September 23, 2022

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Government authorities estimate that about 3,800 children of schoolgoing age have arrived from Ukraine over the summer and may need school places over the coming weeks.

Official figures in June showed there were more than 7,000 Ukrainian children attending primary and secondary schools in Ireland by the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.

New figures provided by the Department of Justice and Department of Children estimate that, since then, there have been about 15,000 new arrivals over summer. Of these, it is estimated that about 2,100 are of primary school age and 1,700 of second-level age.

The Department of Education, however, is unable to say how many children and teenagers will require school places until they have been formally registered and enrolled.

Education authorities are understood to be satisfied that they have enough places for students who have arrived over the summer months, though there are pressure points in some parts of the country.

There are concerns, however, over access to school transport and the fact that some of those arriving may have to move schools due to issues around the availability of accommodation.

To assist with the transition of refugees into Irish schools, the State’s 16 education and training boards are hosting one-stop shops, or “regional education and language teams”, to help Ukrainian families find school places and advise the department on additional teaching resources required.

Schools are also entitled to apply for additional teaching hours and other supports when they enrol Ukrainian students. In a new change, education partners have been told that they will received “front-loaded” supports for children with complex needs or trauma.

Separately, schools are due to be informed shortly that funding for enhanced learning — which was introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic — will continue into the new academic year. However, it is understood that the provision of additional teachers under a Covid-era catch-up programme will end.

Many schools have been seeking the continuation of such supports to help children who lost out or had their education disrupted by pandemic restrictions.

Separately, teachers’ unions are pushing for more to be done to reduce class sizes and increase the supply of teachers as the new academic year gets under way.

John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said class sizes at primary level were among the largest in Europe and called on the Government to lower them in next month’s Budget.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland, meanwhile, warned that many schools risked opening without teachers in key positions due to a severe teacher recruitment and retention problem.

Michael Gillespie, the union’s general secretary, said many were finding it impossible to find affordable accommodation or access to childcare.

He added that many new second-level teachers were on low-hours contracts and earn only a fraction of a full salary.

“With the current cost-of-living crisis, this is unsustainable,” he said.

The union is seeking the reinstatement of the value of the postgraduate masters in education allowance — formerly known as the HDip allowance) — worth €1,314 for teachers appointed after 2012.

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