More than 40,000 ‘free’ places in schools for Ukrainian students, Foley says

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New research indicates that there are more than 40,000 places available in primary and secondary schools that could be made available to Ukrainian students.

Teachers’ unions, however, have warned that the education system could come under significant pressure unless more teachers and support are made available.

Education Minister Norma Foley said on Sunday a survey of post-primary schools found there were 15,000 to 18,000 vacancies, based on a 75% response rate .

It is estimated that there are around 25,000 places available in primary schools nationwide.

Ms Foley said the figures indicated there was “significant capacity” in the education system.

The latest official figures show that there are a total of nearly 4,000 Ukrainian children enrolled in Irish schools, with over 2,000 at primary level and 1,800 at secondary level.

Ms Foley that it was very difficult to quantify how many places the school will eventually need.

About a third of the approximately 23,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Ireland are children.

She told RTÉ’s This Week that “significant work” has been done to support pupils and schools so far.

More than 260 primary schools have successfully applied for additional hours or positions, while an announcement on support for post-primary students and their families is expected soon.

This will likely include providing tutors with experience teaching English as a foreign language to secondary school students and their families through the state’s 16 education and training boards.

In addition, there are plans to roll out refresher courses for teachers to sharpen their skills in language support.

Resources

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland meanwhile said an emergency motion to be tabled ahead of its annual conference will ask the minister to ensure adequate capacity and resources are made available to support Ukrainian students.

The National Organization of Irish Teachers said it was also essential to ensure psychological support was available to students.

In addition, Ms Foley announced that 20 million euros will be provided to primary and secondary schools for the purchase of books for their libraries.

The fund will be disbursed to schools in the coming weeks and is in addition to that already granted for the textbook rental program.

Schools will receive support from Public Library Supports for Schools to help them spend their grant to meet the needs of their students.

This will include webinars on evaluating the selection of a meaningful book collection for each school and the materials available at local libraries.

“As a teacher, I know well the value of reading on a large scale for our students, and I was determined that we invest in the literacy resources of our schools. Through this initiative, we can ensure that schools and our students have access to the highest quality books and materials to support their literacy,” Ms Foley said.

The grant will be paid to schools based on the number of pupils at the same rate for all schools, primary and post-primary.

The Department will also send a guidance note to all schools, with the support of the library service, on how schools can best use the funds received.

The charity Children’s Books Ireland said it would work closely with libraries creating downloadable shopping lists, webinars and resource packs to help ensure schools are well informed and get the best books for their students.

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