be extensive engagement with stakeholders in the coming months on this issue,” a department spokesperson said. 

The Labour Party has been pushing a catch-up scheme for school children for some time, estimating it to cost €100 million. 

“With summer holidays for secondary schools approaching rapidly, urgent interventions must be made if we are to prevent increased numbers of young people from leaving the education system without completing secondary school because they did not receive enough support this year,” said Labour Party spokesperson for children Senator Ivana Bacik. 

Varadkar also told tonight’s conference that he wants to see as many students as possible back on university campuses in September, and that Minister Harris will “do everything possible to make that a reality”.

Harris previously said that rapid antigen testing will be piloted in third-level colleges on the back of the government’s expert group on rapid testing recommending that the self-administered Covid-19 tests be rolled out across a number of settings, including colleges and schools. 

Varadkar said he will take the lead on rolling out antigen testing in workplaces in the private sector. Rapid testing is already underway in healthcare settings and there is a number of pilot programmes in meat-processing plants. 

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Minister Harris is set to chair Fine Gael’s Youth Commission which will consider how the party can “regain the top spot among voters under 35″. 

“A good second is ok but it’s not enough. It will benchmark those structures and cultures against others that exist in political parties in Ireland and Europe,” Varadkar told the conference. 

The commission is also set to review the existing structures and cultures within Fine Gael, including Young Fine Gael, and how they facilitate the engagement and activity of young people within the party.

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Adam Daly

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