Teachers unions agree to reopening of special education classes from February 22

Teachers unions agree to reopening of special education classes from February 22

Talks are ongoing about resuming in-person learning for all students. Trinity Primary school teacher Emer Leonard teaches her 2nd class pupils online due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Tuam. Photo: Ray Ryan

Students in special classes in second-level schools will return to in-person learning on February 22, the same day as children in special classes in primary schools, after plans to return received backing from the unions.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has agreed to facilitate the re-opening of special classes in second level schools from Monday, February 22.

The TUI is also willing to facilitate the return of Leaving Cert students during the same week, subject to public health advice.

However, in order for Leaving Cert students to return to school, the support of the ASTI is needed, which is the larger of the two teaching unions.

The ASTI has said government’s plans for returning to school are "inadequate", and need to be "substantially reworked".

Meanwhile, special schools are set to reopen today at 50% capacity.

In total, 124 special schools will reopen today, which cater for 8,224 students. There are 3,882 teachers and SNAs supporting these students.

There are also 1,231 special classes at primary level, catering for 7,520 students, which will resume in-person on February 22. These students are supported by 3,819 teachers and SNAs.

A further 515 special classes at post primary level will also resume in-person on this day, catering for 2,808 students. They are supported by 1,739 teachers and SNAs.

The Department of Education also said that they recognised that remote learning is challenging for some students with complex needs, and they have put in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of students with complex needs at post-primary level.

“These special classes support some of our most vulnerable students," said the Minister for Education, Norma Foley.

"The return to in-person teaching and learning is vital to these students and I want to thank everyone who has engaged in this process to reach a solution which is aimed at meeting their needs.

“The supplementary programme will also provide a real benefit for students over the coming weeks as they adjust to returning to in-person teaching and learning and I urge everyone to make full use of this."

Separately, more than 632 college place offers have been issued to students who sat the deferred Leaving Cert exams that took place last November and December. 

There were 1,881 CAO applicants among the 2,153 candidates who sat these Leaving Cert exams, with some students receiving more than one CAO offer on foot of improved results. 

Meanwhile, there is now a higher proportion of female students attending universities or colleges than men. New figures show that the number of students attending higher level institutions has steadily increased in recent years. 

The findings are included in the seventh Eurostudent Report, which collates comparable data on student life across Europe. Ireland is one of 30 countries that took part in the survey in 2019, with results collected from almost 20,000 students. 

The survey also found that more than seven out of ten college students experience some form of difficulty during higher education. Among the most common concerns cited are demanding coursework or exams, or financial difficulties. The average monthly expenditure of students on living and study costs now recorded at €1,064. 

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